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Digital Seminar

Disability Affirmative Psychotherapy: Practical, Responsive, Culturally Competent Strategies for Therapists

Rhoda Olkin, PhD
Approx. 6 Hours
Oct 05, 2023
Product Code:
Media Type:
Digital Seminar

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When it comes to disabilities, most therapists unintentionally get it wrong.

Not talking with clients in wheelchairs about mobility issues... failing to appreciate the hidden impairments of stroke survivors or individuals with diabetes complications... making assumptions about blindness or multiple sclerosis...

In cross-cultural therapy between an able-bodied therapist and a client with a disability, there is a tendency to either over-inflate or underestimate the role of the disability in the client’s struggles...

...leading clients to feel further marginalized and misunderstood.

These errors are costly therapeutic mistakes that can cause early drop-out or poor outcomes.

Become a disability-affirmative therapist and leave behind feelings of doubt and discomfort about how to work effectively with clients with disabilities. Rhoda Olkin, PhD, developer of Disability-Affirmative Therapy – and a clinician, professor, researcher, and author with lived experience with disability – will give you a comprehensive template that will allow you to:

  • Create an accessible clinical practice
  • Talk about disability in culturally-sensitive ways that enhance the therapeutic relationship
  • Establish how disability fits into case formulation and treatment planning

The skills you’ll learn can easily be incorporated into your existing therapy modalities with individuals and couples. This training was designed to be useful for all therapists.

Purchase today to ensure your clients with disabilities receive culturally-competent care!


Planning Committee Disclosure - No relevant relationships

All members of the PESI, Inc. planning committee have provided disclosures of financial relationships with ineligible organizations and any relevant non-financial relationships prior to planning content for this activity. None of the committee members had relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies or other potentially biasing relationships to disclose to learners.  For speaker disclosures, please see the faculty biography.

CE Information Coming Soon

Continuing education credit information is coming soon for this non-interactive self-study package.

CEs may be available for select professions, as listed in the target audience. Hours will be dependent on the actual recording time. Please check with your state licensing board or organization for specific requirements. 

There may be an additional fee for CE certificates. Please contact our Customer Service at 1-800-844-8260 for more details. 

**Materials that are included in this course may include interventions and modalities that are beyond the authorized practice of mental health professionals. As a licensed professional, you are responsible for reviewing the scope of practice, including activities that are defined in law as beyond the boundaries of practice in accordance with and in compliance with your professions standards.


Rhoda Olkin, PhD's Profile

Rhoda Olkin, PhD Related seminars and products

Rhoda Olkin, PhD, is a distinguished professor at the California School of Professional Psychology. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has been teaching and researching about disability for over 30 years and had a clinical practice working with clients with chronic conditions or disabilities. She is the author of the well-received What Psychotherapists Should Know About Disability; Disability-Affirmative Therapy: A Case Formulation Template for Your Clients with Disabilities; and Teaching Disability: Practical Activities for In-class and Homework.

Dr. Olkin is a polio survivor and mother of two.


Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dr. Rhoda Olkin has employment relationships with Alliant International University and the Institute on Disability and Health Psychology. She receives royalties as a published author. Dr. Olkin receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Dr. Rhoda Olkin is a member of the American and California Associations for Marital and Family Therapy, the American Association of Spinal Cord Injury Psychologists and Social Workers, the American Association of University Professors, the American Counseling Association, and others. For a complete list, please contact

Additional Info

Access for Self-Study (Non-Interactive)

Access never expires for this product.


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  1. Describe three models of disability and their clinical implications.
  2. Utilize a checklist to discover ableist assumptions.
  3. Distinguish pathologizing versus disability-affirmative language.
  4. Conduct a disability-affirmative psychotherapy assessment.
  5. Develop a case conceptualization and treatment plan that considers disability in the context of the client’s lived experience.
  6. Employ two strategies for responding to microaggressions.


Core Concepts in Disability Studies
What Therapists Need to Know

  • Congenital and acquired disability – similarities and differences
  • Visible and hidden disabilities
  • Moral, medical, and social models of disability
  • The three most typical disability symptoms
  • Language and etiquette when interacting with clients with disabilities
  • The use of assistive technology and devises
  • Special concerns in assessment and diagnosis
  • Published guidelines on working with clients with disabilities
  • What not to do with clients with disability
  • Video demonstration: Male therapist of color working with white blind female with service dog, coming for issues in her marriage

Disability-Affirmative Psychotherapy
How to Provide Culturally Competent Care

  • Current disability status – two management techniques
  • Developmental history – educational, medical, advocacy history
  • Three main models of disability
  • Intersectionality – SES, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation
  • Disability culture and community
  • Microaggressions and their management
  • Affective experiences - mourning and inspiration
  • The role of social support
  • Families and intimate relationships – dating, sexuality, parenting
  • Case study: Gay male wheelchair user having difficulty managing microaggressions
  • Video demonstration: Woman with cerebral palsy with new baby, having trouble managing personal assistant

Clinical Issues
Bringing It All Together

  • Integrate Disability-Affirmative Psychotherapy into existing treatment approaches
  • Four steps to making your practice accessible
  • Best practices for creating a strong alliance and repairing ruptures
  • Address differences between therapist and client
  • Modifications for couples
  • Confronting therapist bias to ensure a non-pathologizing lens
  • Limitations of the research and potential risks

Target Audience

  • Counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Marriage & Family Therapists
  • Addiction Counselors
  • Other Mental Health Professionals
  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Nurses


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