Evolutionary Perspective in Clinical Psychology

Academic year
Subject Area
Language of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
2nd Cycle Studies - Mestrado

Recommended Prerequisites

It is strongly recommended that students have previously obtained approval to the following subjects: Psychopathology I, Psychopathology II, Behaviour Modification and Behavioural and Cognitive Models.

Teaching Methods

The main method is based on lectures, however the discussion and critical analysis of the contents are promoted. Students are asked to do several oral and written analyses of empirical studies and clinical cases which will allow the development of their analytic and critical reasoning

Simulations and role-playing of “real cases” will be regular, in order to promote an accurate idea and the training of Compassion Focused Therapy competencies (e.g., clinical formulation and intervention).

Learning Outcomes

The objectives of this curricular unit are:

(1) To present evolutionary perspective on clinical psychology and to contribute to a greater understanding of how this approach sheds new light on and offers a different and integrative perspective to understand normal and abnormal behaviour;

(2) To know how neurosciences, animal behaviour, and a wide range of content areas of psychology (e.g., developmental and social psychology) contribute to evolutionary psychology;

(3) To inform about evolutionary approach to mental illness;

(4) To acquire comprehensive knowledge of important theoretical models, research findings and recent advances in evolutionary psychology.

(5) To inform about functional analysis of basic social motivational systems and emotional systems (e.g., to respond to threats, seek out resources, and for states of contentment/safeness) on mental health;

 (6)To develop skills on formulation and intervention strategies based on Compassion Focused Therapy in clinical conditions.

Work Placement(s)



1. Evolutionary perspective in clinical psychology:

1.1. How to conceptualize mental disorders according to evolutionary approach?

1.2. Basic principles and study concepts of the evolutionary perspective in social sciences

1.3. Findings and recent advances in evolutionary biology, animal behaviour and behavioural ecology that are critical in evolutionary psychology

2. The human brain and its evolutionary history: old brain, new brain, and social brain

3. Evolutionary approach to emotion regulation:

3.1. Review of neuroscience research

3.2. Tripartite model of affect regulation:

3.2.1. Threat detection-protection system, the drive system, and the soothing-contentment system: conceptualization and functions

3.2.2. Affect systems and mental health.

4. Social mentalities:

4.1. Competitive and social ranking mentality

4.2. Affiliative and care-seeking/giving mentality

4.3. Implications to clinical psychology:

4.3.1. Compassion and mental health

4.3.2. Compassion Focused Therapy.

Assessment Methods

Two written test based on theoretical and practical contents; Final mark = 1st evaluation (7.5 points/37.5%) + second evaluation (12.5 points/62.5%): 100.0%


Gilbert P (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology 53,6–41.

Leaviss, J., & Uttley, L. (2015). Psychotherapeutic benefits of compassion-focused therapy: An early systematic review. Psychological Medicine, 45(5),927-945.

Sloman, L.(2008). A new comprehensive evolutionary model of depression and anxiety. Journal of Affective Disorders, 106,219–228.


Cuppage, J., Baird, K., Gibson, J., Booth, R., & Hevey, D. (2018). Compassion focused therapy: Exploring the effectiveness with a transdiagnostic group and potential processes of change. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57(2),240-254.

Depue, R. & Morrone-Strupinsky, J.(2005). A neurobehavioral model of affiliative bonding: Implications for conceptualizing a human trait of affiliation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(3),313–350.

Gilbert, P.(2006). Old and new ideas on the evolution of mind and psychotherapy. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 3(2),139–153.