Intellectual disability and mental health: is psychology prepared?



Nancy J. Razza , Laura Schwartz Dayan , Daniel Tomasulo , Michelle S. Ballan

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities




The purpose of this paper is threefold: to document the relationship between intellectual disability (ID) and psychopathology; to raise awareness of the ongoing lag in professional training for psychologists in the area of mental health treatment for people with intellectual disabilities; and, to provide recommendations for advancing professional education and, ultimately, adequate mental health treatment availability for people with intellectual disabilities.



The paper reviews the literature on prevalence of mental health problems in people with intellectual disabilities. At the same time, the paper reviews the training of psychologists relative to the burgeoning growth in awareness of the mental health needs of people with intellectual disabilities.



The paper concludes that ID is a significant risk factor for psychopathology. In addition, the paper concludes that the education of psychologists regarding the mental health needs of people with intellectual disabilities is insufficient. The authors document the need for incorporating research and treatment advances related to intellectual disabilities and mental health into to the professional training of psychologists. The paper also describe the potential this training holds for improving both the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and the overall competence of psychologists.


Practical implications

This paper provides a literature-based rationale for the need to include education in the mental health needs of people with intellectual disabilities into the general training of mental health professionals. In addition, it provides specific recommendations for how such training can be incorporated into graduate psychology programs.



This paper provides mental health professionals with a review of the growth in understanding of the enormous, unmet mental health needs of people intellectual disabilities, and of the critical role of ID in development of mental health problems. Moreover, this paper builds the case for an important revision in the training of psychologists to include competence in understanding and treating mental health problems across the full spectrum of intellectual functioning.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee