Commentary: enabling good emotional support for and with people with learning disabilities

Victoria Mason, Val Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Picking up from Cotter et al.’s article on the transferential process, this commentary aims to set out some arguments about ways of meeting the emotional needs of people with learning disabilities.


The commentary draws on two studies: one is about understanding and changing disabling practices, and the other is about bereavement support for people with learning disabilities. Both use qualitative approaches, and in both studies, people with learning disabilities are active agents or co-researchers, who have assisted in shaping the ideas and values of the research.


Professional practices, including those within a therapeutic context, can act as institutional barriers which create people with learning disabilities as passive or incompetent. However, this paper sets out some preliminary findings showing that not only can people with learning disabilities support each other, but also that face-to-face support workers can support people with learning disabilities to understand and cope with their emotions.

Practical implications

Frontline support workers should be seen as professionals, with their own range of resources to provide good emotional support. Further, people with learning disabilities can come together in groups to develop peer support about difficult and sensitive topics.


Talking therapies for people with learning disabilities have long been overlooked. As their value is now recognised, it is important that the views and wishes of people with learning disabilities themselves are heard, so that they can contribute to the processes which support them.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTizard Learning Disability Review
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


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