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Pharmacological and Biological Approaches to Clinical and Health Psychology


Entry requirements

Personality, Clinical & Health Psychology or similar courses (only for students outside of the bachelor programme Psychology).


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) and innovative approaches to adjunctive psychopharmacology.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, the student can:

  • describe and explain how psychological and biological processes, such as (neuro)endocrine, immune and genetic processes interact in phenomena that are relevant for clinical and health psychology (such as depression, pain, anxiety, and allergy).

  • describe how such psycho-biological processes can be studied in the fields of clinical and health psychology.

  • describe the basic practice of established psychopharmacological treatments for depression, pain and anxiety.

  • describe and explain how these psycho-biological processes are involved in established pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments in the fields of clinical and health psychology.

  • describe and explain how these psycho-biological processes can be used to develop innovative improvements of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments in the fields of clinical and health psychology.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.


You must register for each exam in My Studymap at least 10 days before the exam date. Don’t forget! For more information, see the enrolment procedure.
You cannot take an exam without a valid registration in My Studymap.

Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Students who take this course as part of a LDE minor or a premaster programme, exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

This course offers eight lectures of two hours. Attendance is not mandatory. The weblectures and slides will be made available on Brightspace (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 closed questions and essay questions. These questions test your knowledge of the course material. The examination questions cover the book, selected papers and lecture handouts (see Reading List).

The Institute of Psychology uses fixed rules for grade calculation. 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. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of these two policies.

Reading list

  • Lecture handouts

  • Selected papers (see Brightspace)

  • R.H. Ettinger (2023). Psychopharmacology: Third Edition. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group / Psychology Press. ISBN-13: 9781032312873

Contact information