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Resisting loneliness' dark pit: a narrative therapy approach

James Stacey (Based in the Department of Psychology, Oxfordshire Learning Disability Partnership NHS Trust (Ridgeway Partnership), Oxford, UK)
Adrian Edwards (Based in the Department of Paediatric Psychology, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford, UK)

Tizard Learning Disability Review

ISSN: 1359-5474

Article publication date: 11 January 2013




People with learning disabilities want and value friendships and close, intimate, or romantic relationships. However, many people with learning disabilities are socially and emotionally lonely. The purpose of this paper is to describe a novel intervention, using a narrative therapy based group approach, which aimed to ameliorate the negative effects of loneliness in adult men with a mild learning disability.


This study explored the group process, examined participants' experiences of the narrative therapy approach, and used an amended version of the UCLA loneliness scale (3rd ed.) to evaluate the effectiveness of a narrative therapy group approach.


The group enabled participants to develop “experience near” descriptions of loneliness and its effects and to identify and strengthen their abilities, strengths, and resources. Qualitative feedback from participants indicated that the group was experienced positively and helped participants to feel less lonely. Quantitative feedback from an adapted version of the UCLA loneliness scale suggested that most participants felt less lonely following the intervention.

Research limitations/implications

There are several limitations of the current study. Most importantly, because of the small sample size (n=5), the results of the current study lack generalisability. Future, larger‐scale research should be carried out to address these limitations.


The current study draws attention to a significant problem experienced by many people with a learning disability. It also adds to the emerging evidence that narrative therapy approaches may be useful within learning disability contexts.



Stacey, J. and Edwards, A. (2013), "Resisting loneliness' dark pit: a narrative therapy approach", Tizard Learning Disability Review, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 20-27.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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