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Unit Descriptions

by | Apr 8, 2019

Counselling and Psychotherapy Units

Assessment Process in Counselling and Psychotherapy

This unit focuses on counselling and psychotherapy assessment and brief interventions based on the recovery-oriented and trauma-informed model of mental health practice. It includes the critical overview of the DSM 5, understanding main mental health disorders as classified in DSM 5, suicide risk and family violence assessments and interventions, as well as crisis responses and short-term management interventions. Assessment processes are broadened with “5Ps” biopsychosocial assessment method and practiced through the analysis of a range of case studies from the clinical practice.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapies

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a widely practiced form of psychotherapy. It is based on the notion that problems related to thoughts, feelings and actions are learnt over the course of a person’s development and can be unlearnt by applying the principles of learning theory and cognitive science using specific therapeutic interventions. CBT focuses on a person’s patterns of thinking and emotional response, as well as their behavioural and interpersonal patterns and coping strategies in the context of their current life circumstances and biography. This unit will cover a range of techniques and interventions, including Socratic dialogue, cognitive restructuring and role plays. Contemporary forms of CBT, such as Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and Mindfulness-Based CBT (MBCBT) will also be a focus.

Ethics and Professional Development

The aim of this unit is to assist students in developing an understanding of ethical theories, and professional and ethical obligations of counsellors and psychotherapists as professional practitioners in the contemporary context. The unit focuses on introducing the main ethical paradigms, exploring key ethical dilemmas and frameworks for ethical decision-making. This includes an emphasis on developing the knowledge and skills required to practice as a counsellor and psychotherapist within the designated ethical and legal standards as set by the profession. The students will be examining a variety of case studies and professional situations, in order to develop awareness, attributes and competencies required to practice ethically. A particular aim of this unit is to assist students in developing their ethical sensitivity, ethical mindfulness, their own professional ethical stance and the ability to maintain their personal psychological health and wellbeing.

Existential Psychotherapy and the Group Process

All therapy is about human existence – life and death, anxiety and despair, catastrophe and reconstruction, hope and courage, loneliness and relationship, disconnectedness and engagement. This unit will examine these various universal experiences and students are provided with opportunities to learn how existential therapy provides an entirely fresh approach to their exploration. Taught in an educational encounter group mode, in this unit students will explore the development and various expressions of existentialism and will examine the major contributions to existential therapy – Heidegger, Tillich and Buber, Fromm, May and Yalom as well as the more recent contributions from existential therapies in Europe and the Americas.

Exploring Process Experiential Emotion-Focused Therapy

This unit builds on the humanistic foundations of Person-Centred Counselling and development of process-experiential focus in Facilitating Therapeutic Change unit, with further theoretical and practical expanding and consolidating. The main area of study will be the theory and application of Process-Experiential psychotherapy, also known as Emotion Focused Therapy. This methodology has a very strong and expanding international evidence base in all areas of psychotherapeutic practice. The main aim of the subject is to support students to develop practical competence in applying a manualised model of advanced humanistic counselling that can be used across all clinical settings. The assessment in this unit will be a single case study research project.

Facilitating Therapeutic Change

This unit builds on the humanistic principles and practices introduced in Person-Centred Counselling unit. The skills and attitudes introduced in this subject are contextualised via an exploration of recent research into the common factors of successful therapy. It looks critically at the advanced theory and application of humanistic counselling and includes process orientation, experiential focus and humanistic research of the process of change in psychotherapy. The students will be introduced to Focusing-Oriented Experiential Psychotherapy practice, as an evidence-based approach. With its aim to deepen students’ existing knowledge of humanistic theory and practice, this subject’s main objective is to expand and further develop students’ therapeutic presence, advanced counselling skills, and their application in a practical, clinical setting.

Interpersonal Processes in Psychotherapy

This unit focuses on developing an in-depth understanding of the theoretical and empirical basis for a relational, interpersonal process-focus in counselling and psychotherapy. As an advanced clinical training, it provides an integrative treatment approach that draws from humanistic-existential, cognitive-behavioural and psychodynamic approaches and highlights the use of the process dimension to facilitate change. Students will learn how to effectively engage their clients, develop and utilise the therapeutic relationship, process comments and other immediacy interventions while working with clinical cases presented in video form, real plays and students’ own casework. An understanding of attachment styles, clients’ internal working models and external relational patterns, as well as the emphasis on case formulation and the establishment of treatment focus from the interpersonal approach perspective are also included.

Key Competencies in Brief Dynamic Psychotherapy

Brief dynamic psychotherapy is widely accepted as an effective treatment method for a broad spectrum of problems. By exploring repetitive patterns of interpersonal conflict and revealing the deeper meaning beneath current problems, this method serves as a short-term effective distillation of key psychodynamic concepts and allows clients to make significant changes in both their intrapersonal and interpersonal styles of relating. This unit offers in-depth training in the core competencies and theoretical components of the approach.

Person Centred Counselling

The subject is an introduction to the theories, concepts, attitudes and practices of humanistic psychotherapy. In particular, it focusses on person-centred psychotherapy and the work of its founder, Carl Rogers. This subject introduces the development of therapeutic presence and foundational counselling skills, as well as the importance of therapeutic relationship. It also includes and reviews some of the major developments in the field of humanistic approaches such as existential, experiential and transpersonal psychotherapy. The material presented in class and via selected readings will be practically explored through in-class ‘real plays’ practice.

Psychotherapeutic Theories and Models

The aim of this unit is to develop theoretical and professional competence in understanding the human condition and mental health problems through exposure to significant schools of therapy. Students will be offered an introduction to major psychotherapeutic theories, in-depth awareness of theory-based therapeutic procedures and a broad awareness of relevant therapeutic literature. Coursework will be supported by reflective small group practice.

Relationship and Marital Therapy

The aim of this subject is to advance the student’s knowledge and skills in clinical work with families and children. It focuses on understanding the relevant theory and using this theory to conceptualise and apply treatment plans for common presenting issues in clinical practice with couples, families, and children. This unit will explore psychodynamic, systems and attachment models of clinical work with couples, families and children and introduce various treatment modalities for clinical work with these client groups.

Research Project

Please note, this unit is not available for single subject enrolment. 

This unit will introduce students to contemporary research methods relevant to the counselling and psychotherapy field. Students’ ‘research literacy’ will be developed through exposure to a variety of case studies and critical evaluation of the quality and trustworthiness of different research studies examples. Students will gain skills in understanding different types of research literature and will further develop the ability to critically evaluate research designs, methods, findings, strengths and limitations. The skills developed in this unit will enable students to undertake a literature review on a relevant topic of their choosing and develop a research proposal as their final assessment task.

Trauma Therapy – Loss and Grief

The aim of this subject is to examine the phenomenology of traumatic stress experience, the theories that explain it and various selected approaches to its treatment, including loss and grief-related aspects. The unit covers developmental aspects, cognitive meaning-making, emotional, and somatosensory, and interpersonal aspects of traumatic experience, as well as diagnostic categories and approaches to a formulation which are often applied to such experiences. Treatment approaches covered are centred around the self-trauma model, but also include emotion-focussed, sensorimotor, and schema therapy approaches.

Treatment Planning

Following from the Assessment Process in Counselling and Psychotherapy unit, the aim of this subject is to enable students to develop a clear understanding of recovery-oriented, trauma-informed counselling and psychotherapy treatment of common disorders such as anxiety and depression disorders, substance-related and addictive disorders, trauma and stressors- related disorders and working with grief and bereavement. Previously introduced major psychotherapeutic theories and their interventions will be applied to a variety of clinical case studies and clients’ presentations. Consideration is given to the unique aspects of working with indigenous populations and minority groups, as well as counselling clients across the lifespan.

Clinical Psychology Units

Psychodynamic Therapy

The unit has two aims: to improve students’ understanding of and ability to practice the fundamental aspects of psychodynamic therapy, and to use these skills to manage the therapeutic relationship and the therapeutic process when delivering treatment in other orientations (for example, cognitive behavioural therapy). Topics covered include how personality impacts the therapeutic process, boundaries, anxieties and defences, cyclical maladaptive relationship patterns, tracking and implementing change (including through interpretation), managing transference and counter-transference, psychodynamic case formulation, and psychodynamic therapy with people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder.

There is a focus in the unit on learning practical skills that can be applied with clients. Learning will occur in an interactive, class format using lecture slides, class discussion, case discussion, videos and role plays.

Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) Units

Evidence Based Practice and Practice Based Evidence

This unit has its focus the knowledge, techniques and interventions associated with evidence-based psychological practice. The aim of the unit is to introduce students to scientist-practitioner model and the concept of what constitutes evidence-based practice in psychology, as well as the scientific evidence to support particular psychological treatment interventions for specific psychological disorders. Students in the unit will examine a number of evidence based treatments common in clinical practice, the empirical research will be reviewed along with the clinical practice guidelines associated with the scientist practitioner model. Students in the unit will examine what works in psychotherapy and specific issues such as understanding therapeutic change processes, client acceptance of treatment and client attrition. The aim of the unit is the development of the knowledge and skills required for best practice and quality assurance in applied psychological practice.

Developmental Psychopathology Across the Lifespan

This aim of this unit is to provide students with an overview of frameworks, theories, concepts, and processes central to the study of developmental psychopathology. The unit will review and extend on student understanding of normal development and assist students to integrate understanding of normative development and understanding of psychopathology. This unit will also consider the role of diagnostic and classification systems in the assessment of child psychological disorders and presenting problems. This understanding will then be applied to a selection of the most prevalent and high-impact psychological disorders in children and adolescents. Multiple theoretical perspectives will be considered, and treatment and prevention approaches will be discussed in relation to theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence. The important role of culture and context in normative development, and in the development and treatment of psychological disorders will also be discussed. Students will be encouraged to apply the knowledge acquired in this unit to developing ideas about prevention and social policy. Students will also be required to consider how to effectively communicate information to teachers and families.

Professional Issues and Ethics

This unit focuses on developing the knowledge required to confront the professional and ethical issues that arise in the practice of psychology, as well as in psychological research. The objective of this unit is to develop students’ knowledge of the competencies and skills required to practice in a safe and professional manner. The unit requires students to examine common ethical issues and dilemmas faced in psychological practice and to become familiar with the APS Code of Ethics and other relevant rules and guidelines. The unit also develops students’ self-awareness, insight and understanding of the responsibilities of contemporary psychological practice.

Psychological Assessment

The aim of this unit is to assist students to develop an understanding of issues relating to best practice in psychological assessment and testing. This unit focuses on a selection of psychological assessment methods commonly administered by psychologists in professional settings. The unit includes an emphasis on psychometric issues (e.g., norms, reliability, validity), and the theoretical and empirical bases underpinning test construction, implementation, and interpretation. The unit also includes a focus on beginning skills in basic assessment strategies, including observation, interpersonal communication, and interviewing. Relevant ethical, contextual, and cultural issues are also addressed in this unit.

Research Methods

Please note, this unit is not available for single subject enrolment. 

The primary aim of this unit is to enable students to analyze, interpret, and report research findings at a professional and publishable level. Skills developed in interpreting data analysis can also assist in understanding when reading research reports. While emphasis will be placed on quantitative methods using the statistical program SPSS, the use of qualitative approaches will also be discussed and practiced. At the end of this unit students will be expected to have a practical skill set that they can use for their own Honours research (GDP5 and GDP6) and future projects. Each topic will be discussed and practiced in weekly tutorials alongside a required reading list and video materials.

Research Thesis

Please note, this unit is not available for single subject enrolment. 

All students in the Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) complete a research project. Research Thesis comprises two units, GDP5 and GDP6. These two units are completed consecutively, and a final grade is awarded.

The aim of the Research Thesis units is to assist students to develop research skills. In GDP5, students plan their research project, prepare and submit an ethics application, and complete a proposal and literature review. GDP6 builds on the research undertaken by the student in GDP5. The unit requires the student to continue with research project, including data collection, data analysis, and interpretation of the findings. The student is required to prepare and submit an empirical report, written in the form of an article prepared for submission to a journal, written in APA style.

As part of the thesis, you are required to participate in all of the steps involved in research including the formulation of research questions, the design of the study (including selection of an appropriate methodology), the collection and analysis of data to test the research question(s), the interpretation of the findings and the writing up of the report.

This project will often be completed as part of a research team; however, students will always complete an independent project. The research project must include an individual research question, individual intensive empirical literature review, individual data analysis, individual reporting of results and discussion, and may also involve shared data collection. All research undertaken for this qualification will be supervised by a qualified member of staff.

Throughout your degree, you will work with your thesis supervisor who, via regular meetings (typically weekly or fortnightly during semesters) will assist you to prepare a literature review, formulate research question(s), design a study, select an appropriate methodology, and analyse/interpret your data. In consultation with the supervisor, you are required to obtain approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) before commencing any research involving human subjects.