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Duration (approx) 600 hours
Qualification Certificate

An in depth course on abnormal psychology

There are six 100 hour modules required to complete this course.

Study five core modules of Abnormal Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, Developmental, Learning and Behavioural Conditions, Child Mental Health, Adult Mental Health.

Then choose one elective module from Anger Management, Stress Management and Psychopharmacology.

  • Understand the issues faced by children and adults in today's world.
  • Learn about recognising the causes and symptoms of conditions, and the treatment options and support available for these.

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Study abnormal psychology with this certificate level qualification

Abnormal psychology sounds like such a negative term, but many people today are suffering psychologically, dealing with behavioural, emotional, or physical conditions or disorders . This course will provide you with a detailed insight into abnormal psychology and the issues adults and children can face in today's modern world. 

This course is suitable for -

  • foster carers
  • social workers
  • teachers
  • nurses and doctors
  • health professionals
  • teaching assistants
  • parents
  • volunteers working with people with mental health conditions
  • counsellors
  • anyone interested in psychology and wanting to specialise in abnormal psychology


Course Duration: 600 hours.

Start Date: Start at any time - study at a pace that suits you, and with full tutor support for the duration of your studies.

Content: Study five Core modules and then choose one elective module.

The Core modules cover Abnormal Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, Developmental Learning and Behavioural Conditions, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Managing Adult Mental Health.

Then choose one Elective from – Anger Management, Stress Management, Psychopharmacology.

Summaries of the modules are below; please follow the link in the titles for further information on each one.

Abnormal Psychology BPS307
This is an 11 lesson module.  Students will study the signs and symptoms of different psychological conditions.  Disorders may be caused by environmental, physical, or genetic influences.  The module starts by looking at disorders that are usually diagnosed during infancy, which is then followed by a series of lessons which focus on the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of different types of disorder.  The disorders covered in the module include cognitive disorders, substance-related disorders, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, sexual/gender disorders, eating and sleep disorders, control disorders, and personality disorders.  Students will be expected to describe and distinguish between different types of disorders and their work will include the diagnosis and development of treatment for specified disorders.

Introduction To Psychology BPS101
Through 7 lessons, this module will provide you with a basic foundation in human psychology.  Students will look at key issues and theories in psychology, whilst considering the stages of our psychological development from adolescence through to adults.  The module includes lessons which focus on the structure of the nervous system and the brain, environmental/external effects on behaviour, perception, personality, and motivation.  The module includes practical elements such as case studies and the demonstration of motivation techniques through role play.

Developmental, Learning And Behavioural Conditions In Adolescents And Children BPS215
Through 9 lessons, learn about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of learning and behavioural conditions exhibited by children and adolescents.  The module looks at genetic, physical, and environmental causes of disorders, with lessons including developmental disorders, specific conditions such as Autism and Asperger’s Disorder, ADHD, learning disorders, and motor skills disorders.  A special project concludes the module, where the student selects a particular area of interest and researches and explains the signs, symptoms, treatment and support for a particular condition or disorder.

Child And Adolescent Mental Health BPS214
This 10 lesson module aims to provide students with the knowledge to identify mental health conditions in children and adolescents.  Students are guided through a wide range of conditions and disorders, including depression, anxiety, motor disorders, elimination disorders, reactive attachment disorder, the impact of environmental problems, eating disorders, and substance abuse.  As well as understanding types of treatment and support available, the module also considers alternative approaches to treatment, such as homeopathy, aromatherapy, behavioural optometry, and diet.  The module is completed with a special project in an area of interest to the student and which they will complete under the expert guidance of their tutor.

Managing Mental Health In Adults BPS216
This is a 9 lesson module which explores the scope and nature of mental health in adults along with the treatments for various conditions.  The module considers issues arising from different factors, such as biological or environmental influences and introduces students to different viewpoints on subjects, enabling them through greater understanding to develop their own ideas and opinions on the different conditions covered.  Areas covered by the module include depression, anxieties, phobias, and personality disorders.  Also included within this module is lesson focusing on self-help options for mental health sufferers, with the concluding lesson which will involve the student determining mental health services and options available.

Choose one Elective Module from -

Anger Management BPS111
This 9 lesson module will help students to learn to understand anger and explore techniques that can be useful in the management of anger.  The module explores different theories relating to emotion and anger looking at different therapies, techniques, and counselling that can be used to manage anger.  Important areas for consideration are individuals with mental health issues, personality disorders, and children and adolescents; there are separate lessons dedicated to these.  A problem based learning project completes the module, where the student will create and present a plan of anger management for an individual experiencing serious anger difficulties.

Stress Management VPS100
The 8 lesson module in Stress Management will provide the student with an understanding of how our bodies react to stress, and how this may be coped with.  We look at how stress may be controlled, and how we may relax.  Stress is a notable factor in everyone’s lives, and different people have different ways in dealing with it.  There are many factors which contribute to this – different personalities, our approach to diet (“we are what we eat”), how we view ourselves, how we manage our career, to name but a few.  This detailed module will guide the student through all of these areas and much more, enabling them to appreciate their own situations as well as providing the knowledge to let them help others in managing their stress.

Psychopharmacology (Drugs And Psychology) BPS302
This 11 lesson module covers a wide range of drugs, from legal drugs such as caffeine, and tobacco, through legally restricted drugs, such as cocaine, through to prescription drugs, including sedatives.  Students will learn more and understand the psychological effects of different drugs and other substances.  Whilst some drugs are used for treatment of conditions, other freely available substances or ingredients although potentially harmless in theory, can give rise to less welcome psychological outcomes.  This module considers drugs from the viewpoint of treatment as well as addictions and dangers arising from excessive or misuse of other substances.  

The Certificate In Abnormal Psychology requires around 600 hours of study. This is made up of six 100 hour modules.

To pass the course –

1. Pass all assignments on the six 100 hour modules. There will be an assignment at the end of each lesson to submit to your tutor for marking and feedback.
2. Pass six examinations – one on each module. These are usually taken at the end of the module and can be arranged at a time and location to suit you.

If you are not ready to study the Certificate In Abnormal Psychology, you can study each of the modules as a standalone course, if you prefer.



Some people have a biological susceptibility to changing from a seemingly normal person into one that behaves well outside of the norm. Others may be affected, through no fault of their own, by circumstances that change their psychology and ultimately trigger changes in their behaviour.
Psychological or physical pain may be the start of a change in behaviour which may then manifest in anything from withdrawl or abuse of relationships to self abuse or drug abuse. Over time behavioural changes can become increasingly exagerated and abnormal

Classical conditioning was first described by Ivan Pavlov in the 1890s. He conducted a series of experiments with dogs based upon the observation that when a dog is presented with food (unconditional stimulus, US) it salivates (unconditional response, UR). This is an inborn response. Pavlov presented various other stimuli at the same time as the food, so these other stimuli became associated with food. For example, the dog may hear a bell sound at the same time as food is presented. Through repeated pairing of the bell and the presentation of food, the dog learns to salivate upon hearing the bell only. The sound of the bell is now a conditioned stimulus (CS) and the salivation a conditioned response (CR), because it is not an inborn response to that stimulus (although it is the same as the UR).

Pavlov found that he could replace the sight of food with a range of other unconditioned stimuli and still produce the unconditioned response of salivation. This is known as classical conditioning.

In the same way, classical conditioning can explain drug and alcohol use. For instance, cues or stimuli can produce responses like cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Cues may be of internal origin, like feelings of depression or anxiety, or of environmental origin such as the sight of a public bar or observing someone smoke a cigarette. Witnessing stimuli associated with substance use can trigger the response in the individual.

Another type of conditioning is operant conditioning. Operant behaviour can be viewed as when an animal ‘operates’ spontaneously on its environment.  That is, it is not brought about by any influence from an outside stimulus.

B.F. Skinner took Pavlov’s work a stage further to develop his own theories of ‘operant conditioning’. He devised the ‘Skinner box’, in which he placed rats. When the rat pressed down a bar inside the box, a food pellet was delivered into a tray. After exploring its environment and accidentally pressing the bar a number of times, the rat eventually made the connection between pressing the bar and the arrival of the food pellet.

The appearance of the food can be said to be ‘positive reinforcement’. The bar pressing behaviour is reinforced because the rat is rewarded for its efforts. In addition, Skinner was able to demonstrate that such behaviour can also be learned to avoid unpleasant consequences. When pressing the bar cut off a mild electric current that ran through the box, the rat soon learned to adopt this behaviour. This is known as ‘aversive conditioning’ and results from 'negative reinforcement.'

In relation to substance use, behaviour may be reinforced if the right cues are present, for instance, consuming a substance like alcohol can be a positive reinforcer for drinking and may be associated with a range of cues like a family meal. For some though, the cues may become generalised so that they consume alcohol in response to a range of different internal cues, i.e. different moods or external cues - anywhere, anytime.

It would seem that the negative consequences of such behaviour (e.g. feeling hung over or sleeping in and missing work) do not support the positive reinforcement of them, but these negative ramifications usually come later. The initial response to taking the substance is usually one of pleasure and reward or reduction of cravings. Despite acknowledging problems associated with their behaviour and making vows to address it, many users become overwhelmed when faced with the stimuli which prompt them to use and so relapse is frequent. Hence many people need help with abstinence and quitting.     

Social Cognitions
Social learning theory suggests that much of what we learn is through modelling and imitation of others. It has given rise to the client-centred approaches to therapy (Carl Rogers) and motivational interviewing techniques which seem to be of benefit in dealing with substance use problems. Social learning theory emerged because some psychologists found behavioural explanations of behaviour too simplistic, i.e. people don't always respond to stimuli in predictable ways. People play a more active role in deciding what they do. One of the things they found was that people's expectations played a key part in their behaviour.

When applied to substance use it can be seen that expectations may arise from rewards and stimuli, but also that they can influence how people react to stimuli, behaviour and the consequences. That is, people have an active role in how they respond. Other influences such as modelling, perceived levels of self-control (i.e. self-efficacy beliefs), need for positive regard and self-evaluations also influence our choices.   

It has been suggested that some people may have a personality type which makes them more prone to using substances. However, there is little evidence to support this proposal. What is perhaps more credible is that particular personality traits may influence an individual's substance use behaviour. But once again, research has failed to consistently identify specific traits or clusters of traits associated with drug use that support this theory. However, a few studies, e.g. Molina et al. 2002, have suggested that there may be a link between personality traits and the onset of alcohol use disorders. In particular, antisocial personality traits have been linked to alcohol related problems in teens and young adults.
Also, some neurological problems like attention deficit and hyperactivity, impulsiveness, emotional instability, lack of inhibition, aggressiveness, and pre-alcoholic essential tremor have been found to be associated with alcohol problems. Poor academic achievement, truancy and delinquency are also linked and so is sensation seeking behaviour.  

Mental health disorders also have a complex relationship with drug and alcohol use. As alluded to already, some people with mental health problems take substances to self-medicate but sometimes mental health problems may be incurred through use of substances. There may also be a history of personality disorder or mental health issues in families where there are members with drug or alcohol disorders.

Social Theories
The environment may also play a significant role in an individual's vulnerability to drug and alcohol related disorders. For instance, how substances are perceived in society can influence an individual's decisions about taking them. In most Western societies alcohol is seen as an acceptable drug and many people grow up surrounded by family members and role models who drink. In these societies young people, in particular, may feel peer pressure to drink alcohol. Children who watch their parents drinking to relieve stress are more likely to accept it as a means of coping with problems. Conversely, in many countries where there is a Muslim majority alcohol is prohibited and there are few alcohol related problems. As well as availability, cost can be a determinant in the development of use disorders. Where prices are higher usage is likely to be lower.

Other social factors such as homelessness and unemployment are linked to problems with substance use. Within the family network factors such as abuse, neglect, separation, divorce and poor social support are all possible risk factors for substance use. The family system itself can promote and maintain substance use behaviours through particular rituals, e.g. every Sunday they drink alcohol with dinner as a family tradition.  

Given the divergent and occasionally complementary explanations of why people use substances and become addicted to them it is apparent that there is no satisfactory approach which describes all cases. Therefore, any attempt at understanding a person's substance use behaviour must be an integrated one. There are biological, psychological and social influences on whether a person uses substances and also the consequences of use. Responses may lead to tolerance, reinforcement and generalisation of substance use to a variety of internal and external cues. Often individuals with substance use disorders associate with others who are similarly inclined and avoid those who may not condone their behaviour.  

You can start the course at any time.

It is studied by distance learning, so you can study in the comfort of your own home. But this doesn't mean you are all alone in your studies.  Our highly qualified and friendly tutors are there to help you every step of the way.  If you have any questions at all, they are always happy to help.

Each of the modules mentioned can also be studied as a standalone course if you prefer.


  • You can start the course at any time and study at your own pace.
  • Fit your studies around your own busy lifestyle - we provide full tutor support for all the time you are studying.
  • Study where you want to - online studies offer the flexibility for you to determine where and when you study.


  • You want to understand more about psychology and behaviour in children and adults.
  • You want to understand about Developmental Disorders and determine what their causes and possible treatments.
  • You want to learn about the scope and nature of mental illness.
  • Learn how to identify signs of problems and determine possible ways of treating conditions.


Any Questions?

Understanding more about abnormal psychology can help us to understand the difficulties that people can face today. Children and adults can suffer from mental health disorders.  This course will provide you with detailed insight into mental health problems. 

Taking a qualification in abnormal psychology shows your passion and commitment to understand and support people who are experiencing mental health problems.

If you already work in an area where you support people with mental health issues or would like to, this course is an excellent way to develop your knowledge and career.

Seize the day! Enrol today.

If you have any questions about the course, please click here to contact a psychology tutor.




Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

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Meet some of our academics

Tracey Jones (psychology)B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), DipSW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies) Tracey began studying psychology in 1990. She has a wide range of experience within the psychology and social work field, particularly working with people with learning disabilities. She is also qualified as a teacher and now teaches psychology and social work related subjects. She has been a book reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work and has also written many textbooks, blogs, articles and ebooks on psychology, writing, sociology, child development and more. She has had also several short stories published.
Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.

Check out our eBooks

Grief and Crisis CounsellingA guide to understanding and helping people through difficult times
Family & Relationships CounsellingThe Family and Relationships Counselling ebook is an informative and helpful read for anyone who wants to improve their relationships or even help other people improve or nurture their own relationships.
Coping Better with Negative EmotionsThis book is designed to help you understand the things that cause stress, the problems that can arise, and the broad range of ways people might manage their stress.
Counselling HandbookA book for both students, as well as volunteers who may be involved in helping people with problems. This is a starting point for understanding counselling, and a reference for developing counselling skills. The book contains seven chapters: 1. Where can counselling be used 2. How to see behind the mask 3. Emotions and attitudes 4. How to communicate better when all you have is words 5. Theory versus practice 6. Diffusing difficult situations 7. Golden rules or tips