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Adult ADHD: Finding the Right Therapy

Medication helped Katie Hyman manage her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as feelings of inattention and distraction. Still, she felt she could have done more to help her navigate life with her condition.

Hyman, 38, started seeing a therapist 3 years ago to help with time management and organization.

“Having kids threw a curveball at my time management system,” she says. “I just wasn’t managing me anymore and I needed help.”

When it comes to treating ADHD in adults, the most effective approach appears to be a combination of medication, skills training, and counseling.

Research shows that adults with ADHD who have a treatment plan that includes medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of talk therapy aimed at changing patterns of thinking and behavior) improve their symptoms compared to those who take medication only. Able to manage easily. Organizational skills and self-esteem also seem to be improving.

Hyman participated in CBT for 3 months. During her sessions, her therapist helped her eliminate negative self-talk and boost her self-esteem. They also received organizational tips to help them make project deadlines.

“There are behavioral skills that adults with ADHD don’t use as often or as effectively as adults without ADHD,” explains John Mitchell, PhD, assistant professor in the Duke ADHD Program at Duke University Medical Center. “CBT helps learn new behaviors and learn how to apply them consistently over time until they become a habit.”

Your primary care doctor may refer you to a therapist. While there are therapists who specialize in CBT for adults with ADHD, Mitchell admits that finding one can be difficult.

Hyman says connection is key.
“You have to find someone you feel comfortable talking to,” she says.

What’s more, insurance may not cover the cost. A recent study found that 1 in 4 people do not have a mental health provider in their insurance network and 15% of those people pay more than $200 for mental health services.

Group therapy may be a more affordable, accessible alternative to individual therapy.

Associate Professor and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program at the University of Pennsylvania J. “Groups can be very targeted at addressing the difficulties that come with ADHD and coping strategies,” says Russell Ramsay PhD.

advantage of ” [group therapy] being in the program with other adults who have experienced similar things; You’re in a room with other people who get it.”

When it comes to relationships, group therapy can help with the toll ADHD can take on a couple. If symptoms of ADHD such as impulsivity, inattention, and failure to follow through on promises cause problems in your relationships, consider scheduling sessions with a marriage and family therapist.

There are also ADHD coaches. They take a practical approach to helping adults with ADHD with tools for planning, time management, and goal setting.

ADHD coaches are not licensed mental health professionals, but Ramsay says coaching can be helpful and suggests it in addition to working with a therapist.

Even with effective therapy or coaching, including stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation is important to your treatment plan. Mitchell’s research shows that adults with ADHD who participated in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program saw improvements in their symptoms.

Mitchell admits that adults with ADHD may have difficulty sitting still and focusing for 30 minutes of meditation. Look for ones adapted for ADHD that are short and active, like a 5-minute walk plus a meditation.

“Mindfulness meditation is very complementary to CBT for adults with ADHD,” he says. “It modifies self-talk and teaches you to focus on decision-making and radical acceptance.”

With the right therapist and the right therapeutic approach, you can develop the skills you need to thrive with ADHD.

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