Processes and effects of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy in people with intellectual disabilities: a controlled study

J.M. Roeden*, M.A. Maaskant, L.M.G. Curfs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BackgroundSolution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a form of behaviour therapy that focuses on evoking desired behaviour rather than on diminishing existing problem behaviour. SFBT has a number of advantages that makes it attractive for use with people who have intellectual disabilities (ID). These advantages include: focus on empowerment for the person, unique intervention strategies for each person based on their particular skills, and recognition of the expert status of the individual identified as the patient resulting in a sense of self-efficacy.

MethodsTo investigate the effects of SFBT, we conducted a controlled pre- and post-test and follow-up study with 20 people with mild ID (MID) receiving SFBT and 18 people with MID receiving care as usual (CAU). We expected that SFBT could help people with MID with (1) reaching treatment goals; (2) improving quality of life (i.e. psychological and social functioning); (3) reducing maladaptive behaviour; and (4) increasing resilience (autonomy and social optimism).

ResultsTwo of the 20 clients terminated SFBT prematurely. Most clients receiving SFBT (13 of 18 clients) showed clinically relevant progressions (more than two points on a 1 to 10 scale) towards their treatment goals after SFBT and at follow-up, an additional client showed clinically relevant progress (total of 14 of 18 clients). Directly after therapy, the SFBT group performed statistically significantly better than the CAU group on psychological functioning, social functioning, maladaptive behaviour, autonomy and social optimism. The effect sizes of these improvements were medium to large. At 6-week follow-up, the improvements in psychological functioning, social functioning and maladaptive behaviour in the treatment group were still statistically significant compared with CAU, with medium to large effect sizes.

ConclusionsAlthough the study had limitations because of the short follow-up period and the non-random selection of participants, the statistically significant differences between the SFBT and CAU groups and the medium to large effect sizes, indicate the potential effectiveness of SFBT for people with MID.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-320
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • behaviour therapy
  • intellectual disabilities
  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
  • therapy effect research


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