How ADD Coaching Works

ADHD coaching builds hope by educating clients about ADHD. It is instrumental in assisting individuals in developing systems & strategies that can be used to effectively manage their specific ADHD challenges, which in turn dramatically improves their quality of life.


  • Helps clients identify their positive ADHD characteristics

    and to appreciate their strengths

  • Improve client's understanding of ADHD related to their learning styles & personal challenges
  • Nurtures personal awareness and responsibility and encourages the client to look for options that lead to progress and success
  • Guides the client into actions that (re)build self-esteem, self-awareness and self- regulation
  • Focuses on the client's executive functioning skills (i.e., planning, prioritizing & analyzing) to create customized systems that will improve the client's consistency & effectiveness
  • Offers a safe environment for clients who need to let go of their isolation & helps them form a nurturing connection with another person
  • Provides consistent accountability & encourages the client to move beyond thinking into appropriate action
  • Helps clients learn to advocate & speak out for their own needs, questions & boundaries

This section is excerpted from: "Life Coaching for Adult ADHD" by Nancy Ratey, Ed.M, ABDA, MCC in Clinical Interventions for Adult ADHD: A Comprehensive Approach. edited by Sam Goldstein, PhD and Phyllis Ann Teeter, Academic Press, 2002

Neuropsychological research tells us that the brain is flexible in its ability to learn continuously. Physical and chemical changes occur in the brain when it is challenged or when new learning takes place. Rehearsing actions helps forge new neural pathways in the brain, allowing it to develop new competencies in areas that have been deficient. This is how new habits are learned. Coaching paves the pathway for this learning to occur.

Coaching intervention can make a real difference in how people with ADD negotiate their own particular deficits and cope with life on a daily basis. There are five major deficit areas that can be seen playing out in the lives of persons with ADD. The following is a discussion of these areas, and how the coaching relationship can offer successful compensatory strategies.

Coaching maintains mental arousal and focus on completing goals.
If attention is under-aroused, chances are motivation will lag also, and vice versa. For instance, people with ADD often have a hard time pursuing abstract goals. Coaches seek to bring the more abstract goals to the forefront of their clients' minds, keeping attention aroused to work on the goal and stay focused until it's completed.

The coaching partnership provides a "shared awareness", or mutual consciousness, of goals and their associated challenges so as to sustain the ADD client's vigilance towards an identified goal. The coach works with the client to create deadlines, schedules, meetings and regular phone check-ins around reaching goals. This induces a certain level of "good stress" on clients, keeping their brain aroused, vigilant, and on track to reach stated goals.

Coaching helps modulate emotions.
Shame, guilt and fear are demons plaguing many people with ADD. Years of being labeled "stupid", "ditzy" or "irresponsible" create an emotional burden that can derail their actions, throw them off course or even paralyze them. A coach helps clients learn how to identify bad feelings and their triggers, and explores effective ways to modulate emotional responses. Instead of blaming themselves when ADD gets in their way, clients can think: "Wait a minute! I know this is my ADD at work, and I know I have ways to get around it now." By isolating the behavior from the emotion, the behavior can be broken down into parts to take the mystery out of it, giving clients an opportunity to think up strategies to contain and change the behavior.

Coaching maintains motivation and sustains the feeling of reward. 

Motivation is often questioned in people with ADD. Although clients may have developed the tools to sustain attention to tasks, they may still lack motivation. By reminding clients of their top priorities and of all the gains they have made, the coach provides encouragement. Self-confidence is bolstered. 

The client may under-function in certain situations, especially when it comes to prioritizing, planning, attending to details and following through with projects. In other instances, the client may become overwhelmed with a project, and not knowing where to start, may avoid the task. By breaking large projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks, coaches keep clients more focused on their goals. Other clients might need help in discovering a system of tangent rewards so as to sustain motivation and progress.

Coaching acts as the "Executive Secretary of Attention".
Clients with ADD are challenged in their ability to "gross prioritize" - to gather and focus their attention in a more global way. By keeping the big picture in mind, the coach helps the client to sustain their attention on their primary goals, pointing out distractions and helping to create strategies when distractions do arise.

Coaching supports the client's ability to self-direct actions and to change behavior

In order to function autonomously, individuals must be able to screen out distractions, sustain their attention and use feedback appropriately. Attentional arousal is a double-edged sword for people with ADD. While it is usually the case that their attention needs to be aroused in order to attack certain tasks, it is also true that if their attention is too aroused they can find themselves becoming "over-focused" and getting stuck in a particular activity or step of a task at the cost of everything else. Just as they can be sidetracked by pleasurable feedback, clients can also be sidetracked by negative feedback such as those "voices in the head" that continually remind one of one's inadequacies. Clients with ADD are also very adept at self-deception and forgetting the pain of past procrastination and other self-defeating behaviors.

The coach compensates for these deficits by providing daily reminders and helping the client sequence out the details of needed actions. By pressing clients to process and evaluate outcomes and consequences, the coach allows clients to develop the ability to make more proactive choices and be less reactive to the environment. Coaches also help clients develop the ability to estimate the time it takes to complete tasks by having on- going discussions, reviewing plans for timelines and processing out the details and sequences of tasks. The coach helps clients to, in effect, observe themselves in action, by processing out events, asking questions and providing feedback.