Course Descriptions - Divine Mercy University

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Online M.S. in Psychology: Course Descriptions


1.  PSY 550 – Helping People Flourish: A Catholic-Christian Approach to Psychology 

In this course, students develop the skills required to become successful online learners. Students begin using resources that are present throughout the program, such as the online library, and engaging in exercises in reflection and practical application. They work toward building a foundation for academic and professional success as scholar-practitioners and agents of positive change through their graduate study of psychology. Students are also introduced to the “IPS Model,” which integrates the Catholic-Christian vision of the person with best practices in psychological theory, research, and intervention. This positive model views 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 relationship of the program to their personal and professional goals and create a professional development plan which they refine throughout their course of studies. (9 weeks)

2.  PSY 555 – Relationship and Intervention Skills Theory and Application

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.

3.  PHT 507 – The Catholic-Christian Vision of the Person

This course explores the Catholic-Christian vision of the human person, and its application to psychology, service-delivery, and everyday living. It uses the holistic approach of the IPS Model of Integration, which combines Biblical/theological, philosophical, and psychological perspectives into a global understanding of the human person and flourishing. The course addresses the theory and implications of: the human person’s dignity in the light of being created in the image of God as male and female; the effects of sin and redeeming grace; a personalist and natural law approach; the person as a unity of body and soul that is relational, emotional, rational, and free.

4.  PSY 560 – Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan

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.

5.  PSY 565 – Common Psychological Problems and Their Treatment

Students in this course examine the current theory and research associated with the diagnosis and treatment options of common psychological problems at the individual level (e.g., depression & anxiety) and at the relational level (e.g., marital distress and parenting problems). Students are introduced to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a classification system for adult and child mental disorders. Emphasis is placed on using the DSM and the IPS Model approaches together for client story analysis (case conceptualization) and appropriate referrals.

6. PHT 508 – The Catholic-Christian Vision of Flourishing: Vocations and Virtues

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.

7.  PSY 570 – Statistical Analysis for Psychology and the Social Sciences

This course approaches the study of psychological measurement and statistical methods from a practical problem-solving and intelligent consumer perspective. Students gain a basic understanding and applied knowledge of statistics so they can understand research study results to be able to select appropriate assessment instruments, and evaluate programs and interventions. Such knowledge is aimed at assisting helping professionals to be more effective in their roles as helper, manager, and leader. An emphasis on actual statistical and methodological problems facilitates understanding of the basic course content.

8.  PSY 575 – Social Psychology, Groups and Diversity

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.

9. PSY 580 – Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence  

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.

10. PSY 585 – Evidence-based Practice and Program Evaluation  

This course examines two related competencies for the helping professional: being an evidence-based practitioner and being a critical evaluator of programs and services. In examining these topics, this course focuses on key questions that helping professionals face such as “How do I read current research with a critical eye?” “How do I apply research to my practice?” and “How do I conduct fair, but thorough, evaluations of programs and services in my organization?”  Such skills promote more effective and efficient service delivery.

11.  PSY 590 – Leading People and Programs

This course covers two key areas: (1) being a leader in a service delivery setting and (2) program planning for the helping professions. Students examine the core leadership competencies that helping professionals need to address the challenges they face, and to make a greater difference in the communities they serve. A broad range of skills and approaches are discussed, including inter-program and inter-agency collaboration, and stakeholder communication, as well as the supervision of staff and volunteers. Being an effective leader also requires sound administrative practices such as budgeting. Finally, students learn the framework, theories, and process of program planning, emphasizing models that are widely used in the helping professions. They learn how to assess needs and identify assets, then to design and implement programs that meet these needs.

12.  PSY 595 – Capstone: The Transformational Leader in the Helping Professions

IPS graduates have a valuable opportunity to impact their clients and society. In this course, students synthesize their learning across their courses, informed by the Catholic-Christian view of the human person. They address leadership in the helping professions through the completion of a capstone project in which they apply the knowledge and skills gained throughout the program to a real-world problem. In addition, students 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 IPS.