Learn Now: Training Modules
We are committed to promoting access to quality mental health care for individuals with developmental disabilities. This is available through accessible training content that centers around the needs and voices of individuals with disabilities. The training modules below are stacked to build each lesson on another. You can do them in any order you prefer if you are only looking for specific information.
Providers & Clinicians
Learn more about working with people with disabilities in order to reduce treatment barriers and increase accessibility for all.
Individuals, Families & Direct Supports
Learn more about the basics of mental health conditions in the following modules.
These training modules are offered through our various partners. Each training has been vetted to ensure it meets the mission and values of the MHDD National Training Center.
Plain Language Summary: Using a Strengths-Based Therapeutic Approach with People with Developmental Disabilities
When mental health professionals work with people who have developmental disabilities, it is important for them to use a “strengths-based approach”. This applies to the way they speak with and help their client. A strengths-based approach means focusing on what the person can do, not what they cannot do because of their disability. They should recognize traits related to their client’s disability that make them unique. This helps clients to see that these traits contribute to their identity positively.
A strengths-based approach to therapy should be “person-centered”. This means that the therapist understands that the client is the expert on their own life. They should let the client explain their own experiences. They should also help the client discover their strengths to help find solutions. There are specific forms of therapy that are both strengths-based and person-centered. Therapists can also use these basic principles to meet their clients’ needs using other forms of therapy.
An important aspect of a strengths-based approach to therapy is to encourage self-determination. Self-determination is a person’s ability to act for themselves. This includes setting goals, facing challenges, and learning from mistakes. People with developmental disabilities often do not have the chance to make their own choices because others wrongly assume they are not able to do so. Therapists can help clients with disabilities gain confidence in their own decision-making abilities. One way to do this is by giving them chances to experience it in therapy. For example, they can use age-appropriate communication with them, support them as they demonstrate their strengths, and allow the client to speak for themselves.
Clients with disabilities first need to identify what their strengths are. Then, once the client is aware of their strengths, they need to build upon them. Several interventions, or activities done as part of therapy, are explained in the fact sheet to accomplish these tasks.
For more information, read the full Using a Strengths-Based Therapeutic Approach with People with Developmental Disabilities fact sheet.
The understanding that people can be dually diagnosed with intellectual disability (ID) and mental illness is relatively recent. Up until the last 30 to 40 years, it was assumed that people with ID could not also have a mental illness, and behavioral challenges were seen as a consequence of cognitive limitations rather than possible symptoms of underlying psychiatric conditions.