Diagnosis and treatment without a client: The challenge of creating client-based learning opportunities in undergraduate psychology

O'Connor, Erin L. & Sullivan, Karen A. (2007) Diagnosis and treatment without a client: The challenge of creating client-based learning opportunities in undergraduate psychology. In Effective Teaching and Learning Conference : Preparing Students for Work in the Real World, 1-2 November 2007, Queensland University of Technology.


Teaching in the final year of undergraduate psychology poses a challenge that is rare in the training of allied health professionals. Some instruction in abnormal psychology is an accreditation requirement for undergraduate psychology courses; however, students are legally prohibited from acting as psychologists, limiting the opportunity for client contact in learning environments. Developing relevant learning opportunities that allow students to gain knowledge and skills under these conditions is challenging. Intensifying this challenge is the need to design novel assessment that builds upon foundation knowledge given the advanced level of these students, and reflects the scientist-practitioner model; a model which underpins the practice and training of psychology internationally and is embodied in Australian course accreditation standards.

In the unit “Psychopathology”, a series of client-based tasks allow students to develop their knowledge and assessment and diagnosis skills within the mental health context and build an understanding of contemporary treatment techniques. Tutorials involve active learning experiences in a formative environment; skill-building and client-based learning are a focus in these classes. The first piece of assessment requires students to apply this knowledge set and skills to a behaviour of their own that they wish to change and produce a case study report of the effectiveness of this treatment. The second piece of assessment, a case study, encourages deep learning by providing an opportunity to apply diagnosis and assessment skills developed in the tutorial program and procedural knowledge from the lecture program. Students encounter clients through written vignettes, video presentations and guest speakers and produce a full diagnostic reasoning report, treatment plan and prognosis. This adapted client-based approach provides an opportunity to for diagnosis and treatment skill development without the involvement of a client. We conclude by considering student evaluation and feedback about the effectiveness of this case-based approach to the psychopathology teaching.

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ID Code: 2330
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional Information: For more information, please refer to the conference’s website (see hypertext link) or contact the author.
Additional URLs:
Keywords: psychology teaching evaluation
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Education Assessment and Evaluation (130303)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Psychology not elsewhere classified (170199)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 (The authors)
Deposited On: 14 Nov 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2009 06:47

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