This is a capstone unit that formally overviews, integrates and assesses a wide number of competencies central to the successful completion of the degree. In terms of content, however, it comprises two distinct topic foci: psychopharmacology and reflective practice. 12 seminar hours in this unit will be devoted to psychopharmacology, complementing the course emphasis on psychotherapy intervention. The psychopharmacology component, which will be delivered in workshop format, will cover the major neurotransmitter systems involved in psychiatric illness and the putative action of psychiatric medications on these targets. Further, the impact of illicit and other drugs will be reviewed in relation to mental health and prescribed medications. The relationship between psychotherapy and psychopharmacology will also be addressed. The reflective practice (RP) component of the unit comprises the remaining 12 seminar hours and will be delivered as six seminars. RP describes "the activity of reflecting on clinical experience, including our personal reactions, attitudes and beliefs, with the purpose of enhancing our declarative knowledge and procedural skills" (Bennett-Levy & Thwaites, p. 269). While RP is embedded throughout the course, these seminars will explicitly address theoretical and applied aspects of RP, especially its relationship to psychotherapy process and intervention. The assessment task for the RP component will comprise a systematic case study in which students will critically review the outcome of psychotherapy conducted with one of their Victoria University Clinic clients, and the therapeutic processes responsible for facilitating or impeding the clients' psychological progress. The systematic use of outcome measures will provide empirical evidence of any psychological change over the course of treatment, and students' critical reflection on the therapeutic process will demonstrate their knowledge of reflective practice models and principles. The case study will build on evidence based practice knowledge acquired in the Research Methods unit, and be conducted as a stand-alone mini-research project. Consequently, students' research skills will also be extended in the completion of this assessment task.

Unit details

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Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Exhibit knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of action of psychiatric medications and illicit drugs;  
  2. Critically reflect on the prescribing rationale for currently used psychiatric medications and their potential risks and benefits;  
  3. Critically review the complementary relationship and interaction of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy;  
  4. Argue the importance of reflective practice competences in clinical psychology assessment and intervention;  
  5. Critically evaluate the impact of their clinical interventions and theorise the mechanisms of psychological change in their psychotherapy work;  
  6. Exemplify knowledge of practice based evidence and systematic case study research;  
  7. Exhibit, by means of a systematic clinical case study, the ability to integrate knowledge and skill competences from across the entire course.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Test 25 item multiple choice test assessing knowledge of psychopharmacology 20%
Case Study Systematic case study addressing psychotherapy outcome and putative change mechanisms in a VU Clinic client (5000 words) 80%

Required reading

Reflective Practice in Psychotherapy and Counselling
Dallos, R.&Stedmon,J. (2009)
Maidenhead: Open University Press

Stahl's Essential Psychopharmacology 4th Ed
Stahl,S.M. (2008)
Cambridge University Press

Where to next?

As part of a course

This unit is studied as part of the following courses. Refer to the course page for information on how to apply for the course.

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