ADHD Coaching: Look to the Willow Tree
Partnering with a coach of any kind can lead to rewarding self-discovery. Whether specified as executive, life or career coach, these people are essentially teachers at their core. And as progressive educator/ liberal philosopher John Dewey remarked throughout the context of his life’s work in educational reform, you cannot so much teach individuals, or impart knowledge, as actually only help those who desire to learn.
The best teachers are essentially mentors (and counselors of sorts), drawing out any little glimpse they can sense and intuit that someone near them has even the smallest seed of will or fascination to learn a new fact or method. Such learning may not come easily, though, especially with a learning-disabled student or individual.
There are coaches who specialize in helping those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well. One such coach in Pittsburgh, Penn., Susan Lieber, is an impassioned counselor for those struggling to make sense of their debilitating neurobiological condition.
Lieber’s focus is to help her clients “develop a language to advocate for themselves.” This is no small task for those whose esteem is shredded by their lessened ability to prepare for important tasks, establish daily routines, see tasks to completion and remember where everyday objects were placed — not to mention having a loss for words other than the pat self-label ADHD to describe their challenges. “I have a hard time with managing unscheduled time” would be one way to define yourself to the outer world, Lieber posits, as opposed to saying “I am ADHD.”
A former occupational therapist versed in cognitive-behavioral strategies, as well as a former pain clinic researcher, Lieber decided to go into coaching for the reason many do — a deep interest in significantly applying her existing skillset and keen ability to effectively work one on one with folks. Many of her clients are high school students diagnosed with ADHD, and others have similar problems. In the case of the former, she tries to help them move toward an adult life on their terms and in a manner that “makes sense to them.”
This involves “developing an awareness” of behaviors and actions. It is apparent from talking with her that Lieber masterfully culls those slight seeds of desire for change and improvement in the lives of these young people who may be frustrated with themselves and their place in the world.
Her work as a coach is behaviorally-based and focused on education, as she has observed that really all ADHD individuals “want change… want better outcomes.” So Lieber figures out “what kinds of support the client needs.” She stresses here that the ADHD experience “is unique to each individual, and for a lot of reasons.” She has an apt term, pivoting — “getting clients back on track to where they need to be”– to describe the goal of her coaching sessions.
Through the coaching process, ADHD individuals can, according to Lieber, “gain a better understanding how their brain works” and learn tactics “to manage day-to-day demands.” Identifying solutions comes about in a mutual manner, with the coach encouraging honesty, humor, and “a steadfast belief” in themselves, which she exemplifies. “Coaching is all about asking questions and really listening,” she says.