ADHD Coaching an Integral Component of Effective Comprehensive Treatment for Adults with ADHD

Research clearly indicates psychopharmacology’s prominent role as an ADHD intervention.

Even if the primary care physician is comfortable with treating an ADHD adult, the typical office visit does not allow sufficient time to address every issue that confronts the newly diagnosed adult ADHD patient. The patient may leave with an appropriate ADHD medication regimen, but many other critical problems related to the diagnosis may remain unaddressed.

Medications can significantly improve focus while reducing other symptoms of ADHD. However, ADHD medications alone cannot teach the patient how to compensate for life skills that were never learned due to the years of executive function impairment.

ADHD coaching builds a bridge between biology and behavior and narrows the gap between ability and performance. Patients and physicians are beginning to realize the importance of including an ADHD coach as part of the treatment team. Just as an athletic coach motivates an athlete, ADHD coaches are very adept at motivating their clients who have ADHD, while partnering with them to develop and practice newly learned personal, social, and professional skills. For some patients, these skills may not have been developed due to lack of ADHD education, proper diagnosis, and treatment.

The stigma surrounding ADHD as nothing more than an “unruly child syndrome,” coupled with the popularity of incorrectly self-diagnosing an ADHD impairment, means too many patients are conditioned not to speak up and not to seek support, especially in the workplace. Adult ADHD coaching clients have often stated that an ADHD coach was the first person to not only understand the frustration of their invisible challenges, but also to sincerely believe all of their ADHD stories.

Physicians can rarely provide the level of attention and encouragement an adult patient needs within the restrictions of the typical office visit. The coach, therefore, can reinforce their patients’ natural talents and successes. The PAAC* or ICF**-certified ADHD coach can create an environment that encourages open communication (necessary for behavioral changes to occur) and forms a foundation of unconditional acceptance. Coupled with science-based instruction about ADHD, the coach focuses on identifying the patient’s natural talents and successes and develops a plan to convert that into daily strengths.

ADHD coaches help the client develop coping strategies, a valuable adjunct to medication management. They are highly specialized professionals, well-versed in ADHD-specific coaching competencies. The coach provides psycho-educational support, improves self-awareness of how symptoms of ADHD, and helps translate that into improved short and long-term performance.

While coaching cannot replace stimulant medications or therapy as a treatment, a coach can provide customized strategies and education that work alongside medication. The ADHD coach may suggest lifestyle changes such as proper sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and breathing exercises. In addition, ADHD coaching is accessible, with most coaching being conducted via phone/Skype, eliminating the need for geographical proximity or disruption to the work day.

*PAAC: Professional Association of ADHD Coaches, (PAAC)

**ICF: International Coach Federation



Lidia Zylowska, The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD (Boston, Trumpeter, 2012)

Thomas E. Brown, A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults, Executive Function Impairments (New York, Rutledge, 2013)

David Giwerc, Permission to Proceed: The Keys to Creating a Life of Passion, Purpose and Possibility (Albany New York, ADD Coach Academy Press, 2011)

John Ratey, Spark Revolutionary New Science of Exercise & the Brain (New York, Little, Brown & Co. 2008)

ADHD Treatment More than Just Drugs

Editor’s Note:  We combined two interviews into an intertwining post for you.

Anthony_L_Rostain_MD_MA_-_ADHD_in_AdultsAnthony Rostain, MD, MA: So ADHD medication is really only one part of what we call a multimodal approach to treating ADHD. The other components include patient education. It’s really important to sit down with the patient and educate them about what ADHD is and how it affects their life and to review the treatment options.

The next thing we recommend is self-education. It’s having the patient learn about online resources that can help them cope better with their ADHD.

The next component of treatment is ADHD coaching. Many people find it helpful to find somebody to coach them through the day, keep them on track, and give them ideas about how to organize their lives. Coaching is a growing resource for people with ADHD.

Robert Tudisco,Esq, ADHD Adult: A very interesting story about my boss who was an adult with ADHD. He was and still is a successful entrepreneur. Both of his children were diagnosed with ADHD and they were struggling in school. Both he and his son and his daughter were very successful after working with ADHD coaches. What he ultimately did was to decide to be able to create a network of coaches to provide support for all adults and students with ADHD.

He created this foundation and I actually ran it for him. The name of the organization is the Edge Foundation and they have a network of coaches that work with students all over the country, and in public schools in Washington State. My boss and I both really benefitted and were able to do the work we’re doing because we were diagnosed and we know that there’s a name for it and we understand it. I really think that puts us in a better position to help students and other adults. Now, there are also problem focused support groups.

Anthony Rostain, MD, MA: Some of these are sponsored by advocacy groups like CHADD. Others are sponsored by mental health facilities. But meeting with other people who share your problem and talking about it with others is a very helpful step to take.Then if indicated, there are a host of psychotherapists, in particular, cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been shown to really improve patient’s functioning and help patients to cope better with their ADHD.

Occasionally, individuals will need social skills groups to help them become better at managing friendships and other important relationships and were indicated in getting vocational assessment and vocational counseling, particularly in situations where the individual is having a hard time at their chosen occupation. We recommend all of these things in addition to medication in order to enhance functioning and help patients lead a better life. We cover these alternative approaches in our educational seminars with Free ADHD CME.