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Date of Award


Degree Type

Dissertation (On-Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Committee Chair

Jon Frew, PhD, ABPP


Individuals with disabilities are known as one of the most diverse and discriminated against minority groups in the United States today. Society’s accommodation and discrimination of individuals with disabilities (both developmental and acquired) has been explained through moral, medical, and most recently minority-focused theoretical models. The healthcare field (including mental health) has evolved over the last century in terms of developing theories and treatment for individuals with chronic illness and acquired disability (CIAD). The Division of Rehabilitation Psychology (22) of the American Psychological Association is the specialty for psychologists who work with individuals who have CIAD. The rehabilitation psychology literature encourages an eclectic therapeutic treatment approach, but does not recognize or distinguish how Gestalt therapy theory and its philosophical foundations comprise one of the most promising orientations for meeting the goals and needs of this population. In general, very little has been written in the literature of rehabilitation psychology and Gestalt therapy that specifically addresses how they have complimentary approaches toward working with individuals with disability. This paper seeks to define and describe disability and disability theory, rehabilitation psychology and Gestalt therapy theory and the relational model that is complimentary to both areas. After a thorough review of the disability, rehabilitation psychology, and Gestalt therapy theory, the relational model in Gestalt therapy theory was found to be a useful conceptualization of disability in rehabilitation psychology.