Overview and Recommendations for Future Coaching/Therapeutic Research


By David Giwerc, MCAC, MCC

Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy, and Resources in Adults with ADHD Patricia Elizabeth Newark1, Marina Elsässer1, and Rolf-Dieter Stieglitz1 2012


Even though therapy studies indicate beneficial effects of focusing on resources (Fiedler, 2007; Klemenz, 2009; Willutzki, 2003), and ambassadors of positive psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Snyder & Lopez, 2007) stress the importance of a resources-oriented view in psychotherapy, similar resources have been playing a subordinate role in the treatment of adults with ADHD. Few therapy manuals or guidebooks emphasize the strengths adults with ADHD possess (Hesslinger et al., 2002; Young & Bramham, 2007).

Study Objective:

The primary objective of this study was to explore differences in self-esteem, self-efficacy, and resources in untreated adults with ADHD, in comparison with healthy adults in the control group.

Relationships between self-esteem (overall opinion of ourselves and self-value as a person), self-efficacy [in this study, was identified as generalized self-efficacy (GSE) characterized by a broad and stable sense of personal competence about coping effectively with diverse, stressful situations], and resources [referred to as “strengths” or “potentials” of either a person (internal resources) or the environment (external resources; Willutzki, 2008], were surveyed.


A total of 43 adults who met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM-IV-TR) criteria for ADHD in adulthood were matched with a nonclinical sample in terms of age and gender. All participants (N = 86) were assessed with self-ratings:  Symptom Checklist-90–Revised (SCL-90-R), Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, General Perceived Self-Efficacy Scale, and Dick’s Resources Checklist.


Adults with ADHD showed lower levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy when compared with the control group. These results are consistent with the current literature (Philipsen et al., 2007; Ramsay & Rostain, 2008; Safren, 2006).

However, people with ADHD seem to possess the resources of family, leisure time, housing, ability to love, courage, and faith, which provide sources of support that can be fostered in psychotherapy and ADHD Coaching.


A crucial element in psychotherapy for adult ADHD is to break the vicious cycle of negative appraisal and to adopt positive strategies (Bramham et al., 2009; Safren, 2006) when difficulties arise.

Improved self-awareness of available resources, for adults with ADHD, can be useful in handling their impairing challenges while also achieving important objectives. Hence, self-esteem and self-efficacy can develop by the consistent use of strengths to effectively manage difficult situations and create new positive experience which can be applied in everyday life.

The foundation of the ADHD coaching process is built upon a focus of acknowledgement of individual’s strengths, resources, and empowering adults with ADHD to identify their own solutions through strategic questioning, which can lead to successful outcomes. (Schrevel, Dedding, Boerse, 2016)

Most coaches and therapists know from their professional experience that resources/strengths can influence the lives of adults with ADHD in a favorable way: and self-esteem and self-efficacy can grow.

The ADHD brain is unique in how it activates momentum. The character strengths are also unique to the core being of each individual with ADHD and how it can activate self-initiated action (self-efficacy) so they can feel good about themselves (self-esteem) with the specific actions they are able to complete.

The results of this research have important implications for future coaching and therapeutic interventions using the resources of strengths for the effective treatment/management of adult ADHD.

Future Research:

An exploratory study could be designed to identify and expand the discovery of specific adult ADHD resources and strengths, which can enhance self-esteem and self-efficacy. We recommend expanding future research to include education and integration of the VIA character strengths survey with research participants. The VIA Character Strengths Survey is the only free online survey, in the world, that is psychometrically valid. It is a self-perception assessment, which measures six virtue categories and 24 character strengths found to be universal across cultures, nations, and belief systems. In the field of Positive Psychology, the VIA strengths are considered to be the “basic building blocks” to a flourishing life.

Even though they are not referred to as such, the study referred to strengths and virtues with similar definitions to those used in the VIA survey [i.e. virtue of courage, the VIA strength of faith (aligned with VIA strength of spirituality) and ability to love (VIA strength), as resources]. The VIA provides another way to measure virtues and strengths that are expressed by adults with ADHD as components of their self-definitions.

What would happen to the list of resources/strengths for adults with ADHD if they were educated about the VIA character survey and used it as a tool to identify their core, signature strengths? The VIA character strengths survey represents 24 capacities that all human beings possess and is readily available online at no cost.

The ADHD brain is unique in how it ignites momentum, and what can sustain that momentum. The character strengths are also unique to the core being of each individual with ADHD and how they can activate self-initiated action (self-efficacy) so the individual can feel good about themselves (self-esteem) with the specific actions they are able to complete.

The VIA provides a wider array of established character strengths. The use of this measure with samples of adults with ADHD would provide a more nuanced and perhaps representative view of strengths and resources that may be relevant to the relationship of strengths, self-esteem and self-efficacy for adults with ADHD.