Lary Leitner's Psychopathology course....

Mancuso, James C. (
Wed, 10 Feb 1999 17:03:45 -0500

In light of some of the recent discussion on this net, I hasten to
share with all of you the syllabus for Larry Leitner's course on
Aside from having some misgivings about the title of the course, I
vote to give Larry a Gold Medal for having initiated this course. If
every psychology department had a course like this -- either as a
separate course, or as a replacement for the standard
diagostic/pseudomedical courses not usually taught -- we would be doing
our academic duty. I hope that Larry can convince more of us to do

Of course, I objected to Larry having left a VERY IMPORTANT text
off of his reading list..... but he correctly informs me that that text
is out of print. Perhaps if we had had about 100 courses of this type
at the time of that book's publication, the book might still be in
print..... I guess that all of this might spur us to redo that book!!!

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PSY 343: Psychopathology

Instructor: L. M. Leitner, Ph.D.
36 Benton Hall

Office Hours: TBA

Purpose of Course: This course is NOT a survey of "psychopathology" at a

more advanced level than PSY242. If you are wanting another survey
please drop this course as you will be sorely disappointed. Rather,
assuming that you have had a PSY242 survey, I want this course to
with issues in abnormal psychology that are not typically addressed.
issues are not ignored because they are erroneous or unsupportable.
they are ignored because they challenge the current bio-reductionistic,
symptom focused zeitgeist in psychology. In this spirit, we are going to

read some works designed to make you question the very approaches to
abnormal psychology that the field currently holds so dear. The goal is
shake you up a bit, to make you think about issues too often taken for
granted in the field today.

As an academic community, we should be open to exploring alternative
viewpoints of phenomena. Intellectual excitement and growth occur when
challenge existing assumptions, not when we are given (or discover) the
TRUTH. In this spirit, I want you to approach PSY343 through being open
the notion that everything you have learned about psychopathology in all

other psychology courses is wrong (or, at least, open to alternative
interpretations). To the extent that you want/need to view psychology as

having discovered TRUTHS about psychopathology, you will struggle in

PSY343 is a part of a thematic sequence on psychopathology offered by
psychology department. As such, it is designed to foster critical
writing, engaging other learners, and reflecting and acting. With regard
critical thinking, the entire course is designed to facilitate a
appraisal of the received view of psychology. The course requires
writing (numerous 5-10 page papers). Many (most? all?) of the readings
facilitate your understandings of issues related to race, gender, social

class, etc. and the current trends in psychopathology. You also are
expected to engage other learners throughout the term by interacting
actively in class. Finally, I hope that, for those of you planning on
service careers, the material in this course will help you be more
thoughtful in your actions throughout your careers.

Readings: Seven books have been ordered.

1. Kutchins, H. & Kirk, S. A. (1997). Making us crazy: DSM: The
Bible and the creation of mental disorders. This book illustrates the
politics behind the DSM.

2. Caplan, P.J. (1995). They say you're crazy: How the world's most
powerful psychiatrists decide who's normal. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

This book gets you up close and personal with the politics behind the

3. Ross, C. A. & Pam, A. (1995). Pseudoscience in biological psychiatry.

New York: Wiley. This book points out, in great depth, all of the
statistical, methodological, and conceptual problems underlying the
biological "revolution" in the mental health fields.

4. Valenstein, E. (1998). Blaming the brain. Valenstein is an
internationally renowned psychobiologist from the University of
He believes that the evidence behind the theories of serotonin,
norepinephrine, dopamine, etc. are so seriously flawed as to be

5. Breggin, P. R. (1994). Toxic psychiatry. New York: St. Martin's
This volume points out tons of problems behind the current trends in
health. In particular, it focuses on the ways that chemicals are used to

lobotomize persons, in the name of "medicine."

6. Masson, J. M. (1988). Against therapy: Emotional tyranny and the myth
psychological healing. Masson's volume basically can be used to argue
the psychological "therapies" aren't much better than the biological

7. Szasz, T. S. (1997). Insanity: The idea and its consequences.
NY: Syracuse University Press (Originally published by John Wiley,
By this point in the course, you should be open to the idea that we may
need to re-think the very concept of "mental illness." If so, you are
for Szasz.

Some readings also may be provided.

Week Topic Readings
1/11 Intro/DSM K&K, chs. 1-3
1/18 Making us Crazy K&K, chs. 4-5
1/25 Making us Crazy K&K, chs. 6-8
2/1 Caplan Chs. 1-4
2/8 Caplan Chs. 5-10
2/15 Pseudoscience R&P, ch. 1
2/22 Pseudoscience R&P, chs. 2-3
3/1 Pseudoscience R&P, chs. 4-8
3/8 Toxic B, chs. 1-5
3/15 Toxic B, chs. 6-10
3/22 Toxic B, chs. 11-16
3/29 Against Therapy M, chs. 1-4
4/5 Against Therapy M, chs. 5-8
4/12 Insanity S, chs. 1-3
4/19 Insanity S, chs. 4-8
4/26 Insanity S, chs. 9-12

My role/your role: My role is not to read from the dead sea scrolls or
anything like that. Rather, I see my role as clarifying, muddling,
provoking and whatever else I can do to make you THINK about issues
readings raise. If you want a professor who will lecture to you, drop
course as you will be disappointed. As a result, there will be a lot of
yelling and screaming and I don't need that anymore than you do.

Rather, I am coming to class prepared to discuss the issues in the
for the week. Your role is not only to come to class to discuss the
readings BUT to also come prepared with questions you want discussed,
issues you want to raise/complain about, and so on. To the extent you do

that, you will enrich the class for yourself and your fellow students.
PARTICIPATE. GOD (a.k.a. the part of me that will have to assign grades)

Evaluation: You will be evaluated in two ways. First, your class
participation will count for 30% of your grade. If you come to class
prepared, talk, and are thoughtful in your comments, you will have no
problem with this component of the evaluation. At the end of each
(every two - three weeks, basically), you also will write a 5 - 10 page
reaction to that section of the course. These papers should focus on
you learned, issues it raises for you, etc. Each of these papers will
for 10% of your grade. These papers should focus on what you learned,
issues it raises for you, etc. Finally, in order to insure that people
reading the material and coming to class prepared to discuss, we will
brief quizzes on Mondays throughout the semester. These quizzes should
no more than 5 minutes to complete and should be ridiculously easy for
anyone who has read the readings. These quizzes will be graded
Anyone who fails five quizzes will have their final grade reduced by one

letter grade; anyone who fails eight quizzes will have their final grade

reduced by two letter grades and anyone who fails 11 quizzes will have
their final grade reduced by three letter grades. No make up quizzes
be given. Should you miss a Monday, it will count as one of your five
failed quizzes. Also, I reserve the right to add additional assignments
the Wednesday class period that will be part of this "insurance policy."

(Actually, this is much more in your hands than mine. Should class
attendance on Wednesday drop significantly, since no quizzes are given,
will add some in class writing assignments.)

A final word: I do not apologize for the fact that you will work hard in

this course. An educational experience should stretch your minds. It
should result in thoughtfulness that has passion (versus passion that
sometimes thinks or the sterile, Vulcan-like unemotionality of many
courses). If you work hard, you will grow and, just maybe, your minds
be a bit poisoned with humanity!!!!

James C. Mancuso        Dept. of Psychology
15 Oakwood Place        University at Albany
Delmar, NY 12054        1400 Washington Ave.
Tel: (518)439-4416      Albany, NY 12222
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