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Background: Residential transitions have long been recognised as challenging for people with learning disabilities and can be packed with problem stories. Narrative Therapy practices have the potential to centre the voice of people with learning disabilities; to enable alternative stories to be told; and to shine a light on their own and their support system's resources for change. Methods: Colin, a 36-year-old man with Down syndrome and a learning disability, met with the first author for nine sessions. Narrative Therapy practices (also drawing on systemic ideas) were used, including the Tree of Life, Outsider Witness Practice, Therapeutic Documentation and Definitional Ceremony. Feedback from Colin and the staff team was gathered through qualitative and quantitative means. Findings: Colin was keen to share his life stories and explored ideas about his “new life”, wanting to “stay strong” and “stay happy”. Staff noted an improvement in household stress and perceived ability to support Colin. An improvement in quality of life was also demonstrated with a self-report questionnaire. Conclusions: By acknowledging the power of language, narrative practices offer tools to help people with learning disabilities and their support system in making sense of and navigating important life transitions.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Learning Disabilities

Publication Date





577 - 585