Tailored Therapies for People with ADHD

Hi!

As a health psychologist diagnosed with ADHD specializing in behaviour change and ADHD management, I understand and live with the complexities and nuances of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD, a neurodevelopmental condition, presents unique challenges and opportunities for therapeutic intervention, and it is important to me to provide tailored therapies for people with ADHD. This blog post will explore how different therapeutic approaches, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing, behaviour change models, and the person-centred approach, can be effectively utilized to support individuals with ADHD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and ADHD

CBT is a well-established psychological treatment that focuses on identifying and modifying dysfunctional thinking and behaviour patterns. For individuals with ADHD, CBT can be particularly beneficial in several ways:

  • Structure and organization. CBT provides a structured approach, which can be valuable for individuals with ADHD who often struggle with organization and prioritization.
  • Skill building. It helps in developing essential skills like time management, organization, and goal setting, which are often challenging areas for those with ADHD.
  • Addressing negative thinking. ADHD can often lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem. CBT works to address these negative thought patterns and promote a more positive and realistic self-view.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for ADHD

ACT, a form of cognitive behavioural therapy, emphasizes mindfulness, acceptance, and behaviour change. It is particularly relevant for ADHD management:

  • Mindfulness. ACT teaches mindfulness techniques that can improve focus and attention, areas where individuals with ADHD often struggle.
  • Acceptance. Learning to accept and coexist with ADHD symptoms can reduce the struggle against them, often leading to improved mental health.
  • Values and goals. ACT focuses on aligning actions with core values, which can be motivating for individuals with ADHD to engage in behaviour change that is meaningful to them.

Motivational Interviewing in ADHD Management

Motivational Interviewing is a counselling approach that helps individuals resolve ambivalence and find the motivation for change. In ADHD management, this can be particularly helpful:

  • Enhancing motivation. By exploring and resolving ambivalence, individuals with ADHD can find personal reasons for change, which is often more effective than external motivations.
  • Empathy and autonomy. This approach fosters a supportive and non-judgmental environment, which is crucial for individuals with ADHD who often face criticism and misunderstanding.

Behaviour Change Models and ADHD

Behaviour change models, such as the Health Belief Model or the Stages of Change Model, offer frameworks for understanding and facilitating behaviour change in individuals with ADHD:

  • Tailored interventions. These models allow for the development of tailored interventions that address specific barriers and facilitators to change for each individual.
  • Understanding readiness. Recognizing where an individual is in their journey towards change can help in applying the most effective strategies for that stage.

The Person-Centered Approach in ADHD Therapy

The person-centred approach, developed by Carl Rogers, is fundamentally about empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence. For individuals with ADHD, this approach can be incredibly affirming:

  • Empathetic understanding. This approach allows individuals with ADHD to feel heard and understood, which can be empowering.
  • Unconditional positive regard. It provides a non-judgmental space for individuals with ADHD, who often face stigma and criticism.
  • Self-actualization. The person-centred approach fosters an environment where individuals with ADHD can work towards realizing their full potential.

Bottom line

Therapeutic interventions for ADHD are not one-size-fits-all. Each of these therapeutic approaches offers unique benefits and can be tailored to meet the individual needs of those with ADHD. The key is a holistic, empathetic approach that recognizes the individuality of each person’s experience with ADHD. As a psychologist, I advocate for a comprehensive and inclusive approach to ADHD management, one that not only addresses the challenges but also harnesses the strengths and potentials of individuals living with ADHD.

Read here about the approaches I use when working with autistic people.

Warm wishes,

Dr Dorothy

❤️


References

  • Jensen, C.M., Amdisen, B.L., Jørgensen, K.J., & Arnfred, S.M. (2016). Cognitive behavioural therapy for ADHD in adults: systematic review and meta-analyses. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 8, 3-11.
  • Young, Z., Moghaddam, N.G., & Tickle, A. (2020). The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adults With ADHD: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Attention Disorders, 24, 875 – 888.
  • Munawar, K., Choudhry, F.R., Lee, S.H., Siau, C.S., Kadri, N.S., & Binti Sulong, R.M. (2021). Acceptance and commitment therapy for individuals having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A scoping review. Heliyon, 7.
  • Meinzer, M.C., Oddo, L.E., Vasko, J.M., Murphy, J.G., Iwamoto, D.K., Lejuez, C.W., & Chronis-Tuscano, A. (2021). Motivational interviewing plus behavioral activation for alcohol misuse in college students with ADHD. Psychology of addictive behaviors : journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors.
  • Philipsen, A., Richter, H., Peters, J., Alm, B., Sobanski, E., Colla, M., Münzebrock, M., Scheel, C.N., Jacob, C.P., Perlov, E., Tebartz van Elst, L., & Heßlinger, B. (2007). Structured Group Psychotherapy in Adults With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Results of An Open Multicentre Study. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195, 1013-1019.