ADHD Coaching: An Integral Component of Effective Comprehensive Treatment for Adults with ADHD
by David Giwerc
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)
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