Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


People with mental disabilities-Mental health, Mental retardation-Complications, People with mental disabilities-Mental health services, People with mental disabilities-Rehabilitation, Mentally ill-Treatment, Intellectual disability, Disability, Cognitive delays


This study was undertaken to describe the various methods clinicians employ to adapt their normal treatment strategies to best fit the special needs of a client who has both mental retardation and a psychiatric illness. The study also explores the availability of education and professional development trainings for this population. A qualitative design was selected and a non-random sample of twelve clinicians who treat individuals with mental retardation was acquired. Interviews were conducted to ascertain their perceptions of the best ways to adapt assessment, diagnosis and treatment for this population, what modalities and theoretical frameworks they found to be most useful, and how they view clinical education and training opportunities in terms of informing and supporting therapeutic work with this population. The major findings were that clients with mental retardation often have a tendency towards more concrete thinking, an increased level of daily frustrations, lack of choice and independence, language barriers, and a tendency to "act out" symptoms. Analysis of the data showed that to work with this population therapists must adapt how they perform the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment processes. Common treatment modalities were group work, narrative therapy, couples and family therapy, and art therapy. Clinicians reported feeling very strongly that their clinical education, prior training, and opportunities for professional development poorly prepared and supported them in their work with this population.




iii, 109 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 94-100)