Module PHP-3006:
Topics in Illness & Disability

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Valerie Morrison

Overall aims and purpose

This module will draw from health psychological theory relevant to the experience of illness, pain and disability. Starting with theory, students shall be taught the classic psychological theories pertaining to stress appraisal and the self regulation of cognition, emotion and coping. Evidence of cultural, group and individual differences in these will be considered in terms of how they moderate or mediate illness outcomes. Evidence from empirical studies will be described and discussed within lectures and then supplemented with a fortnightly workshop either in the form of a) a debate around a controversial issue, for example in relation to perceptions of disability/ability; positives and negatives of the caregiver experience, and papers shall have been provided in advance to inform discussion, b) review and critique of assessment materials, or c) case material presented through video. By the end of semester students will be expected to have designed an evidence- based intervention proposal targeted at improving health status of patients and/or their carers.

Course content

Models of health and illness; biomedical, social-environmental and biopsychosocial models of disability; illness perceptions and the self-regulation of illness; coping; pain; cognitive, emotional and behavioural models of illness outcomes; families and disease; carer strain and gain; assistive health technology; assessing patient outcomes, mood and QoL; dr-patient communication and healthcare decision-making; developing and evaluating interventions

Assessment Criteria


Adequate answer to the question, largely based on lecture material. No real development of arguments or evidence of critique.


Reasonably comprehensive coverage of both the underlying theory and empirical material relevant to health psychology. Well organised and structured answer demonstrating a good understanding of health psychology concepts and their application in research and practice


Comprehensive and accurate coverage of the area demonstrating a synthesis of relevant material, clarity of argument and expression. Depth of insight into theoretical issues with back up from empirical evidence base showing a strong grasp of health psychology concepts and their application in research and practice.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand the principles underlying biomedical and biopsychosocial explanations of illness and how these underpin theories of symptom perception, interpretation and coping response

  2. Interpret and demonstrate understanding both orally and in writing (both assessed) of empirical findings from correlational, prospective or 
interventional studies in terms of their relevance to a) assessment b) theory and c) 
healthcare practice and intervention

  3. Demonstrate an advanced level of understanding of current theories of responses to illness through critical evaluation of competing explanations of illness and disability (cultural, social, individual, biomedical), and place these within contemporary health psychology.

  4. Demonstrate how theory is applied in psychological assessments common to the practice of health psychology by means of evaluation published intervention studies in terms of their processes and outcomes.

  5. Review and sythesise empirical evidence so as to generate a proposal for a theoretically derived and evidence-based intervention targeted at patients, or carers, or health care practitioners.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Journal Club Group Oral Presentations 25
Exam: 50% MCQ, 50% Essay 40
Poster -Powerpoint poster submission & presentation 35

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 22
Private study 165
Workshop 13

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: