Graduate Program

Clinical Psychology

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Author's Department


First Advisor

William G. Kirk


This pilot study was developed to teach people with mental retardation about their own sexuality, appropriate community behaviors, and to develop within them a basic sense of responsibility for their own actions. Problems in social/sexual behaviors have been consistently quoted as reasons for high recidivism rates, as well as difficulties in community living, vocational placement, and other generalized stereotypes about mental retardation. Often the public remains uninformed about, does not recognize, and/or feels that sexual rights for people with any mental differences should not exist. Additionally, when any form of sexuality was expressed by such people it resulted in shock and/or punishment. This in turn perpetuated the old coustodial models, and the teaching of general effective living skills for eventual community re-integration remained inadequate.

Included within this pilot study were problem solving techniques based on Rational Emotive Therapy which were extended into sexuality and then generalized to other non-sexual areas. The basic philosophy behind the project was that people who attend a sheltered workshop are able to think and learn appropriate behavior, can accept responsibilities for themselves, and can learn how to solve their own personal problems with minimal support.

In the area of sexuality the paper concentrates on sexual knowledge and attitudes. A literature review shows that few researchers have asked the people themselves what they think or feel about sex. Several problems were revealed:

  1. Most of the literature covers philosophical positions or anecdotes.
  2. The few appropriate tests available have no published norms.
  3. Much of the material available remains inadequate and overpriced.

Other areas covered include problems in sex education programs; attitudes of institutions; parental reaction to sexuality and retardation; birth control, children, and marriage; and the legal aspects of sterilization.

A growing number of professionals have indicated that therapy can work if the counselor remains active, directive, structures meetings, is more verbal, uses repetition, accepts limitations, tolerates frustration, and works within narrow goals. While true insight is rare, a person can be taught several alternatives in solving his problems himself. The approach of Rational Emotive Therapy is explained and shows how it can be adapted.

Another section provides materials a counselor/educator could use to create a program for his own use. This includes philosophy, readings, format, games, slide presentations, comic books, posters, and curriculums. A chapter on research shows a short questionaire format used to judge group needs and as a method for ongoing group evaluation. Results show the test to be reliable (r=.70). More than 70% know the concepts involved in making a woman pregnant and defining terms. Some problems were seen in V.D. knowledge, homosexuality, who to have sex with, making decisions, and creating alternatives.

The end result is a cognitive-behavioral based sex education program which stresses acceptance of self responsibility, concept of self as adults, decision-making, and basic problem solving skills. The basic philosophy emphasizes that these are people with retardation not retarded people.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.