Psychological therapies and people who have intellectual disabilities

Intellectual Disabilities


Nigel Beail

Psychotherapy has been demonstrated to be an effective form of treatment for people with psychological problems. However, there is considerable resistance to attempts to generalize these findings to people with intellectual disabilities. Such therapeutic disdain has a long history without any empirical foundation. Recently it has been argued on philosophical grounds that people with intellectual disabilities should have access to the same services as everyone else. Furthermore, that people with intellectual disabilities should be actively targeted as they are more likely to have psychological difficulties than non-handicapped people. The therapeutic literature concerning people with intellectual disabilities is overwhelmingly behavioural. More recently various psychotherapeutic approaches have been explored as alternatives ro behavioural interventions. Publication of several case studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s has provided some evidence for the benefit of various psychotherapeutic approaches with people with intellectual disabilities. However, rhere are no outcome studies. This paper reports an outcome study of individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy provided in normal clinical practice for 25 men with intellectual disabilities who were referred for behaviour problems. Of the 25 participants in the study, 20 completed treatment. In most cases the problem behaviour was eliminated and this was maintained at six months follow-up.

The British Psychological Society

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