While there is no cure for ADHD, finding a good therapist can help reduce your symptoms and build self-esteem.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms can lead to a variety of behaviors that can make it difficult to complete everyday tasks — both in childhood and as an adult.
For example, you may want to stop chronic disorganization and lateness. Or maybe your child needs help with completing the piles of homework he gets, which they lose interest in after half an hour.
A combination of medication and ADHD-specific therapy can help those living with ADHD manage their symptoms more effectively. ADHD counseling can help you better understand your condition, as well as help you improve or manage behaviors that are causing you any difficulties.
Not all therapists will suit your specific needs. That’s why it’s important to do your research and learn which type of therapist is best for you.
A typical ADHD therapist’s goal is to help change the behavior and thought patterns that make life with ADHD difficult.
Therapists will help you work through self-esteem issues that are common with ADHD, as well as teach coping techniques to control your symptoms and better manage tasks.
Sometimes counselors offer sessions to parents of young children with ADHDto teach them ways to support their children and become their best advocates.
Though ADHD looks different in children and adults, the root causes — from prefrontal cortex differences to the stress of living with ADHD — are often the same.
One vital way therapists help people heal from the stress and lack of motivation that often comes along with ADHD is by educating them on what ADHD is and how it impacts people.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular evidence-based method for ADHD therapy.
Standard ADHD counseling tactics also use behavioral therapy. This type of psychotherapy teaches you how to monitor your behavior and give yourself praise or rewards for controlling yourself or thinking before acting.
Many types of specialists can treat ADHD, each with their own specific skillset. For example, a psychologist or therapist can help people with ADHD manage symptoms and learn to cope with them, while an ADHD coach can help address specific needs and personal goals.
Research has found CBT is an effective treatment in helping adults living with ADHD develop new productive habits as well as increase self-esteem and happiness.
To be most effective, a therapist should have a specialty in working with people with ADHD and have several specific strategies geared toward the brain’s specific patterns.
An ADHD therapist or counselor will have a professional license, whereas a coach isn’t required to have a license.
In contrast to action-oriented ADHD coaching, therapeutic work is focused on healing, emotional regulation, and ADHD-specific strategies. Some experts believe coaching is most effective if clients work through their underlying emotional issues first.
Common symptoms like distractibility or missing deadlines can make it challenging to succeed in school or at work. Or maybe you’re looking to better yourself all around and need guided motivation. Whatever your goals are, a therapist may be able to support you.
According to a 2014 study, the three areas counselors should focus on regarding children with ADHD are:
- conflict resolution
- motivation and self-efficiency
The researchers said that by focusing on these three areas, counselors can provide those with ADHD a “comprehensive behavioral support” to help ensure lifelong success.
In addition to these areas, an ADHD counselor may help with things like:
- managing emotional outbursts and impulsive behavior
- making overwhelming tasks feel easier
- reframing thoughts
- time management
- building motivation
- turning goals into actions
- teaching social skills
- improving focus and concentration
- developing memory skills
- limiting outside distractions
ADHD counseling works by teaching you how to identify the thought patterns that are affecting your behavior. For example, if you feel overwhelmed because you think you won’t finish something in time, and your usual form of behavior is to procrastinate, your counselor will help you identify your thought patterns and change them.
Many therapists will use CBT techniques to manage these cognitive distortions.
An ADHD counselor can also help in the classroom. Self-management systems are an effective way to help students with ADHD learn to monitor and evaluate their own behavior.
Counselors can also work with teachers and students to develop goals for the student to meet and determine appropriate rewards once those goals are met.
It’s important to do research before choosing a therapist because not all therapists are the same. There will be some that you may connect with, and some that you may not. Choose a licensed therapist who can provide you with the type of therapy specific to your needs.
It’s important to find someone you connect with and feel comfortable talking with. Would you prefer to work with a therapist of a particular gender? Are you looking for someone with a specific area of expertise beyond ADHD?
Once you book the first appointment with a therapist, it’s important to make sure they are the right fit for you. Sometimes there are warning signs a therapist isn’t working out. Here are some potential red flags to look out for:
- You don’t feel comfortable around them.
- They don’t seem to be listening to you or making eye contact.
- They don’t have specific techniques or expertise in working with ADHD.
- They don’t have a firm understanding of ADHD.
- They don’t have a helpful attitude and may leave you feeling worse after a session.
- They overshare or become too friendly.
- You feel disempowered or devalued after a session.
- They seem rigid or inflexible.
- They disregard your questions or make you feel judged.
The right therapist will leave you feeling heard, confident, and ready to try new techniques for managing your ADHD symptoms.
Here are some resources to help you find a therapist and make sure they’re the right fit for you.
- ADDA professional directory
- CHADD resource directory
- ADDitude directory of ADHD doctors
- How to pick an ADHD therapist who’s right for you
- How to vet a therapist
You can also check out Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource.
If you live with ADHD, therapy can be an important part of improving your quality of life. While ADHD medication helps with focus and impulsivity, symptoms like time management, disorganization, emotional regulation, and self-esteem are best addressed in therapy.
An ADHD therapist is a licensed professional and will often use CBT and behavioral therapy methods to help you succeed. They’ll also be experts in working with people with ADHD.
Once you find the right therapist, they’ll provide a safe space to work through emotional patterns and practice ADHD management techniques. You deserve to feel supported and understood on your ADHD journey.