Many times abnormal psychology texts present lists of symptoms that have no reference to living human beings (e.g. what would "loose associations" look like; how would you recognize them. The same divorce from reality is also present in textbook presentations of therapy and therapeutic models. The goal of this course is twofold: first, to use fiction and autobiography to illustrate both psychopathology and its treatment in order to give them a human dimension and second, to look at the accuracy of these fictional portrayals and see where they may be distorted by the public and professional biases of the time in which they were written or produced. In the analysis of this material the course will address the following issues:



By the end of this course the student will be able to:

  1. Describe some of the devices and techniques used by film makers and writers to create impressions and attitudes in their audience.
  2. Differentiate between accurate and inaccurate portrayals of the characteristics of psychopathology, persons with mental illness, psychotherapy, and therapists.
  3. Categorize film portrayals according to the widespread stereotypes used by film. .
  4. Describe the ways facts are changed when a story moves from biography to either written fiction or film.

During this course students will participate in the following activities:

  1. Guided individual and group analyses of film presentations compared to textbook descriptions of psychopathology.
  2. Guided individual and group analyses of film portrayals of psychotherapy and psychotherapists.
  3. Written responses to films and readings.
  4. Written comparison of film to print with respect to images created and attitudes fostered OR Analysis of a theme over time to analyze the effects of social and historical events on film portrayals.


Fauman, M. A. (1994). Study guide to DSM-IV. Washington, D.C. American Psychiatric Press.


Each class will include the following elements:

  1. Review of material in reading assignment
  2. Presentation of relevant factual video information when available
  3. Presentation and concurrent analysis of film
  4. Discussion of presented film and integration with readings

There are two types of paper available for a term project and for either type the project may be a regular term paper, an Honors paper (for those in the Honors program), or a Capstone paper (for those Psychology majors who have completed PSYC 302).

A course paper must contain at least 8 reference items and should be between 10 and 15 pages in length, adhering to strict APA publication guidelines.

A Capstone or Honors paper must contain at least 15 reference items and should be between 15 and 20 pages in length, adhering to strict APA publication guidelines. Capstone and Honors papers are like theses and thus must go through more than one revision before the final version. They are also read and graded by one additional faculty member before being approved.


  1. Papers must be typed double spaced in either Microsoft Word or in WordPerfect format. Margins must be 1" all around and in 10 cpi font.
  2. Use the readings on reserve in the library only as a beginning. Find other articles to use as references. Use the Internet as a source of information as well as using printed material.
  3. Papers must be submitted in draft form for review by JUNE 16. All papers not submitted for review will have an automatic 5 points deducted from the 100 point base.
  4. For each worked used in a paper provide the following information as an Appendix.
  1. Movie
    1. 1. The title
      2. Theater release or made-for-TV
      3. The year produced
      4. Running Time
  2. Book
    1. 1. APA bibliographic format (see APA Publication Manual 4th Edition)
      2. If not in print now, where is it available?
      3. If it is in print, is it available in paperback?


Overall course grades will be based on:

Attendance & constructive participation in discussions 20%
Quality of "Viewing Notes" submitted 30%
Course Paper  50%

Course Paper grades will be based on 100 points:

    1. Content  (65 points)

    2. Accuracy and pertinence of descriptions and comparisons
      Use of factual material to support opinions and conclusions

    3. Form   (20 points)

    4. Logical organization of the paper
      Use of proper transitions from point to point
      Use of correct mechanics (spelling, word usage, grammar, punctuation)

    5. Presentation  (15 points)

    6. Adherence to syllabus guidelines
      Adherence to proper APA style