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  • Writer's pictureRyan Sheridan, NP

Is Therapy Good for ADHD? An Integrative Explanation

Updated: May 17, 2023



 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Therapy is a critical part of the treatment and management of ADHD.

  2. While medication for ADHD is helpful, medication should always be used in conjunction with therapy.

  3. There are lots of therapy modalities that are effective for ADHD, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

  4. Integrative psychiatry provides a holistic platform for ADHD treatment and management.

 

Therapy is the single most important treatment Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the long run.


Alert! I don’t like the word disorder! Remember, I think ADHD is a divergence that is not inherently negative!

We know ADHD is chronic and is characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. And that people with ADHD struggle with executive functioning, which makes it difficult for them to complete tasks, organize their lives, and manage their time. ADHD can impact their relationships, work, and daily functioning. In this blog, we will discuss the importance of therapy for ADHD and why I consider therapy to be the most important component of any treatment plan.


Moreover, I believe in this method. Maybe because I have ADHD myself or maybe because I've seen first hand, as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, the value of therapy in treatment.

Therapy for ADHD

Therapy is a crucial component of treating ADHD because in therapy people with ADHD develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms. With therapy we are learning to understand our strengths, weaknesses, and limitation so that we can self-regulate, problem solve, and live intentionally.

Why not just take a pill for ADHD and get on with life? Well, for starters, not everyone can safely take a pill. And those who can safely take a pill today can expect that down the road they will encounter reduced efficacy, medication interactions, and/or reduced tolerability. This not to say folks shouldn’t take medication for ADHD, but medication should never be the only form of treatment for ADHD.

Medication should be used to support the work in therapy.

Therapy fosters resiliency, an imperative trait that is linked to individual success.

But therapy is a long and hard, can’t I just take a pill? Again, medication still has a place in the treatment plan for some individuals – but in the long term therapy can be more effective! Think of therapy like exercise for a muscle, when we train the muscle it gets stronger over time. Our brains are similar in that the “workouts” we do for our brain contribute to our mental and cognitive strength.


This holistic approach to treatment is what integrative psychiatry for ADHD is all about - we work to promote healing from a whole body perspective, not just with pills.

Here are a few more ways therapy can help individuals with ADHD:


1. Understand their condition: Therapy can provide individuals with a better understanding of ADHD, including its symptoms of ADHD and how it impacts their life. When we understand how our brains operate, we are more likely to be successful at learning, relating to others, and feeling comfortable with who we are.

2. Develop coping strategies: Therapy can teach individuals practical skills and strategies to manage their symptoms. Coping strategies may include time management techniques, organizational skills, mindfulness exercises, and communication skills. These kinds of strategies directly improve quality of life, especially when learned early.

3. Improve relationships: ADHD can affect an individual's relationships with family, friends, and coworkers. Therapy can help individuals learn communication skills and build stronger relationships. As we know, relationships are fundamental part of our mental health, so maintain or improving relationships is super important to helping us manage things like ADHD.

4. Address comorbid conditions: Discussed more below, anxiety and depression are common conditions that appear with ADHD. Therapy can help individuals manage these conditions, leading to an overall improvement in their mental health.

5. Build self-esteem: Individuals with ADHD may experience low self-esteem due to challenges with their condition. Therapy can help individuals build self-esteem and develop a positive self-image.


Overall, therapy is an irreplaceable tool for individuals with ADHD as it can help them manage their symptoms, improve their relationships, and lead to an overall improvement in their quality of life.

What types of therapy are good for ADHD?


There are a number of therapy styles that work for ADHD, more than what is listed below. The important thing is to find a provider with whom you connect and a style that works for you.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for ADHD:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on changing patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors. It helps individuals with ADHD identify their negative thought patterns and learn to replace them with more positive ones. CBT can also help individuals develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms, such as improving time management and organizational skills.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for ADHD:

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on developing coping mechanisms for ADHD and problem-solving skills. It can help individuals with ADHD learn to manage their emotions and develop healthy relationships. DBT can also help individuals develop mindfulness skills to help manage stress and anxiety.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for ADHD:

This is the therapy modality I use!

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that focuses on acceptance and mindfulness. It helps individuals with ADHD learn to accept their symptoms and focus on living a meaningful life. ACT can help individuals develop skills to manage their symptoms, such as mindfulness and self-compassion.


Bonus: Coaching for ADHD


Coaching for ADHD is similar to therapy in that coping strategies may be a focus, but coaching is mostly concerned with the practical side while therapy is often more the emotional side. Both are important! I tend to view coaching and therapy as complementary, so I provider coaching along with therapy in my treatment plans for ADHD.

Overlapping anxiety and depression in ADHD

ADHD often coexists with anxiety and depression. It is essential to address these comorbid conditions in therapy to achieve optimal outcomes. Overlapping anxiety and depression can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, making it difficult for individuals to manage their daily lives.

Anxiety and ADHD

Anxiety is a the most common coexisting condition with ADHD. Anxiety can show up as worry, fear, or panic attacks. Therapy can help individuals with ADHD develop coping strategies to manage their anxiety, including challenging and changing thought patterns and uncovering root causes.

Depression and ADHD

Depression is another coexisting condition with ADHD. Depression can present as sadness, hopelessness, or a lack of interest in life. Again, therapy can help individuals with ADHD learn to manage their depression by developing coping strategies, unmasking emotional traumas, and working toward stronger emotional regulation.

Conclusion: Therapy and ADHD

Therapy is an essential component of treating ADHD. It can help individuals with ADHD develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms, such as improving time management and organizational skills. Integrative psychiatry combines traditional psychiatric treatments with complementary and alternative therapies to promote holistic healing.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that focuses on acceptance and mindfulness and can be an effective treatment option for individuals with ADHD. Overlapping anxiety and depression can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, making it essential to address these comorbid conditions in therapy to achieve optimal outcomes. In conclusion, therapy is a vital tool for individuals with ADHD, and along with integrative psychiatry, can provide a holistic approach to healing.


If you're in the Washington, DC area and would like to learn more about therapy for ADHD, book a free 15 minute intro for ADHD treatment here!


If you have any additional questions about ADHD or integrative psychiatry in general, shoot me an email or reach out through my website. If you're looking for a provider and you're in the Washington, DC area, I'd love to help you on your treatment journey!


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