Since ADHD is a challenge of performance, not knowledge, you may need the help of a therapist and/or ADHD coach to make improvements in your life.
- Knowing whether you need a therapist and/or an ADHD coach can be confusing.
- Knowing your current needs is the first step to figuring this out.
- Understanding what therapist and ADHD coaches offer is the next step.
- Then you’ll be able to make an informed decision about who to work with.
- What ADHD Adults Need to Know to Find a Good Therapist
- Here’s What You Need to Know About ADHD Coaching
Deciding whether to work with a therapist and/or an ADHD coach can be complicated. I know. The key to an easier decision making process is knowing your needs. And how each type of professional might be able to help you.
You’ve tuned into Scattered, Done, Reimagining Productivity with ADHD, a podcast for ADHD adults like you who want to learn how to adopt the best strategies, tools, and skills to get your essential work done. In a way that works with the way your brain is wired. I’m Marla Cummins, and I’m glad you’re joining me today on this journey to re-imagining productivity with ADHD. So you can get what is important to you done without trying to do it like everyone else.
Maybe you’ve decided you need professional help, and now you’re wondering, should I work with a therapist or an ADHD coach? Maybe you’re open to working with both. But don’t know if that makes sense. Or if you should start with one or the other first. Maybe you’re already working with a therapist. And are trying to figure out whether you should add a coach to the mix. Alternatively, you might be trying to decide which one to work with. Because the cost, including energy, time, and money, is just too prohibitive for you to work with both at the same time.
Wherever you are in the decision making process, while you may be entertaining the idea of reaching out for help, you may also be questioning whether a professional can help you at all. After all, you’ve scoured the internet, read a lot about productivity and ADHD and maybe even joined a group. So you know a lot by now of the tips and tricks, right? And now you may be thinking to yourself, I know what I need to do. I just need to make myself do it. I need to try harder.
I don’t know you, but I am pretty sure trying harder isn’t the answer. I’m guessing you’ve been trying pretty hard for a long time now. The likely reason you are not doing what you think may make things better is because ADHD is a challenge of performance, not knowledge. Sure, no doubt, a seasoned therapist or ADHD coach can help you learn new strategies, processes, and tools. But, just as important, they will help you follow through both on what is new to you and what you already know could help you.
For example, if listening and regulating your emotions is a challenge for you, you already know your relationships would be better if you could do better in these areas. And maybe you’re even aware of and have tried some of the strategies that would help you actively listen and manage your emotions. You have the knowledge and you really want to do better.
Yet, if you’re not employing the strategies when you need them, it’s likely at least in part because the executive functioning challenges you have because of your ADHD makes it hard to do so. And, while medication can certainly help you to focus and attend, it won’t be enough to help you improve your executive functioning skills such as regulating your emotions, making decisions, planning, et cetera. Because, as you’ve probably heard before, pills don’t teach skills.
In fact, Russell Ramsey, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s adult ADHD treatment and research program said that, “with ADHD medication as a foundation, it’s the psychosocial treatments that come in and finish the job.” Therapy and ADHD coaching are two types of psychosocial treatments. So let’s get on with exploring what kind of support each can offer. So you can make an informed decision about whether to work with a coach and/or a therapist.
It’s sometimes difficult to draw a bright line between ADHD coaching and therapy. As there is often overlapping content. And, while I will try to make a distinction between the two, I’ll also necessarily be generalizing because some therapists can be very coach-like and some coaches may be comfortable and adept at exploring some of the same emotional issues you might discuss in therapy.
However, generally speaking, coaching is a proactive process where you explore and try to narrow the gap between where you are now and where you want to get to. And, while therapy can also be proactive, you might also explore the roots of your challenges as this understanding can help you heal, making it easier to be proactive. Whereas in coaching, you would not look at the historical roots of your challenges. And of course, coaches do not have the therapeutic expertise to help you with serious mental health issues. That is the purview of therapists. The bottom line is it’s very important that you get the right type of help for your current needs.
Though I know you’re already likely familiar with therapy, let’s start by taking a brief look at how therapy can help you. One of the key components of therapy and why it’s important for ADHD adults is that you have the opportunity to work on your internal stuff. You know, your emotional and psychological issues. We all have them. A therapist can help you build coping strategies specific to, for instance, emotional regulation, impulse control, relationship difficulties, and other challenges associated with ADHD. Of course, therapists can also help you manage any comorbid conditions you may have, like depression or anxiety.
For example, one contributing factor to your past and current mental health challenges may be your formally undiagnosed ADHD. In working with a therapist, you can start to better understand the impact of this on your emotional landscape, both historically and current day. And with this understanding, you’ll see you’re not lazy, crazy, or stupid. That you have a different brain wiring that contributes to your executive functioning challenges. And with the help of a therapist, you can start to reimagine your sense of self that includes your strengths and challenges. Also, learn to treat yourself with more compassion and draw better boundaries and ask for what you need from others, etc.
I think therapy is always useful. And many of my clients work with both me and a therapist. Generally, they find the synergy between therapy and coaching is very powerful in helping to create the momentum they need to move forward. As working through emotional issues and psychological issues helps them be in a good place to be proactive.
However, for some adults, it may be necessary to work on emotional and psychological issues with a therapist before being able to engage in the more proactive process of ADHD coaching. In instances where there are severe mental health conditions, such as severe depression or unresolved trauma, therapy is definitely the more appropriate intervention. I’m sure this is already obvious to you.
In the over 15 years of coaching, what has not happened often, there have been a handful of times when it turned out the best use of our coaching work together was to help my clients find and follow through with connecting with appropriate therapeutic resources because they just weren’t in a place yet to take advantage of coaching. Other than severe mental health conditions, there may also be other instances, such as when you’re going through a particularly unstable or chaotic time in your life, that therapy would also be the more appropriate choice, at least until you feel you’re on an even keel, so to speak.
If you want more information about choosing a therapist, check out my blog article, What ADHD Adults Need To Know To Find a Good Therapist. I’ve included a link to this article with the podcast on my website. The bottom line is, if you need help address any mental health issues, you should see a therapist, especially if these issues are keeping you from moving forward.
However, as Dr. Julie Gentile, professor of Psychiatry at Wright State University notes, psychotherapy alone is not an effective treatment for the symptoms of ADHD. In addition to choosing other treatment options, including of course, medication, ADHD coaching may be the support you need to move forward whether you do that in combination with therapy or not.
As I noted earlier, your challenges due to your ADHD symptoms are primarily ones of performance. That is, you may often know what you need to do, but are unable to do it in the critical moment of choice. This is the sweet spot, so to speak, for an ADHD coach. A coach will help you implement and learn how to maintain the strategies, processes, and tools you need to narrow the gap between where you are now, as I said before, and where you want to be. Whether those strategies, processes, and tools are new to you or ones you already know. To do this, a coach will help you. For one, learn more about your strengths so you can rely on these as much as possible. Rather than only concentrating on shoring up your weaknesses, including those related to your ADHD.
In working with an ADHD coats, you will also learn in depth about ADHD of course, and more specifically how your challenges may be related to your ADHD symptoms. You’ll also gain clarity on what’s important to you, your dreams, goals, and values. Because coaching is not about just helping you get random stuff done. The ultimate goal of coaching is to help you live a meaningful life, whatever that means to you.
With this self-awareness of your strengths, challenges, and values, you will then collaborate with a coach in figuring out what processes, strategies, and tools you need to compensate for your ADHD related challenges. Because there is no blueprint for this. As you have very unique and preferences. On this journey, a coach will also help you build the executive functioning skills you need to adopt and maintain the scaffolding. But you may be lacking these skills right now because of your adhd. And these include, again, decision making, planning, organizing, et cetera.
The process of working with a coach is a collaborative one. It’s akin, as I like to say, to working in a lab together, where together you design experiments. You go out into the real world then, so to speak, and experiment. Then you come back with your results, what worked, what didn’t work. And you and the coach continue to refine what you are doing until you have a system that works for, again, your needs and preferences. Key to this whole process, of course, is that a coach will work with you to develop a maintenance plan. So when you eventually complete your work with a coach, you’ll be able to do this on your own as well.
When deciding whether to work with an ADHD coach or a therapist, the question you need to ask yourself is, “What do I need right now?” If you’re ready for the more proactive approach of ADHD coaching, you may decide to do that along with therapy or maybe you don’t need therapy. Then again, you may decide you need to do some therapy work before you engage in the more proactive process of coaching. If you need professional support, what would be the most helpful for you right now?
That’s it for now. I’m really glad you joined me and stayed until the very end. If you’re interested in learning more about my work with adults with adhd, I hope you’ll check out my website, marlacummins.com. Of course, if you’ve learned a thing or two from today’s podcast, which I hope you have, please also pass along the link to anyone else in your circles you think might benefit. And until next time, this has been Scattered, Focused, Done. And I’m Marla Cummins, wishing you all the very best on your journey to reimagining productivity with ADHD.