M.S. in Psychology: Course Descriptions

PSY 515 Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation

This course introduces a basic understanding of the terminology, foundation, theory, and research of cognitive psychology and the neurosciences.  Emphasis is on the interrelatedness of cognition, emotion, behavior, and motivation across the lifespan. Students evaluate concepts of self-agency and morality through a neuroscience lens integrated with the Catholic-Christian vision of the human person. Students focus on developing an awareness of the complexities of cognitions, emotions, and motivations in themselves and others. Students will be able to appraise interventions that address these complexities informed by the Catholic-Christian vision of the human person. (3 credits)

PSY 520 Marriage and Family Systems Theory (Marriage and Family Studies Elective)

This course introduces students to the historical and theoretical bases for the practice of marriage, couple, and family counseling. Special attention is given to an overview of foundational systems-oriented theories (Bowenian, Strategic, Structural, etc.), and the impact of issues such as gender, culture, and ethnicity on the family system. Students will examine their own assumptions about families and begin to develop increased congruence between their assumptions, philosophical/theological presuppositions, and the various theoretical perspectives on family development, functioning, interaction and intervention. (3 credit hrs)

PSY 530 – Marriage and Family Interventions

Introduces models and methods of psychoeducational intervention to develop effective professional skills to help couples and families develop resiliency and flourishing. Techniques, assessments, interventions, and strategies will be researched, discussed, and practiced to develop preventive approaches as well as approaches to facilitate flourishing in the midst of various challenges in marriage, couple, and family life across the lifespan (e.g., marriage preparation, sexuality issues, the birth of a child, reproductive and other loss, religiously-minded couples, separation or divorce, remarriage, etc.). A special emphasis will be placed on interventions for couples preparing for marriage, continued marital flourishing, and parenting during transitions in family life. Students will acquire an introductory knowledge of relationship dynamics, assessment, and skills related to working with couples and families, and acquire certification to be a FOCCUS pre-marriage inventory facilitator as part of the course. (3 credit hrs)

PSY 545 Leading and Facilitating Groups (Human Services elective)

Leading and Facilitating Groups introduces students to a range of theoretical and experiential group counseling structures and strategies involving group development, group processes, and group dynamics in clinical settings. An in-depth exploration is focused on group formation including recruiting, screening and selecting group members. A focus on group developmental theories, group member roles and behaviors, leadership styles, types of groups and professional standards for group leaders prepares students for advanced work in group counseling interventions. Students are required to engage in diverse, culturally relevant direct group experiences defined within a small group activity approved by the instructor of the course and to document at least 10 clock hours of group work during this course. (3 credit hrs)

PSY 550 – Helping People Flourish: A Catholic-Christian Approach to Psychology (Core Course)

In this course, students explore the richness of understanding behaviors, emotions, and thoughts through the study of psychology—informed by philosophy and theology—to aid self and others in flourishing. Students engage in exercises in reflection and practical application using resources that are present throughout their graduate study of psychology, and work toward building a foundation for academic and professional success as scholar-practitioners and agents of positive change. Students also learn to integrate a Catholic Christian vision of the person with best practices in psychological theory, research, and intervention. This holistic view affirms the person as possessing intrinsic dignity, as free and able to make responsible choices, relational and connected to others and society, and as seeking psychological well-being, moral character, and spiritual growth. Finally, students assess the benefits of the graduate study of psychology for their personal and professional goals through creating a professional development plan. The course concludes with a two day mandatory online residency to deepen students’ understanding of these foundational concepts together as a virtual learning community. (3 credit hrs)

PSY 555 – Relationship and Intervention Skills Theory and Application (Human Services Elective)

The focus of this course is on developing the competencies (knowledge, attitudes, and skills) necessary for becoming an effective helping professional.   These competency areas include interviewing skills, skills for building and maintaining helping relationships with clients, case conceptualization, intervention planning, case management, and group facilitation skills. Students will also consider interpersonal skills such as de-escalation, negotiation, and crisis intervention. Knowledge of ethical principles and models of decision making, related to the helping professions are covered. Students also learn to identify and consider diversity issues in the context of providing services as a helping professional.

PSY 560 – Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan (Core Course)

Students in this course explore the biological, psychological, and social factors of human growth and development through the lifespan from conception through aging and end of life. Students examine basic processes and theories, and evaluate the developmental milestones that occur across the lifespan. Topics covered include emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, moral, and spiritual development. This course presents a special focus on flourishing across the lifespan and the application of developmental insights to practical issues that arise within the helping professions.

PSY 565 – Developmental Psychopathology — Risk and Resilience (Core Course)

Developmental Psychopathology — Risk and Resilience introduces students to the concept of developmental psychopathology along the continuum of stress, distress, and disorder with focus on behavioral, experiential, and relational manifestations of mental health. This course reinforces the comparative distinctions between normative and psychopathological developmental pathways from infancy through adolescence. The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is introduced as a method for categorizing symptoms and for classifying psychopathology. A variety of perspectives on psychopathology are presented to form an integrative and systemic context for diagnostic considerations. Emphasis is placed on understanding cultural, biological, social, and spiritual / religious domains, along with the factors of risk and human resilience in the development of psychiatric disorders. Students will be able to develop an understanding of clients through this comprehensive model of psychopathology. (3 credit hrs)

PHT 508 – The Catholic-Christian Vision of Flourishing: Vocations and Virtues (Core Course)

The vision of human flourishing that one adopts is crucial for understanding and concretely addressing human problems. This course develops the Catholic-Christian vision of personal and interpersonal flourishing in terms of vocations and virtues, and human and spiritual resources. First, students explore three levels of vocation and their discernment: (1) a call to goodness and holiness; (2) a call to being single, married, ordained or religious (consecrated); and (3) a call to work and to service to one’s neighbors. Emphasis is placed on courtship and on marriage, which is understood as a natural and divine institution that serves to support and protect individuals, families, and society. Second, students explore the rich teaching on achieving personal growth and freedom through building up their practical reasoning, moral character, and spiritual life of faith, hope, and charity, which have an impact on everyday life, the helping professions, and vocational commitments. Students examine how Catholic-Christian practices can be sources of relationship, support, growth, healing, and flourishing. Lastly, the course will identify psychological theory, evidence, and interventions that support this vision of human flourishing, a life of virtue, and committed vocations.

PHT 543 Catholic-Christian Marriage and Human Sexuality (Core Course)

Introduces students to marriage as a natural and divine institution that serves the flourishing and protection of individuals, families, and society. Students will examine sexual difference from biological, psychological, and theological perspectives focusing on the writings of St. John Paul II, particularly his Theology of the Body. A Catholic-Christian understanding of masculinity and femininity and its implications for complementarity for relational and family flourishing will be explored. Students will analyze several contemporary challenges to marital flourishing and examine possible ways to strengthen the family as the domestic church in a diverse world through growth in virtue. (3 credit hrs)

PSY 570 – Statistical Analysis for Psychology and the Social Sciences (Core Course)

Statistical Analysis for Psychology and the Social Sciences introduces the student to foundational concepts of statistics such as scales of measurements, descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, and basic univariate inferential statistics.  Students learn to perform basic statistical analyses choosing the appropriate analysis for a given research question using statistical software. Finally, students approach the study of statistics from a practical problem-solving and intelligent, critical consumer of research literature perspective in order to be scientifically minded when selecting appropriate assessment instruments, and programs and interventions. 

PSY 575 – Social Psychology, Groups, and Diversity (Core Course)

In this course, students use the lens of social psychology and human diversity to examine both social perceptions/thoughts and social behavior—phenomena that pertain to the individual in society. Students explore the topics of forming impressions, stereotyping, social influence, attitude development and change, bias and discrimination, antisocial and pro-social behaviors, affiliation and attraction, and sex role behaviors, and consider how knowledge of these topics can be used to promote positive social change. The course also emphasizes how the various types of diversity impact the helping professional and interventions chosen to assist clients.  Areas of diversity include but are not limited to: culture, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, and those who are differently enabled.

PSY 580 – Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence (Human Services Elective)

Students in this course are introduced to the major theories of personality and personality assessment approaches. Students examine research that supports different theories as well as basic concepts and principles from the various schools of thought. Theories include psychoanalytic, evolutionary, biological, behaviorist, learning, social-cognitive, trait, humanistic,and existential, in addition to personality dimensions such as the Big Five. Students consider themes of mutual respect for differences throughout the course. Students also learn to recognize assessment approaches that are based on personality differences. (3 credit hours)

PSY 585 Research Methodology and Design, Evidence-based Practice, and Program Evaluation (Core Course)

This course introduces students to quantitative and qualitative research methodology and design as well as basic concepts of psychometrics.  Concepts are applied  to being an evidence-based practitioner and being a critical evaluator of programs and services. In examining these topics, this course focuses on reading current research with a critical eye as well as designing and planning research studies that can evaluate effectiveness of programs and interventions. Finally, students consider ethical and fair yet thorough approaches to research design, program evaluation, and outcome research. Such skills promote increased effectiveness and efficiency in a variety of settings. (3 credit hours)

PSY 590 – Leading People, Programs, and Organizations  (Leadership Elective)

This course covers two key areas: (1) leading teams, programs, and organizations and (2) the psychology of organizational leadership. Students examine the core competencies that leaders need to address the challenges they face to make a greater difference in the communities they serve. A broad range of skills and approaches are discussed: autonomy, supporting work environments, human dignity in the workplace, leading with empathy, Tuckman stages of group formation, relationship between performance and pressure as well as the supervision of staff and volunteers. Finally, students learn the framework, theories, and processes of program planning and execution and analyze approaches to assess organizational needs and how to address those effectively. (3 credits)

PSY 595 – Transformational and Servant Leadership (Leadership Elective)

 In this course  the student analyzes the principles and the evidence base of transformational leadership from a Catholic Christian perspective. Students (1) appraise the value of transformational leadership for accomplishing an organizational mission and handling stressful situations; (2) develop authenticity and role modeling skills required to be a transformational leader; (3) evaluate the importance of being a role model and a servant leader; (4) analyze various motivational strategies for working with individuals and groups; and (5) demonstrate their understanding of the importance of lifelong learning by identifying specific goals for professional involvement and service beyond the completion of their studies at the University. (3 credit hours)

PSY 599 – Academic Writing for Psychological Research (if applicable, 1-3 credits)

In this course students follow an Individualized plan of study focused on the writing of the Capstone project. Students who transferred into the program or students who require additional time and support for the writing of the different parts of their Capstone project will receive support in this course. In depth instruction on APA format and academic writing as applied to the Capstone project will be the focus of this course. Students who received a grade below a B- in any of their major Capstone sections (introduction, integrative literature review, psychological literature review, decision making and motivation paper, implementation and evaluation plan; and target population papers) will be required to take PSY 599 as a 1-credit course. Students receiving a grade below a B or desiring to improve their academic writing towards excellence are strongly encouraged to enroll in the course.

PSY 615 Applied Leadership Skills (Leadership Elective)

In this course students appraise tenets of self leadership by examining personal biases, using critical self reflection, and evaluating self-regulatory behaviors affirming the fundamental goodness and innate dignity of the person. Students learn interpersonal skills relevant to a variety of leadership settings. Students analyze ethical principles and models of decision making related to the self, group, and organizational leadership. Students identify diversity issues especially relevant to leadership settings. The course emphasizes the value of leading with humility, authenticity, and self-sacrificial behaviors to promote flourishing in others. (3 credit hrs)

PSY 620 Scientific Thesis – Psychological Research and Writing

This course is required for students in the Pre-PhD concentration and guides them through all the phases of planning and executing a scientific project that results in a master’s thesis. The thesis must have an applied science emphasis informed by the Catholic-Christian vision of the person with the overarching goal of supporting the flourishing of the whole person. Through this thesis work students have the unique opportunity to further explore scientifically at a deeper level a topic related to an area of interest, work, or ministry. The topic may be informed by but is not required to be related to prior work on the capstone project. Students will generate research knowledge that can be shared professionally with others through their thesis, conference presentations, or peer-reviewed published articles to engage with the scientific and broader community. PSY 620 is a 1-credit course; students in the Pre-PhD concentration will register for this course for six consecutive terms which will take the place of two elective courses.