Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

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


Social Work

First Advisor

Mary Nienow


Social Work


A small but significant portion of the population has a diagnosis of an intellectual disability, defined as cognitive deficits that impact a person’s daily functioning. Adults with intellectual disabilities struggle with psychopathology at four times the rate as the general population, yet only 10% receive psychotherapy. There is very little existing research into the use of psychotherapy for adults with intellectual disabilities, the majority of which has been published in niche publications that most practitioners have limited access to. Therefore, this systematic review answered the question “What are the known outcomes of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for adults with intellectual disabilities?” A total of 19 articles were reviewed. Of the 16 quantitative studies reviewed, all 16 found statistically significant improvement on at least one outcome measure, with the majority of studies (13 of 16) finding statistically significant improvement on at least half of the outcome measures used. None of the studies reported that clients regressed as a result of the CBT intervention. Of the three qualitative studies reviewed, all three found that participants reported positive feelings about CBT. The results of this systematic review suggest that CBT has an emerging and positive evidence base in treating adults with intellectual disabilities who suffer from mental health problems, and is useful to both generalist social workers, who may refer clients to a specialist, and clinical social workers, who may directly treat these concerns.

Included in

Social Work Commons