Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Counseling and Human Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Woo, Hong Ryun

Committee Member

Mitchell, Amanda

Committee Member

Washington, Ahmad

Committee Member

Landrum, Timothy

Author's Keywords

mental health counseling; intellectual disability; phenomenology; qualitative; client perspectives; interviews


Mental illness is three to four times as prevalent among individuals with intellectual disabilities compared to those without intellectual disabilities (Munir, 2016). There is a body of research supporting the efficacy of mental health counseling to decrease symptoms and behaviors in individuals with intellectual disabilities, but scarce research exists which describes the experiences of these individuals. This interpretive phenomenological analysis was designed to gather information about how individuals with mild intellectual disabilities experience the four common components of psychotherapy that contribute to change (from Lambert, 1992; Thomas, 2006) – client and extra therapeutic factors, relationships factors, expectancy, and model / techniques – and counseling outcomes. Individuals with mild intellectual disabilities between the ages of 18 and 40, who have had experience with mental health counseling, were interviewed. Interview data from 11 participants were used in this interpretive phenomenological analysis. It was found that the study participants highlighted the power of hope and expectation, as well as the importance of therapeutic alliance. Participants spoke about their family and other caregivers being helpful while they worked to make changes. Many participants also identified strengths within themselves that they drew on. The findings from this study led to several recommendations for mental health counselors and counselor educators. For example, the study highlighted the need for counselors to be aware of the problems for which their clients are at-risk, assess whether their client’s basic needs are being assessed, and be prepared to refer clients for additional support as needed. Counselor educators can provide education, training, and supervision on the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities to counselors-in-training. Counselor educators can also continue researching best practices for serving individuals with intellectual disabilities. Future research will allow for a fuller understanding of how the field of counseling can best serve this population.

Included in

Counseling Commons