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ADD & ADHD Health Center

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Adult ADHD Therapy: Finding the Right Therapist

ADHD Therapy: Understanding Your Options

Therapists might use any number of approaches in treating ADHD in adults. By far the most common is a technique called cognitive behavioral therapy. This approach focuses on challenging some ingrained, negative thoughts and learning how to change your responses to them.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD is typically offered by therapists - psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers. You might have one-on-one sessions with a therapist, or you might do it in a group. Couples or family therapy is another option. It all depends on what you need.

While not true therapy, another psychosocial approach is called ADHD coaching. Coaches are not necessarily trained to help you cope with the emotional impact of living with adult ADHD, like a therapist is. But coaching can help you deal with the problems ADHD causes. The focus tends to be very specific, zeroing in on effective time management and organization.

For many adults with ADHD, treatment is a collaboration. A person might have a doctor prescribing medication while a therapist or coach (or both) uses psychosocial treatments.

ADHD Therapy Instead of Medication?

Because of side effects and other concerns, many adults are interested in treating ADHD without drugs. So is therapy alone - without medication -- ever enough?

While ADHD therapy on its own can work well with children, it’s usually less successful in adults, experts say. One 2008 study looked at the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy on adults with ADHD who were not on medication. While it helped, the results were modest. Therapy alone was significantly less effective than medication and therapy combined.

Ramsay does say that for certain adults who are functioning well and have very mild symptoms of adult ADHD, therapy by itself may be enough. And in cases where a person can’t take a medication because of health problems or side effects, therapy could be the only option. But generally, it’s best to see therapy as a complement to medication and not a replacement, he tells WebMD.

ADHD Therapy: Coping With Emotions

Despite all the focus on learning concrete skills, aspects of traditional talk therapy can still be helpful to people with adult ADHD. Just getting diagnosed can be profoundly emotional.

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