Health professionals’ experiences of behavioural family therapy for adults with intellectual disabilities: a thematic analysis

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Studies have found family interventions (FIs) to be effective in reducing stress and relapse rates for a variety of mental health conditions. However, implementing FIs into clinical practice is challenging. Studies have suggested that levels of stress within some families of people with intellectual disabilities can be high. However, there is little reported about the use and implementation of FIs, such as Behavioural Family Therapy (BFT), in adult intellectual disability services.

Purpose of study:

To explore the experiences of practitioners delivering BFT to adults with intellectual disabilities.


A qualitative methodology was employed, using semi-structured individual interviews with BFT therapists from a health professional background (n = 9). Data were analysed thematically.


Two overarching themes were identified: positivity and frustration.


Implementation of therapy was identified as being broadly successful but with some underlying challenges, notably wider organizational issues and some issues specific to working with adults with intellectual disabilities.

Implications for practice:

The broadly positive experiences reported provide encouragement for the delivery of FIs, such as BFT, to adults with intellectual disabilities, by professions outwith psychology. However, there is a need to provide clarity on referral processes, adapt materials accordingly for this client group and ensure that supportive management and supervision is available to therapists.

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