Psychotropic medications and adults with intellectual disabilities: care staff perspectives

John Lalor (Psychologist, based at Private Practice, Switzerland)
Liz Poulson (Psychology Researcher, based at Department of Psychology, King's College London, London, UK)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Publication date: 18 November 2013



Adults with intellectual disabilities are the most psychotropically medicated population of all. Non-medically trained care staff with whom these individuals spend the majority of their time are generally poorly trained in issues surrounding psychotropic medication. Much of the research related to the experiences of staff working in intellectual disability services has focused on medically trained professionals, and clients, and has been of a quantitative nature. Very little attention has been paid to care staff, their experiences, and through a qualitative approach. The purpose of this paper is to address this issue.


The current study employed a semi-structured interview methodology to explore the experiences of, and impact on, care staff in relation to psychotropic medication usage in adults with intellectual disabilities living in long-term residential care. Eight full-time, experienced care staff were interviewed and data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith et al., 2009).


The paper demonstrates an array of concerns for staff, such as the negative impact upon client quality-of-life, the ethical implications of the medications’ regime, and the relationship perceived by care staff with the organisation management; and a significant lack of training. The limited field of previous research demographically comparable to the present paper was analysed for findings.


The paper helps expand the current literature on experiences of care staff for people with intellectual disabilities from their own perspective, explores the emotional impact of the organisation's treatment of clients, and offers a range of recommendations in terms of theory, clinical practice and research.



John Lalor and Liz Poulson (2013) "Psychotropic medications and adults with intellectual disabilities: care staff perspectives", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 7 No. 6, pp. 333-345

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