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Over the decade, coaching has become a popular therapy in the treatment of ADHD. More and people are becoming professional coaches while a number of ADHD coaching schools are opening their doors. But what exactly is ADHD coaching and how does it differ from more traditional therapies?
Based on the coaching model in executive coaching and athletics, ADHD coaching is a present-focused form of ADHD treatment therapy designed to help individuals deal with aspects of their disability that interfere with daily and/or academic or work performance. Unlike psychotherapy, coaching is not intended to help clients work though painful feelings, negative self-talk or self-defeating behaviors. Rather, change is brought about through the coach-like practices of questioning, problem solving, modeling and practicing.1
Effect of Coaching on ADHD
Despite a dearth of formal research evidence, ADHD coaching is believed to be able to help individuals to boost their feelings of self-efficacy to make life changes. In addition, ADHD coaching can help individuals to:
— Identify their strengths and weaknesses;
— Set realistic goals;
— Learn to prioritize;
— Create structures to stay on track and meet deadlines;
— Not give up while becoming more resilient;
— Improve organizational and time-management skills;
— Learn productive ways of handling daily tasks;
— Improve personal habits such as diet and exercise; and
— Establish a more supportive environment for meeting needs.2
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Research Evidence on Coaching
Five years ago, Sam Goldstein, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Attention Disorders called on the ADHD community to submit articles researching ADHD coaching. Wrote Goldstein, “It is time to investigate whether coaching is truly a treatment with specific positive benefits for those with ADHD.” 3 Since then, several studies have looked at both individual and parental coaching in the treatment of ADHD. Among the most promising was a study conducted on seven college/graduate students who underwent eight weeks of ADHD coaching. The study showed that all seven students found the coaching better than therapy or medication.4 More specifically, between session assignments or homework assignments were shown to be effective in the use of ADHD coaching with college students.5
People with ADHD have also been shown to benefit from peer and parental coaching. In a pilot study of parents of 124 children without ADHD, a technique known as parental friendship coaching (PFC) proved to be an effective therapy in boosting the social skills and friendship quality of children with ADHD. PFC also helped parents to be less critical and more constructive when dealing with their children in laboratory settings.6 In another study, the combined use of Classwide Peer Tutoring and peer coaching improved the social behavior of elementary students with ADHD.7
How to Use Coaching
The purpose of ADHD coaching is to help their client define and meet specific goals. Once the goals are defined, the coach’s job is to help their client create an organized plan of action. The client, in turn, starts to internalize this process to the point of being able to organize their day on their own. As the client starts to pick up new skills, they naturally are able to cut back on the number of hours they meet with their coaches. The first client meeting is generally an hour while subsequent meetings can be as short as five to 10 minutes a day. Sessions are generally conducted over the phone although with the proliferation of the Internet an increasing amount of communication happens online be it video calling or email.
Among some of the goals that can be addressed in ADHD coaching include getting clients to adhere to regular sleep and/or eating patterns, complete tasks, honor commitments and avoid distractions.8
That said, not everyone makes a good candidate for coaching. In “Coaching for ADHD,” Kevin Murphy outlines three conditions needed for a successful client-coach relationship. First, clients need to be reasonably healthy. Clients suffering from mental illness or some other type of disorder such as substance abuse may not possess the wherewithal to create change in their life. Second, clients need to own up to the fact the fact that they have a problem (ADHD) that needs to be managed. Such acceptance is key to the client becoming willing to make a change in their life. Third, clients need to commit to the process.9 According to the great behavioral theorist James O. Prochaska, a minimum of three months is needed for people to make changes in their life.
Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment
ADHD coaches come from a variety of backgrounds including life coaching, education and psychology. To date, there are no national standards for ADHD coaching. However, the ADHD Coaches Organization offers continuing education classes as well as an update-to-date database of available professionals. For more information, visit www.adhdcoaches.org.
Individuals must be in reasonable good psychological health to benefit from this treatment. Those who aren’t risk wasting their time and resources in addition to not getting the help they need.
- Frances Prevatt, Georgio K. Lampropoulos, Vernessa Bowles and Lori Garrett, “The Use of Between Session Assignments in ADHD Coaching With College Students,” Journal of Attention Disorders, December 17, 2009.
- Nancy A. Ratey, “Specific Benefits of ADHD Coaching,” ADHD Coaching Organization, www.adhdcoaches.org, http://www.adhdcoaches.org/specific-benefits-of-adhd-coaching/
- Sam Goldstein, “Coaching as a Treatment for ADHD,” Journal of Attention Disorders 9, no. 2 (November 2005): 379–381.
- Abigail L. Reaser, “ADHD Coaching and College Students,” Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences 70, no. 5-A (2009): 1557.
- Frances Prevatt, Goergios K. Lampropoulos, Vernessa Bowles and Lori Garrett, “The Use of Between Session Assignments in ADHD Coaching With College Students,” Journal of Attention Disorders 15, no. 1 (December 17, 2009): 18–27.
- Amori Yee Mikami, Matthew D. Lerner, Marissa Swaim Griggs, Alison McGrath and Casey D. Calhoun, “Parental Influence on Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: II. Results of a Pilot Intervention Training Parents as Friendship Coaches for Children,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 38 (2010): 737–749.
- Pamela J. Plumer and Gary Stoner, “The Relative Effects of Classwide Peer Tutoring and Peer Coaching on the Positive Social Behaviors of Children With ADHD,” Journal of Attention Disorders 9, no. 1 (August 2005): 290–300.
- Peter C. Thomas, “Coaching for Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder,” in Earning a Living Outside Managed Mental Health Care: 50 Ways to Expand Your Practice, ed. Steven Wallfish (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2010), 54–57.
- Kevin Murphy, Nancy Ratey, Sandy Maynard, Susan Sussman and Sarah D. Wright, “Coaching for ADHD,” *Journal of Attention Disorders *13, no. 5 (March 2010): 546–552.
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