When Something Goes Wrong: Understanding Trauma and Psychopathology

MS 3XP3/5XP5/6XP6

Fall 2019
Mon 9:00 AM - 10:50 AM

This course will survey the broad categories and most common faces of psychological distress and dysfunction, with an emphasis on tracing the common theme and effects of trauma physiologically, behaviorally, emotionally, cognitively, and relationally. A strong emphasis will be on understanding the brain-behavior connection in human psychological distress, as well as exploring the relationship between modern conceptualizations of mental illness and biblical descriptions of sinful behavior and the concept of “evil”.  Therefore, systems of integrating psychology and theology will also be briefly considered.  The goal of the course is to understand ourselves and others better as we grapple with the consequences of “when something goes wrong” in life and in relationships, and deepen compassion for ourselves and others as we try to heal those consequences through relationship and faith, in contexts of both pastoral counseling and wider church ministry.


  • To understand psychopathology and mental illness through a bio-psycho-social-spiritual lens
  • To understand how psychopathology and mental illness is particularly related to adaptation to various types of trauma, especially developmental trauma


  • To increase comfort with self-disclosure, within one’s own sense of safety and boundaries, and as appropriate to the assignments and class discussion
  • To practice empathic and respectful listening and reflection during class discussion
  • To increase tolerance in hearing others’ pain and being open to the experience of one’s own pain.


  • To read about contemporary descriptions and categories of psychopathology, and perspectives on how psychopathology might be understood through a scriptural lens
  • To develop perspective and a “working theory” on how we understand mental illness in the context of scripture, and how it might be related to sin, demonic activity and evil
  • To formulate how this perspective will influence our counseling style and approach
  • To identify possible symptoms of mental illness that may need referral to and intervention by a medical or mental health professional