Many adults with ADHD take medications to control the symptoms of this common disorder that affects about one in twenty-five adults, but medications alone aren’t always enough to get an ADHD sufferer’s life back on track. It takes more than just popping a pill. That’s why more adults are exploring the benefits of ADHD coaching as a way to help them organize their life and achieve goals they may feel powerless to accomplish on their own.
What is ADHD Coaching?
ADHD coaching is more than just “life coaching.” It’s a specialized type of coaching directed towards the needs of people who suffer with ADHD. A good ADHD coach understands the challenges people with ADHD face and helps them develop the skills they need to work around them. An ADHD is not a mental health therapist or counselor, but someone that helps a person with ADHD set and achieve goals. Most ADHD sufferers have the motivation to succeed but encounter stumbling blocks like disorganization and distractedness that keeps them from following through. An ADHD coach helps to identify and remove those stumbling blocks while offering ongoing support and encouragement.
Not all ADHD coaches are general coaches that choose to work with people with ADHD. Some are certified by the Institute for the Advancement of ADHD Coaching (IAAC), a group that offers certification after a trainee spends at least 500 hours working with ADHD clients and demonstrates their proficiency. To gain certification, trainees learn and master coaching strategies specifically geared towards helping adults with ADHD while working with coaches out in the field. The focus is on coaching adults who have ADHD as opposed to general life coaching. These specialized coaches have a deeper level of understanding of what a person with ADHD experiences and what their specific challenges are. The International Coach Federation also offers certifications for life coaching, but graduates of this program may or may not have had specialized training working with adults with ADHD.
What Does an ADHD Coach Do?
Many adults with ADHD have problems with executive functioning, meaning they have difficulty setting and achieving goals, managing time, planning projects and starting and finishing tasks. An ADHD coach helps an adult with ADHD choose realistic goals and lay out the steps they need to take to achieve them. When a client has problems staying on track, they help them refocus and plan their time around achieving their goal. Another area they concentrate on is helping adults with ADHD stay organized. ADHD sufferers are often “organizationally challenged,” and tend to misplace and forget things, making it harder for them to get things done.
At the same time, ADHD coaches help their clients take better care of their bodies by eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting adequate sleep since these factors are important for overall health. Plus, they help them develop greater awareness of unproductive thought patterns and how they limit their ability to achieve goals, while instilling in them the confidence they need to be successful. It’s a very individualized approach and a coach may be involved in a number of facets of a client’s life – job, health and home life.
Not all ADHD coaching is done in person. Telephone coaching is growing in popularity where coach and client “meet” over the telephone. For some adult ADHD sufferers, this is preferable to meeting in person and allows them to choose a coach anywhere in the world rather than be limited to one in their area.
Is ADHD Coaching Effective?
Many adults with ADHD who use a coach believe it keeps them on track and helps them stay focused on what they need to do to get ahead in their career and personal life. Research published in the Journal of Attention Disorders showed that coaching is an effective way to help college students with ADHD stay centered on achieving their goals. Students were coached by telephone for 30 minutes each week and maintained contact with their coach through email and texting. Coaching helped the students move toward their objectives, better manage projects and deadlines and overcome barrier and thought patterns that kept them from succeeding.
Some clients meet with their coaches an hour or more each week by phone or in person, especially in the beginning, but it’s more typical for a session to be around 30 minutes weekly with a few contacts during the week to “check in.” The ability of a person with ADHD to connect with their coach between appointments is important since things can happen between sessions that make it easy for them to slide back into old habits. Sometimes 5 minutes of phone support is all they need to get back on track.
One problem for some clients is follow-through. Coaching won’t work unless the client is committed to changing. That’s why some ADHD coaches require clients to commit to and pay for 3 months before taking them on – to increase the likelihood they’ll follow through. For those who do, the results can be gratifying. When they start to make progress and move toward their goals, it reinforces their commitment and motivation and builds self-esteem. As a client becomes more confident, they may feel confident with less frequent coaching sessions. Most clients eventually “flee the nest” after they’ve learned the skills they need to succeed on their own but some adult ADHDers require occasional “booster sessions” when they start to fall back into old habits and thought patterns.
The Bottom Line?
ADHD coaching isn’t for everyone. It requires a high level of commitment and desire to change since the coach can’t do the work – they can only offer support and advice. But for some adults with ADHD, coaching helps develop the skills they need to be productive and the self-esteem they need to achieve. The key is to choose a coach who understands the needs of people with ADHD and who have the skills to work with them each step of the way. Certification means a coach has had a certain level of training but good communication skills are just as important. In other words, take the time to choose the right coach for the job. It makes a difference.
Psychology in the Schools. 42, 647-655.