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Learn more about the principles and theories of psychology and counselling.

  • Learn from our highly experienced and qualified tutors.
  • Study in your own home. 
  • This course is a useful foundation course if you are planning to work towards a career in psychology and/or counselling. 
  • It will develop your ability to analyse psychological conditions, and apply that knowledge in counselling, or advisory situations. 
  • Or you might just want to take the course because you are interested in psychology and counselling.


The course requires approximately 100 hours of study.
Start Date
Start at any time to suit you. 

Lesson Structure

There are seven lessons in the course.  

1. Stress

  • Introduction
  • The mind to body connection
  • How to recognise stress
  • What happens to the body when you experience stress
  • The physiological response
  • Chronic and acute stress
  • Erikson's psycho social stages
  • Oral sensory stage
  • Anal muscular stage
  • Genital locomotor stage
  • Latency stage
  • Adolescence
  • Young adulthood
  • Middle adulthood
  • Late adulthood
  • Social adjustment
  • Relationship between stress and heart disease
  • What are the basic sources of stress
  • Why some people suffer more
  • How to deal with stress
  • Defence mechanisms

2. Abnormal Behaviour

  • Definition of abnormality
  • Deviation from statistical norms
  • Deviation from social norm
  • Maladaptiveness in behaviour
  • Personal distress
  • Disability
  • Wakefield's harmful dysfunction concept
  • Psychologically healthy individuals
  • Deviation in character
  • Classification of mental disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Prevalence of depression
  • Treatment of depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance related disorder
  • Disorders diagnosed in childhood
  • Delirium, Dementia, Amnestic and Cognitive disorders
  • Problems with classification

3. Individual Behaviour

  • Pro social or Altruistic behaviour
  • When do children first exhibit pro social behaviour
  • Socialisation
  • Conformity
  • Family influence
  • Disciplinary measures
  • Sibling influence
  • Influence of family structure
  • Influence of school
  • Praise
  • Influence of peers
  • Heider's Balance theory
  • Dissonance theory
  • Cognitive dissonance

4. Group Behaviour

  • Social considerations
  • Temporary group
  • Organised group
  • Organisational groups
  • The influence of groups
  • Industrial groups

5. Methods of Dealing with Abnormalities

  • Professionals in counselling and psychology
  • Therapist techniques
  • Transference
  • Directiveness and non directiveness
  • Systematic Desensitisation
  • Behaviour therapies
  • Psychoanalytical approach
  • Psychoanalytic techniques
  • Humanistic therapy
  • Eclectic approach

6. Conflict Resolution

  • Introduction
  • Conflict handling techniques
  • Anger
  • Negotiation
  • Joint problem solving
  • Problems with negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Procedure
  • Running a mediation process in a conflict situation
  • Agreements or contracts
  • Suggested timetable for a mediation session

7. Interpersonal Communication Skills

  • Introduction
  • Communication channels
  • Effective communication
  • Awareness
  • Communication skills
  • Hearing verbal messages
  • Perceiving non verbal messages
  • Responding
  • Verbal and non verbal communication
  • Body language
  • Communication barriers
  • Self awareness
  • Self esteem
  • Specific skills: listening, paraphrasing, reflective responses, etc
  • Conversation development
  • Professional relationship building

There is an assignment at the end of each lesson, which you submit to your tutor for marking. 



  • Identify the nature of conflict and stress and why this issue affects so many people today.
  • Identify and examine behaviours that are characterised as abnormal and compare and contrast these with behaviours characterised as healthy.
  • Explain social influence on individual behaviour.
  • Explain social influence on group behaviour.
  • Describe alternative methods of dealing with psychological problems
  • Develop skills for resolving conflict.
  • Develop communication skills for counselling individuals.



Here are some examples of what you may do:

  • Find someone you know who you suspect has a type A personality. Talk to them to try to confirm if your suspicion is correct. Note (write down) the ways in which they appear to be a type A personality.
  • Talk with someone who is suffering, or has suffered stress. This might be a friend, relative, work mate, or anyone else you are able to find. Discuss their stress with them (current or past). Don’t push them, but try to discern from what they are happy to tell you, whether their stress was (or is) chronic or acute.
  • Consider conflict which occurs in either a workplace or recreation situation you are familiar with. This might be a place where you work, or a workplace you visit frequently (eg. A shop or office);or perhaps a sporting club, gymnasium or social group which you regularly attend. Make up a list of disputes or conflicts which you remember to have occurred in the past.
  • Consider an individual in your life, or else a character in a film or book, who you regard as abnormal. Consider why they are abnormal. Write down a list of reasons you are able to identify. Which method or defining abnormality was influencing your judgement of this character 
  • Find a teenager who you can interview. This might be a person you know (a relative, work colleague, member of an organisation you belong to etc), or perhaps you might contact and visit a youth club or organisation that deals with teenagers and arrange to interview someone. The person needs to be someone who exhibits some type of deviant behaviour, even if not extreme. Most teenagers will at some stage exhibit behaviour that is a deviance from social norms (even if the behaviour is not a deviance from age or peer group norms).
  • Interview this teenager for at least 15 minutes. Make notes of your conversation, their responses (verbal and non-verbal).


Duration: 100 hours


Learn to Understand and Help People

When you understand psychology better; you become more able to see the early signs of problems in people. You will more likely to notice changes in the behaviour of people you live and work with. You will also be more likely to understand such changes.

Most mental health issues develop over time. The best way to avoid problems later on, is to identify a developing problem early; and stop it from developing.

Most people worry about problems periodically. That is natural. Sometimes though, worries can grow and develop into something more significant. You may suggest, but often people will resist seeking medical or counselling advice. There are still ways that we can all alleviate symptoms, such as:

  • Talk to others about how you feel
  • Keep in touch with friends and family
  • Eat well
  • Drink sensibly
  • Keep active
  • Take regular breaks from work 
  • Ask for help if you feel you need it
  • Do something you enjoy for a change
  • Try to accept who you are
  • Care for others.

In later stages of a mental health condition, or for a physical health condition, we may require medical intervention. We may not want to take medication or drugs, but sometimes that is what we need to improve.  

Clair is suffering from severe anxiety and has taken time off work. She is self-employed, so does not earn any money when she does not work. This is making her stress levels worse. She finds it hard to even get out of bed in the morning. Clair is physically healthy, she is a vegetarian, eats only organic food and does not tend to take medication. Her doctor suggests that she takes some anti-anxiety tablets to help her overcome the symptoms at first. Clair is not happy about this but reluctantly agrees.  

We may not wish to take medication or seek medical advice, but sometimes a short dose of medication can help us so that our mood improves and we are able to cope more effectively with our lives. For some disorders, medication helps to restore a more stable mood and clearer thought so people are able to respond better to other therapies and management strategies.

We talked about a lack of sleep earlier and how this can impact upon our physical and mental health.  If a person is struggling with sleep there are alternatives they can try such as medication, drinking warm milk before bed, removing electronic devices from the bedroom, and so on. But as a short term remedy it may be that a mild sleeping tablet could help them get into good sleep habits and enable them to sleep better.  

Any strategy which works has some benefit to the individual. Whether or not they need medication is something which they need to work out for themselves in conjunction with their GP. If it's possible to avoid medication, this is preferable. However, sometimes medication can allow the body to heal itself, to find a balance the body needs.





ACS student comments:
"The notes and study tools encourage me to conduct research to develop my knowledge of components in my course. It is very worthwhile. [My tutor] gives me good feedback and food for thought with her comments and sometimes elaborates on my answers - really value her input".  Larissa Kalnins - Psychology & Counselling course.

"I found the course so helpful as a Catholic Priest, and that is why I have registered for the Diploma in Counselling and Psychology and I hope to do my best to finish and help my people who are back home in Africa."  Joseph - Psychology and Counselling course.







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Study Psychology and Counselling

Learn more about abnormal psychology, counselling and stress!
Learn more about stress, abnormal behaviour, individual behaviour, group behaviour, conflict resolution and much more.




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.
Miriam ter BorgPsychologist, Youth Worker, Teacher, Author and Natural Therapist. Miriam was previously an Outdoor Pursuits Instructor, Youth Worker, Surfing College Program Coordinator, Massage Therapist, Business Owner/Manager. Miriam's qualifications include B.Sc.(Psych), DipRem.Massage, Cert Ourdoor Rec.
Kate Gibson B.Soc.Sc.15+ years experience in HR, marketing, education & project management. Kate has traveled and worked in a variety of locations including London, New Zealand and Australia.
Gavin Cole B.Sc.,M.Psych.Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Gavin has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. He has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Gavin joined ACS in 2001.

Check out our eBooks

Psychology DictionaryThis book provides explanations for common terms used in Psychology.
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
How Children ThinkAnyone who has ever tried to make a child do anything (clean up their mess, desist from throwing mud, stop drawing on the walls) knows that children think differently to adults. This book attempts to provide the skills and knowledge to develop a greater understanding of children.
How to be a Life CoachLife coaching is a relatively new profession - although coaches have been around for a long time in the guise of trainers, instructors, managers and tutors for various professions and disciplines. Life coaching is not easily defined, but it is a type of mentoring which focuses on helping individuals to achieve what they would like to achieve and thereby to lead more fulfilling lives. Unlike other forms of coaching, it takes place outside of the workplace and is concerned with all aspects of a person’s life.