Date of Conferral







Brent Robbins


Toward a Therapeutic Use of Spirituality among Individuals with Mild to Moderate Intellectual Disabilities


Tony Terrell Lee

MS, William Carey University, 2005

BS, University of Southern Mississippi, 1992

Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Clinical Psychology

Walden University

May 2015

Research has shown that community employment, different levels of independent living, and advocacy groups are factors that influence self-esteem in individuals with mild to moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID). One gap in the literature is whether there is a correlation between spirituality and self-esteem in individuals with mild to moderate ID. Use of basic spiritual principles common across major religions and philosophies had not been explored by therapists as a means of improving personal outlook among individuals with ID, even though it has been suggested by some as having potential for this purpose. This qualitative research used a phenomenological approach to determine if a universal form of spirituality improves self-esteem in individuals with ID. Basic principles of Kabbalah, a form of spirituality that is shared by other major religions and spiritual perspectives, were the primary focus for questions and prompts in semistructured interviews. The interviews were conducted with 10 individuals with mild to moderate ID in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi area between the ages of 21 to 60 who live in the community with their caregivers, in semi-independent living, or in independent living. Comprehensive, semi-open interviews with phenomenological data analysis were used. Four identified themes derived from qualitative data software were the meaning of spirituality and innate beliefs, coping strategies, spiritual connection of people, and beliefs and perspective as both innate and derived from family. Many institutions such as the American Psychological Association have recommended that spirituality be addressed for individuals with ID. Basic spiritual principles may be useful as a widely-applicable tool that psychotherapists can use in sessions.