Psychotherapeutic Treatment for ADHD

As with treating ADHD in children, the combination of medication and other psychotherapeutic strategies produces the most positive outcome. One of the first priorities is to help newly diagnosed individuals understand and accept their disorder. Adults with ADHD have lived for many years with their symptoms, and have likely developed a combination of helpful and not-so-helpful coping strategies to deal with their disorder. Negative coping skills may have become so deeply ingrained that they are seemingly automatic patterns of behavior and thinking. Adults with ADHD have also had years to develop other problems such as depression, or anxiety.

As with children, the most successful psychotherapeutic strategies for adult ADHD are based on cognitive behavioral theories, and will focus on changing unhelpful thoughts and increasing positive thoughts regarding oneself and the future. Therapeutic goals also include symptom management, as well as increasing coping behaviors that are healthy (e.g., frequent exercise) and decreasing behaviors that are not (e.g., using substances to control symptoms). Relaxation training, anger management, and stress management skills can also be incorporated into therapy sessions.

Adults with ADHD will also likely need therapy to address other specific issues such as employment, family and interpersonal relationships. Job coaching strategies designed to teach methods to manage responsibilities and frustrations in a job setting have proven helpful with many people. Psychoeducational sessions (i.e., providing information about the causes, symptoms and treatments) can help the family members of the adult with ADHD, who are often, by this point, in serious need of support relating to the challenge of living with someone with this disorder. Once family members understand the disorder and its limitations, they will be better able to provide support, help, and feedback to the person with ADHD. Couples or family therapy services can also be helpful with improving communication and developing problem-solving skills.

Group therapy can often be extremely helpful for addressing interpersonal skills deficits. Group treatment can provide support and reassurance that the individual is not alone in coping with the challenges of ADHD, as well as offering new ideas for dealing with symptoms. The group also provides a safe environment in which to learn and practice new interpersonal behaviors, obtain recognition for improvements, and an opportunity to help others who are struggling with similar issues.