If you use only medication to try and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you’re likely to only get a partial response that does little to help the child or adult with all of the effects of living with ADHD. Psychotherapy and other specific therapeutic interventions are not only important options to consider — they are mandatory in order to treat the long-term issues that go hand-in-hand with attention deficit disorder.
Once some of the behavior problems are under control, the child may be better able to understand the challenges they may have caused to the people around them. Everyone involved can benefit from techniques to manage the past and present consequences of ADHD behavior, and counseling the child and the family group may offer a solution.
Parenting training has been shown to be an effective and an important component of any treatment of ADHD in children. Parents who have a child with an attention deficit disorder should look into getting such training from an ADHD coach or therapist with experience in helping parents with ADHD. These parent training exercises help the parent learn to help their child who has attention deficit disorder, keep their behavior on-task, and correct it in a positive and reinforcing manner when needed. Think of the TV show, “Super Nanny” — except that the therapist helps the parents learn how to best help their child with ADHD.
Psychotherapy for ADHD
We have decades’ worth of research demonstrating the effectiveness of a wide range of psychotherapies for the treatment of ADHD in both children and adults. Some people turn to psychotherapy instead of medication, as it is an approach that does not rely on taking stimulant medications. Others use psychotherapy as an adjunct to medication treatment. Both approaches are clinically accepted.
In psychotherapy (commonly, cognitive-behavioral therapy for ADHD), the child can be helped to talk about upsetting thoughts and feelings, explore self-defeating patterns of behavior, learn alternative ways to handle emotions, feel better about him or herself despite the disorder, identify and build on their strengths, answer unhealthy or irrational thoughts, cope with daily problems, and control their attention and aggression. Such therapy can also help the family to better handle the disruptive behaviors, promote change, develop techniques for coping with and improving their child’s behavior.
Behavioral therapy is a specific type of psychotherapy that focuses more on ways to deal with immediate issues. It tackles thinking and coping patterns directly, without trying to understand their origins. The aim is behavior change, such as organizing tasks or schoolwork in a better way, or dealing with emotionally charged events when they occur. In behavior therapy, the child may be asked to monitor their actions and give themselves rewards for positive behavior such as stopping to think through the situation before reacting.
Psychotherapy will also help a person with attention deficit disorder to boost their self-esteem through improved self-awareness and compassion. Psychotherapy also offers support during the changes brought about through medication and conscious efforts to alter behavior, and can help limit any destructive consequences of ADHD.
Social Skills Training for ADHD
Social skills training teaches the behaviors necessary to develop and maintain good social relationships, such as waiting for a turn, sharing toys, asking for help, or certain ways of responding to teasing. These skills are usually not taught in the classroom or by parents — they are typically learned naturally by most children by watching and repeating other behaviors they see. But some children — especially those with attention deficit disorder — have a harder time learning these skills or using them appropriately.
Social skills training helps the child to learn and use these skills in a safe practice environment with the therapist (or parent).
Skills include learning how to have conversations with others, learning to see others’ perspective, listening, asking questions, the importance of eye contact, what body language and gestures are telling you.
Social skills training is done in a therapy office, or parents can learn them and teach them in the home. The therapist teaches the behaviors that are appropriate in different situations and then those new behaviors are practiced with the therapist. Clues that can be taken from people’s facial expressions and tone of voice may be discussed.
Support Groups for ADHD
Mutual self-help support groups can be very beneficial for parents and individuals with ADHD themselves. A sense of regular connection to others in the same boat leads to openness, problem-sharing, and sharing of advice. Concerns, fears and irritations can be released in a compassionate environment where members can safely let off steam and know that they are not alone.
As well as this type of support, the groups can invite experts to give lectures and answer specific questions. They can also help members to get referrals to reliable specialists.