How to Find the Right ADHD Coach for You
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Originally appeared in Psych Central
When you have ADHD you can easily feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. You may have a hard time with everything from prioritizing tasks to completing projects to managing your time to organizing your home.
You also procrastinate. You’re constantly running late. Planning makes you break out in hives (figuratively). You feel like life is pulling you in a thousand directions, and you’re all over the place. You feel like you’ve yet to reach your potential, and accomplishing even small goals feels really hard. Or you’d like to advance in your career, or start your own business.
These are all challenges, obstacles and opportunities that ADHD coaches can help with. According to Bonnie Mincu, a seasoned ADHD coach, an ADHD coach is a catalyst for change. They’re able to discern the kind of solutions each client needs, and help each individual learn to tweak these strategies until they’re tailored to fit them, she said.
In other words, an ADHD coach helps you find solutions, strategies and tools that work for your unique needs and circumstances. “ADHD coaching should be all about customization, not force-fitting yourself to get a strategy to work,” Mincu said. “If a coach has one approach or solution that they want to fit you into, that’s not useful.”
Customization is vital because “no two ADHD brains are alike,” writes David Giwerc, MCAC, a master certified ADHD coach, in his excellent, comprehensive book Permission to Proceed: The Keys to Creating a Life of Passion, Purpose and Possibility for Adults with ADHD. “Your ADHD may show up in one way in one situation and quite another when the situation changes. What’s more, two people with ADHD will not exhibit the same impairments in the same situations.”
A common misconception about ADHD coaches is that they’re supposed to hold you accountable. “While some coaches may agree to that role, it becomes a trap if the client doesn’t learn how to get things done on their own,” said Mincu, founder of Productivity Pathfinder, a membership-based training program to help adults with ADD/ADHD traits achieve self-mastery. This way the benefits of coaching go beyond the coaching.
It’s vital to work with a qualified coach that you connect with, said Giwerc, Founder and President of the ADD Coach Academy, an ADHD coach training program fully accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches (PAAC), the governing bodies of the life coaching and ADHD coaching professions.
That’s because you’re building a partnership, and an unqualified coach can do serious damage, he said. For instance, an effective ADHD coach helps clients capitalize on their natural talents and strengths instead of focusing on weaker areas.
“Weak areas won’t stimulate the ADHD brain and will make it more challenging to gain any kind of forward momentum,” Giwerc writes in Permission to Proceed. Trying to improve weaknesses leads to downplaying and overlooking innate strengths, and exacerbates the challenges of ADHD. “If we are constantly expected to focus on our performance challenges, then we’re simply setting ourselves up for frustration, anxiety and even immobilization—all of which inevitably lead to poor self-esteem,” Giwerc writes.
An ADHD coach who focuses on the wrong things—like weaknesses—can lead you to feel hopeless and like you can’t be helped. But the real issue isn’t you; it’s the coach’s incompetence.
Below Giwerc and Mincu share how you can find a qualified, effective coach that’s the right fit for you.
Make sure they have proper training.
According to Mincu, “The coach should have graduated from a recognized training program specifically for ADHD coaching.” For instance, the ADD Coach Academy puts great emphasis on learning about the ADHD brain, because knowing how a client’s brain works—how they process and learn information—is vital to finding successful solutions. You need to know what activates the brain, what builds momentum and what does the opposite.
It’s also helpful, Mincu said, if the coach has significant experience in coaching in general, in the area that you need, such as life coaching, business coaching or executive coaching.
To start your search, go to an accredited training program, and look for a “find a coach” tab (or something similar). Find three coaches that resonate with you, and interview them, Giwerc said. Another option is to call the school and ask for references, he said.
You might start with these links:
- ADHD coach directory at the ADD Coach Academy
- List of coaches certified by the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches
- Coach directory at JST Coaching (for younger clients, from eight years old to thirty)
- Professional directory at the Attention Deficit Disorder Association
- List of coaches from The ADHD Coaches Organization.
Another place to start is to look for coaches who have presented or spoken at conferences, or coaches who train other ADHD coaches, Mincu said.
Get clear on your needs.
What are you struggling with? Why do you want to work with a coach? What do you need help with? When you’re done working with a coach, where would you like to be in your life?
It’s important to reflect on why you’d like to work with a coach, and what you’d like to get out of coaching. This way you can find a coach who specializes in working with individuals with similar needs.
Ask specific questions.
Again, it’s important to interview several ADHD coaches to better understand how they work and how they can help you. Most coaches offer complimentary phone consultations to make sure it’s a good fit.
Mincu stressed the importance of asking specific questions, such as: “What does it take to change a particular habit or behavior? What kinds of roadblocks might one anticipate?”
She also suggested asking a test question to get an idea of the coach’s judgment and approach. For instance, maybe you tried a certain solution that didn’t work for you. Tell the coach about it to see what they say and the questions they raise. You might ask: “Based on what I’ve told you about me, do you have any idea why this solution I’ve tried didn’t work for me?”
There’s no right or wrong answer, Mincu said. This gives you an idea of how the coach thinks. “You want to make sure an ADHD coach can deal skillfully with the complexity of an individual’s ADD and doesn’t just think in terms of simple strategies they’ve learned (and that you’ve probably read about as well).” You want to make sure the coach is insightful and perceptive.
Don’t make a decision solely based on money.
It’s tempting to pick a coach who charges less per session. After all, most of us are on a budget. However, “coaching is an investment in your future, and you want to get the best and longest-term results,” Mincu said. “A highly-experienced ADHD coach may help you reach more meaningful change and insights in five or ten sessions than an unseasoned coach would in twenty.”
Both Mincu and Giwerc emphasized that your rapport with a coach is critical. Does the coach’s personality seem like a good fit with your personality? Do you feel comfortable talking to them and asking questions? Do you trust them? Do you think they can help you? Does this seem like someone you’d like to collaborate with? It’s important that you answer yes to these questions, because you are working as a team.
ADHD coaching is powerful. Working with a qualified, skilled ADHD coach helps you better understand how your ADHD manifests and affects different areas of your life. It helps you identify your strengths and harness them. It helps you address ADHD-related challenges. It helps you achieve your goals and effectively navigate obstacles.
And, ultimately, as Giwerc writes in his book, working with an ADHD coach can help you create a fuller and more satisfying life.
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