How do psychologists and psychiatrists determine the line that separates abnormal behavior from mental illness?

What separates a mental illness from abnormal behavior? Strive to answer this question and many others in an exploration of common mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and dissociative identity disorder. Perform case study analyses and gain insight into the cultural and historical factors shaping society’s view of abnormal behavior. Delve into the biological, psychological, and sociocultural theories that inform psychopathology. Explore the 4Ds—deviance, distress, dysfunction, and danger—to gain a better understanding of how practitioners use them to diagnose mental illness. Examine how psychologists and therapists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to understand criteria for various mental illnesses, then deliver a diagnosis for a standardized patient. Explore mental health treatment options, including controversial “off label” choices, and debate the ethics of using untested treatments. With a solid foundation in the research and DSM, practice applying the theory to best practices in helping patients in traditional and non-traditional health care settings.

All students will be required to bring a laptop.

Who Should Take This Course?

This is an ideal course for students who are interested in the disciplines of psychology, psychiatry, and mental health services. Immerse yourself in the field of psychopathology as you explore mental illness, abnormal behavior, and the interactions between culture and mental health.

Advisors + Past Speakers

  • Dr. Albert "Skip" Rizzo, Professor + Director for Medical Virtual Reality, University of Southern California
  • Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Oxford
  • Dr. Marvin Chun, Dean of Yale College, and Professor of Psychology, Yale School of Medicine
  • Dr. Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Temple University
  • Dr. Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology + Cognitive Science, Yale University
  • Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, Psychologist
  • Dr. Chris Ferguson, Professor of Psychology, Stetson University + Clinical Psychologist

Plan your summer


Course Highlights

  • Develop Diagnostic Skills

    Analyze patient files through therapists’ notes and recorded therapy sessions. These clinical practicums cultivate exceptional skills of observation and analysis.

  • Patient Care Plan

    Working with professional patient actors, interview a patient and determine if they meet the criteria for a diagnosis of mental illness. Then, create a plan of care for your patient, which might include treatments like drug, talk, or group therapies.

  • Case Studies

    Explore the various treatment methods within the field, including trauma-informed care for children and veterans. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing mental illness, so examine different standards of care across the profession.

  • Meet the Experts

    Meet with a variety of experts who apply these theories to their work. Explore how psychopathology is used to inform practices in places such as hospitals, prisons, at-risk youth centers, and pharmaceutical companies. And, get a first hand account of the future of this field by hearing about current and future research opportunities.

The classes I am taking here have also been so revolutionary. In Psychopathology, there is so much we cover everyday in a class that I leave everyday feeling like I know so much more about the world. I hope to go into Psychology and Neuroscience. I was really inspired by the talk we had by Skip Rizzo. He really opened my eyes to the power that VR can have when it comes to treating people with mental health issues. The talk was really cool and I hope by the time I am in the industry the technology will have developed to a point where we can make a real difference in the world.

Advisors + Past Speakers

Dr. Albert "Skip" Rizzo

Professor + Director for Medical Virtual Reality, University of Southern California

Dr. Skip Rizzo is a clinical psychologist and Director of Medical Virtual Reality at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies. He is also a Research Professor with USC’s Department of Psychiatry and the USC Davis School of Gerontology. In 2010, Dr. Rizzo’s work using virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat PTSD was awarded the American Psychological Association’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Treatment of Trauma.

Baroness Susan Greenfield

Professor of Neuroscience, University of Oxford

Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield is a Senior Research Fellow and the Fullerian Professor of Physiology at Lincoln College at Oxford University. Greenfield is a neuroscientist and runs a multi-disciplinary research group exploring novel brain mechanisms linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Greenfield has received two honorary degrees from British and foreign universities and was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians.

Dr. Marvin Chun

Dean of Yale College, and Professor of Psychology, Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Marvin Chun, Dean of Yale College, and the Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Chun leads a cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the Yale University School of Medicine. Also, an award-winning professor, Chun’s undergraduate course Introduction to Psychology is one of the largest at Yale College and has been recognized many times. Chun has authored psychology textbooks, serves on several Boards, and acts as an advisor on the Nike Performance Council.

Dr. Laurence Steinberg

Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Temple University

Dr. Laurence Steinberg is a Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University. He’s previously taught at Cornell University, University of California and University of Wisconsin. Dr. Steinberg is the author of approximately 400 articles and essays on development during the teenage years and the author or editor of 17 books. He’s been a featured guest on numerous television programs, including CBS Morning News, Today, Good Morning America, 20/20, Dateline, PBS NewsHour and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Dr. Paul Bloom

Professor of Psychology + Cognitive Science, Yale University

Dr. Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with a special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. Bloom has won numerous awards for his research and teaching, and has written for the science journals Nature and Science, as well as for The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly.

Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter


Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter is a clinically trained psychologist with over 30 years experience working with children, adolescents, families, and adults. She is the former Chair of the American Psychological Association Ethics Committee and the Massachusetts Board of Licensure for Psychologists. Currently, Moorehead-Slaughter is the Psychologist at The Park School, an independent school in Brookline, Massachusetts serving pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

Dr. Chris Ferguson

Professor of Psychology, Stetson University + Clinical Psychologist

Chris Ferguson is a professor of psychology at Stetson University and a clinical psychologist working with offenders and juvenile justice populations. Dr. Ferguson’s research interests include video game and other media violence effects, meta-analysis and violent criminal behavior. He was named a fellow of the American Psychological Association and was invited to speak at Vice President Biden’s task force in 2013 and at the Institute of Health/CDC.