Specialist Certification Executive Summary


It is estimated that more than a million people in the US have a dual diagnosis of intellectual or development disability (IDD) and mental illness (MI). These individuals have complex needs and present service delivery challenges to professionals, programs, and systems. Staff face challenges in providing appropriate services for individuals who experience mental illness and an intellectual disability.

A Specialist in the field of dual diagnosis is defined as an individual who delivers, manages, trains and/or supervises services for persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health needs.  Staff working in units of county, state or provincial government, QIDPs, program directors, program supervisors, case/care managers, program specialists, supports coordinators, peer specialists, trainers and others are examples of roles that can apply for the Specialist certification

NADD Certification

NADD has developed a program to certify the competency of Specialists who support people with a dual diagnosis.  Specialist certification validates and provides assurance to individuals served, colleagues, and employers that a Specialist has met the standards established by NADD for providing services to individuals with IDD/MI.  In addition to the prestige this certification provides, it may benefit the Specialist through greater employment opportunities, job security, pay raises, and promotions.  The certification is portable; Specialists moving to a different region bring their certifications with them and do not have to demonstrate or re-document their competence simply because they have moved. 

The goal of Specialist certification through the NADD Competency-Based Certification Program is to improve the quality and effectiveness of services provided to individuals with a dual diagnosis through the development of competency-based standards for Specialists and through promoting their ongoing professional development.

Prerequisites & Application

In order to be considered for certification, the applicant must meet the following prerequisites:  

  • Education & Work Experience: Applicant must demonstrate a combination of education and work experience equivalent to an M.A. degree and  one year of work experience in a related field. A post secondary degree is not necessary, however, and the review committee reserves the right to make determinations of equivalence. (Click Here for details)
  • NADD Membership: Applicant must receive Member Benefits through individual membership or as an employee of a Member Organization.
  • Completed Application Package: Applicant must submit all information before they can be evaluated. (Click Here for details)

Work Sample

Once the application has been reviewed and the applicant has been found to meet the prerequisites, the applicant will receive instructions to submit a work sample that demonstrates his or her work in the area of dual diagnosis.

For further details, consult the Work Sample Guidelines.

Interview & Core Competencies

The final component of the certification process is an interview, which may occur in person, at a NADD conference, via web-based video conferencing, or by telephone. The applicant’s  work sample will be reviewed during the interview. Applicants should keep in mind the competency areas noted when organizing their response. The interview shall also include resolution of any questions raised during other parts of the application process. 

The Specialist seeking certification will be required to demonstrate mastery of the following six competency areas:

  • Multimodal bio-psycho-social approach
  • Application of emerging best practices
  • Knowledge of therapeutic constructs
  • Respectful and effective communication
  • Knowledge of dual role service delivery & fiduciary responsibilities
  • Ability to apply administrative critical thinking

Specialists who receive NADD certification will be entitled to use “NADD-DDS” as a credential


The cost of Specialist Certification payable in the form of a non-refundable exam fee at the time of application, as follows:

  • $225 for employees of a NADD-Accredited Organization
  • $295 for employees of an organization that is not NADD-Accredited

Renewal cost is as follows:

  • $75 for employees of a NADD-Accredited Organization
  • $100 for employees of an organization that is not NADD-Accredited

Specialist Certification is vaild for two years.

There is a continuing education requirement of 10 hours every 2 years in areas related to Mental Health & Wellness for persons with IDD.