Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

David Roseborough


Social Work


Adults diagnosed with an intellectual disability are three to four times more likely than the general population to be diagnosed with a mental disorder. There are traditionally four classifications of intellectual disability: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Each classification has characteristics that limit the cognitive functioning and abilities of the individual affected. This qualitative research was developed to explore the question of what might constitute some emerging best practices used in modifying psychotherapy when working with adults with a diagnosed intellectual disability and mental disorder. Five current and former psychotherapists and one psychiatrist served as respondents for the project. The psychotherapists were all asked the same semi-structured questions; however the questions most specifically geared toward the psychotherapists were modified for the interview with the psychiatrist. After the interviews were transcribed and coded, four initial themes emerged. These themes spoke to strengths, collaboration and the caregiving process, the role of groups, and “a variety of approaches used.” The respondents agreed that looking for clients’ strengths and collaborating with caregivers, family and guardians of their clients were the most important aspects of finding effective ways to work with adult clients diagnosed with a co-occurring intellectual disability and mental disorder. Other findings are explored as well and suggestions for future studies are offered to build upon this pilot.

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Social Work Commons