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Pharmacological and Biological Approaches to Clinical and Health Psychology


Entry requirements

Personality, Clinical & Health Psychology or similar courses.


Our understanding of the role of psychological factors in psychopathology and health problems and their treatment has increased considerably in the past decades. This is due to rapid developments in the fields of pharmacology, (functional) neuroimaging, genetics, and psychoneuroimmunology. Basic knowledge of biology and pharmacology is essential to understand the underlying mechanisms of disorders, but also to understand diagnostics and treatment. These new developments also raise important questions about what is desirable and ethically acceptable (e.g., the possibility to change our DNA).

This course focuses on basic knowledge of the role of biological processes in the development and course of psychopathology (in particular, mood and anxiety disorders), and health problems (e.g., pain and allergic reactions). We present a selection of topics, including genetics, immunology, endocrinologye (hormonal) and brain stimulation in relation to psychopathology and health psychology. The goal of this course is to provide some basic knowledge and an appreciation of the complexity of this field. Biological mechanisms of non-pharmacological and pharmacological therapies and treatments are reviewed. Attention is also paid to recent developments in treatment, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), bright light therapy and innovative approaches to adjunctive psychopharmacology.

Course objectives

After completion of the course, students are able to:

  • Describe basic biological processes, such as (neuro)endocrine, immune and genetic processes, and how these processes can be studied.

  • Describe how these biological processes are involved in, among others, mood and anxiety disorders, pain and allergy.

  • Understand how these biological processes are likely involved in current pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments.

  • Understand the working mechanisms of several promising innovative biologically oriented (psychological) treatments.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable


NOTE As of the academic year 2021-2022, you must register for all courses in uSis. You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2.
Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from July. Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from December.
The exact date on which the registration starts will be published on the website of the Student Service Center (SSC). First year Bachelor students as well as premaster students will be registered by the Student Service Center; they do not need to register themselves.

The registration period for all courses closes five calendar days before the start of the course.
Also read the complete registration procedure


Elective students have to enroll for each course separately. For admission requirements contact your study advisor.

Mode of instruction

This course offers eight lectures of two hours. Attendance is not mandatory. The weblectures and slides will be made available on Blackboard (barring technical difficulties).

The literature, lectures and slides are in English. The exam questions are in English and can be answered in English or Dutch.

Assessment method

The written exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions (which determine 70% of the grade) and five essay questions (30%). These questions test your knowledge of the course material. The examination questions cover the book, syllabus and lecture handouts. Detailed information about the exact course material from the book and syllabus will be made available on Blackboard at the start of the course.

The Institute of Psychology uses fixed rules for grade calculation and compulsory attendance. It also follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of these three policies.

Reading list

  • Lecture handouts

  • Syllabus with selected readings (book chapters and journal articles)

  • R.H. Ettinger (2017). Psychopharmacology: Second Edition. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group / Psychology Press. ISBN-13: 9781138833081

Contact information