Behavioral Treatments for ADHD
How to Find an ADHD Therapist
Not all ADHD therapy is the same, so consider a therapist's specialty and style before making a decision. Follow these tips for finding a therapist who's right for you.
By Kristen Stewart
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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With behaviors including inattention, disruptive behavior, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, there’s no doubt living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be difficult for individuals and their families. But ADHD therapy can often provide some relief.
“ADHD therapy can help clients manage their symptoms and help educate family members about ADHD,” said Kerri L. Golding, a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice specializing in children and adolescents and a sub-specialty in ADHD, in Atlanta. “Additionally, therapy can help normalize some of the feelings and behaviors that accompany the disorder.”
The key is to find a therapist who is a good match. Below are some considerations to keep in mind.
ADHD Therapy: 6 Ways to Find a Therapist
1. Get a referral.An initial consultation with one’s primary care physician or child’s pediatrician is ideal. Not only do these doctors have a list of clinicians they like and trust, but they can also help individuals decide what kind of specialist is right for them. For example, a medical doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medication while a psychologist can assist with behavior management techniques and even psychotherapy. Asking family and friends is another avenue — though keep in mind what works well for one person may not work for everyone.
2. Consider the type of ADHD therapy desired.There are various kinds of ADHD counseling available. “Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves examining one’s cognitions or thought processes and substituting unhealthy thought patterns with more helpful thoughts,” said Golding. “For example, someone with ADHD who loses things may have negative thoughts such as ‘I’m so stupid’ or ‘I can’t do anything right.’ Cognitive therapy would help them to change those thoughts to more helpful oness like ‘I’m not stupid; sometimes I just have trouble keeping up with things. I can put a system in place to help with that’ or ‘I do lots of things right; I just have difficulty with organization. I can work on this.’”
Family therapy involves some or all of the family members attending sessions to learn what ADHD is and to help them understand how it affects someone’s behavior. It can also improve communication skills and even include conflict resolution.
Behavioral therapy for ADHD treatment is yet a third option based on the idea of reinforcement and consequences for behavioral challenges. In the case of children, reward charts can work well to encourage structure and act as a visual reminder.
Then there is group therapy. Group therapy lets individuals feel that they’re not alone in their struggles and allows them to practice social skills, which can sometimes be a challenge. But the type of group is important in this kind of therapy. In some cases, people tend to imitate what they see and unless some members have their ADHD under good control there will be a lack of role models, and that can lead to mimicry of not-so-desirable behaviors.
3. Think about personality type and approach.Therapy is not one size fits all and each person responds to things differently regarding ADHD counseling. “Some individuals may prefer a more exploratory style in the therapeutic process while others prefer a therapeutic style that is more direct and instructive,” said Erin M. Floyd, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta. Also, therapists often have differing styles; some are more confrontational so they challenge their patients while others may be more warm and supportive. Don’t be afraid to visit multiple therapists to find one who is a good fit.
4. Do the legwork.Be sure to check the therapist’s credentials. “The specialist must be professionally trained by an accredited program and licensed by a professional licensing board,” said Floyd. A therapist with specific expertise in ADHD can be especially helpful in getting the proper diagnosis and treatment.
5. Go with your gut.Don’t be afraid to set up an initial consultation to help determine if the therapist is a good match. Good rapport and trust is crucial for therapy to succeed. Also, good therapists should never belittle, make a patient feel judged, or talk about themselves too much. Any of these behaviors are red flags.
6. Don’t forget the details.While it may seem obvious, find out what your insurance covers and whether the therapist is part of the insurance company’s network. Double-check this information with the therapist’s office to make sure everyone is on the same page. Also ask about the hours the therapist is available for appointments and determine if the location is convenient.
Video: Therapy Advice : How to Manage ADHD Behavior
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