Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Petra Kottsieper, PhD, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Stacey Cahn, PhD

Third Advisor

Paul Spangler, PhD


An estimated 4.5 million Americans with intellectual disabilities (ID) have lived in the community for over twenty years now, following the closing of institutions that once isolated them from the public (Scott, Lakin & Larson, 2008). It has since become evident that this group has the same and more vulnerabilities of developing mental illness than the general public but often lack access to therapeutic service (Whitaker & Read, 2005). Unfortunately society’s lack of interaction with and education about this population has contributed to a number of misconceptions and fears. The hypothesized variables for the behavioral health disparity included: level of exposure to people with ID, attitudes about people with ID and specialized education offered for providing therapy or other behavioral health services to people with ID. Psychiatric and psychology trained clinicians were asked to identify current practices, and experiences relative to people with ID, as well as thoughts about providing therapy and related services to people from this group when psychopathology is diagnosed. This study sought to identify 1) factors that influence clinicians to currently provide therapeutic services to the ID population and 2) factors that would influence clinicians’ willingness to provide services to this population. The research, conducted via a survey distributed to behavioral health clinicians throughout Pennsylvania, showed that clinicians are prone to bias, have limited exposure and receive little education or experience in working with people with ID. The benefit of this study comes from the report of those surveyed, indicating that if they received education and training; they would be more likely to add people with ID to their therapeutic caseloads. These finding help identify target areas for addressing the disparity experienced by people with intellectual disabilities, relative to finding clinical therapists, psychiatrists and therapeutic groups willing to meet this population’s behavioral health needs.