Facilitating positive counselling outcomes for clients with an intellectual disability
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
People with an intellectual disability experience the same range of emotional and mental needs as the general population. However, in comparison to the wealth of general counselling research, there is a relative lack of research involving clients with an intellectual disability. In particular, there is a scarcity of research exploring the clients’ subjective experiences of counselling. This thesis therefore seeks to gain a better understanding of this under-explored area of counselling practice by inquiring of the two parties most intimately acquainted with the counselling process – clients and counsellors. Complementing the views of clients and counsellors, the views of support workers and key informants are also described.
Using a qualitative case study methodology, six clients with an intellectual disability were interviewed about their subjective experiences of counselling. Interviews were also conducted with their counsellors and with nominated support people. These interviews took place over a period of several months. In addition, single interviews were conducted with four key informants in order to gain an understanding of the local health and disability support services.
This thesis explores the participants’ understandings of disability and counselling, discusses similarities and differences to general counselling and describes the outcomes of the six clients in this study. This thesis highlights four systemic problems that complicate the delivery of effective counselling services: (a) poverty, (b) health inequalities, (c) difficulties in the disability support workforce, and (d) social stigma. The thesis also draws attention to the need for specialised education for both counsellors and the disability support workforce. Researchers are invited to pursue further research. Practising counsellors are invited to engage in a rewarding, albeit complicated, area of professional practice.