Generic Training vs. Specialized Training

Historically, people are training either in the mental health field or the developmental disability field.  Individuals seeking mental health services are generally served by people training in the mental health field.  These professionals usually have no training in developmental disabilities. Conversely, professionals in the developmental disabilities field do not receive training in mental health issues.  We have developed two separate systems: one in mental health and the other in developmental disabilities.  The training in each of these systems is generally of an adequate level for the target population for which they are designed. 

But what about people with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and developmental disability.  For this population, specialized training for professionals is essential.  We need professionals who are cross-trained in both fields.  Staff who provide mental health services for this population need to know the developmental perspectives associated with psychopathology.  Conducting a mental health assessment requires the knowledge and skills associated with developing a developmental bio-psychosocial model of assessment.  For example, assessment of anxiety disorders may be manifested differently in people with mild-moderate levels of intellectual disability compared to severe-profound levels of intellectual disability.

On the other hand, professionals in the developmental disabilities field need to have at the minimum a baseline understanding of signs and symbols of psychiatric disorders in persons with intellectual disability.  The distinction between what is considered a psychiatric disorder vs. a behavioral problem is a clinical challenge, but one that can be best understood through specialized cross-training.

NADD is committed to providing specialized cross training.  We do this through a variety of methods, including:  annual conference, international conference, teleconferences, books, other training materials, and consultation services.

Robert J. Fletcher, Founder & CEO, NADD


About thenaddblog
NADD is a non for profit membership organization designed to promote awareness of and resources for individuals who have an intellectual disability co-occurring with a mental health disorder.

6 Responses to Generic Training vs. Specialized Training

  1. Elizabeth Krauss says:

    Why do some states insist that ABA therapy is the only guideline to be followed. The folks with DD do not fit that model and we keep having this discussion. I am looking for evidence to share with state officials that show that only ABA licensed people can not meet everyones needs, Any help is appreciated.

    • I agree that people with a Dual Diagnosis may not fit into the ABA model of treatment. I would like to know what states insist that the ABA therapy is the only guideline to follow.

      • Elizabeth Krauss says:

        If you review 2003 article in Mental Retardation Journal, “Statewide System Change” (Ford,Rothholtz et al) this is currently the issue in SC. Under waiver services ABA is the only approved choice and providers are reviewed by these standards.

  2. The “separate systems” challenge is exacerbated by proposed state and federal funding cutbacks. As each system “retrenches” to providing “basic” services, the boundaries between systems are reinforced and collaborative cross system efforts underway during times of more robust funding are curtailed as “not a priority”. NADD’s expertise on behalf of people whose needs cross the systems is needed more than ever, and cross sytems advocacy critical to meet needs of people who don’t “neatly fit” into either system.

  3. Ruth Pappas says:

    We have just released the 2nd edition of the Intellectual Disability veriosn of the Mental Health First Aid Manual & continue to recieve really postive feedback for this practical support due to the lack of cross field training & expertise. We are hoping the recently created Chair of Intellectual Disability & Mental health at University of NSW (Sydney Australia) will have a significant impact over time.

  4. Janice Cobbs says:

    I agree that those who support people with ID and mental health needs should be trained in both areas. I have heard that some counties in my state are small enough that each case manager/clinician supports people with all types of needs, so they naturally have to learn about both. In my public mental health agency, we slowly are breaking down some of the divisions, because the needs of certain people could not otherwise be met. Fortunately, I have a supervisor that understands the need for training in many areas, including PTSD, depression, ethics, autism spectrum disorders, etc. from reputable sources. Thank God for NADD, our preferred source, so we can stay informed on many relevant topics!

    Elizabeth, you are so right that there are many approaches that work-some are more supportive and educational than others. You might want to check out . This organization has a 20+ year track record of success with people who need high levels of supports, and now they are engaged in training the entire state. I was “raised up” in the A-B-C way of thinking, but I am slowly moving away from that perspective to a more positive, supportive process.

    The blog is a great idea!

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