The confusing world of ADHD Coaching versus ADHD Therapy

The Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance (CADDRA) recommends a multi-modal approach to treatment: medication, ADHD coaching and ADHD therapy. Medication is a personal choice and not all individuals want/can take the medication. But, “pills don’t build skills”, in this case we are talking about the need to build scaffolding for your executive functioning skills. You have been diagnosed recently with ADHD or else you have known you have ADHD for a while but have recently decided to get help with your symptoms. You have exerted a ton of effort into making changes but feel you always slip back into old habits. Your friends, spouse, colleagues, bosses or parents can’t figure out why you “don’t get your act together”.

First, I want to normalize your experience and let you know that this is very “normal” in the ADHD world. Working with ADHD folks in Toronto, supporting their symptoms as a therapist/coach, I hear this all the time.   Friends, family, spouses etc… are all well-meaning but they probably don’t understand what it is like to live with the symptoms of ADHD and that this is a “neurologically” based disorder not a “behavioral” based disorder. It is NOT your fault that you have ADHD but you need to take responsibility to get help to manage your symptoms and the impact on the people that you care about in your life – hence the need to get support from an ADHD therapist or ADHD coach.

The professions that can help you manage the impact of your symptoms on your life are ADHD coaching and ADHD therapy. ADHD coaching focuses most exclusively on building skills and approaches to your executive functioning weaknesses whereas an ADHD therapist can focus on treating the ADHD and its associated co-morbid challenges. The good news – ADHD is a highly treatable disorder and with the right support and understanding you can learn to manage most symptoms and heal from the collateral damage on your self-esteem.

Many coaches will say they coach ADHD people. It is important that your specialist really understand the biology of the disorder and does not recommend “neurotypical” strategies that don’t work for ADHD folks.  Many well-meaning coaches who do not understand ADHD may coach you in behavioural strategies but not consider the neurology of the disorder and how the executive functioning renumeration must take this into account. For instance, some ADHD folks have very poor working memory. They can spend so much time trying to mitigate these weaknesses only to get minimal results. There are times when the strategy for an executive functioning renumeration may be to “outsource” to a third party and example would be asking a colleague to tap you on the shoulder before going to a meeting instead of relying on a poor working-memory.

Another important consideration in constructing solutions to mitigate executive functioning weaknesses, is to be informed of co-morbid conditions such as: learning disabilities, social anxiety, general anxiety disorder and chronically low self esteem. These co-morbid conditions can affect a person’s ability to execute executive functioning renumeration if not considered. I think there are many great ADHD coaches in Toronto but if you want your coaching experience to be successful, consider bringing up these points with the coach to see how they are managed.

I am a Registered Psychotherapist. I decided to specialize in working with ADHD folks. So, while there is no official title of “ADHD therapist” working with ADHD folks is a passion of mine. I was diagnosed as a teenager but that was a while ago. I struggled my way through University and the first part of my working life. When I went back to school to do my Master of Arts Counselling Psychology degree, I got re-assessed for ADHD. Doing my master’s degree was eye-opening to me as I did any research papers I could on ADHD and my capstone project was designing a group for adults with ADHD and self-esteem issues. I saw how much some of my ADHD symptoms had affected me in matters broader than just the attention and focus realm. I wanted to specialize in ADHD because I really feel that there are not enough people out there who really understand the issues and impact of living with ADHD. As an ADHD Therapist I combine therapy for self-esteem issues and other co-morbid disorders and I work with my clients to do personalized executive functioning renumeration. My approach is to combine the two models, coaching and psychotherapy and where needed I try to build in task accountability with my clients. I use a combination of models in working with ADHD clients including CBT, Solutions Focussed, Mindfulness and Narrative therapy to support my clients.

The important thing is to start doing something to help yourself. Both therapy and coaching are useful to provide support, so you can’t go wrong with either of them if you use coaches and therapists who are ADHD-informed.

Make sure to contact me directly in case you or someone you know are struggling with this disorder. I am a call away and will be happy to offer support.