Adult ADHD Therapy - Could It Help You?
Adult ADHD therapy can greatly reduce the stress caused by adult ADHD symptoms when used in conjunction with standard stimulant medication treatment. ADHD drugsplay an essential role in allowing the patient to experience fast-acting relief from ADD symptoms; but they do not help the adult build the necessary skills to manage behaviors in challenging situations. That's where adult ADD therapy comes in.
How Adult ADHD Therapy Works
ADHD therapy for adults provides practical help in dealing with issues relevant to the person's work, social and personal life. ADHD adults suffer from many of the same issues as children with the disorder - restlessness, poor time management, short temper, impulsiveness and poor organizational skills. Therapists work with patients to help them manage challenging situations in their lives so they can function better in relationships (see ADD and Relationships), at school, and at work (see ADD, ADHD at Work). Preliminary studies have shown that psychosocial therapy combined with stimulant medication works to greatly improve the quality of life for adults with ADD. In adult ADD therapy, patients learn to understand their disorder and develop essential life skills and healthy coping techniques.
Issues Addressed in Adult ADHD Therapy
Frequently, adults with ADD have at least one additional mental disorder. Adult ADD therapy, delivered by a psychiatrist or psychologist, treats these other psychiatric conditions as well. Once the mental health practitioner has any other mental conditions under control, the patient has a better chance of effectively managing his life and negative behaviors. Adult ADHD therapy addresses many common issues associated with the disorder, including:
- Relationship problems with friends, spouse, and children
- Poor social communication skills, such as interrupting conversations
- Poor organization skills
- Poor time management
- Restlessness and chronic boredom
- Problematic habits, such as leaving tasks unfinished or needing instant gratification
Types of Adult ADD Therapy and How They Help
Adult ADD therapy utilizes several types of psychotherapy. Some types seek to educate and help the patient understand why he acts or thinks the way he does and how these thought patterns and behaviors negatively affect his quality of life. This is done by talking about destructive emotions, depression, anxiety, feelings of incompetence, and low self-esteem. The patient is taught that behaviors he always thought of as his fault are really due to neurotransmitter deficiencies in the brain.
Other types of adult ADD therapy focus on not only educating the patient about the disorder but also on learning how to manage or change the behaviors that are impacting his/her life. Mental health practitioners, experienced in skills training techniques, teach the patient how to deal with the negative feelings by rebuilding communication, organization, planning, and time management skills from the ground up. The common disciplines of psychotherapy known to help adults with ADHD include:
- Psychoeducation - this type of adult ADHD therapy instructs the patient about his condition and teaches him how to apply new behavior management skills and coping techniques in work, home life, academic and social situations.
- Skills-Training - psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, and counselors can provide skills training as part of adult ADD therapy. The patient learns organizational and planning skills that will improve functioning both at home and in the workplace.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy - studies show cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective in treating adult ADHD when used in combination with stimulant medication. This type of adult ADHD therapy targets destructive thoughts patterns causing anxiety and depression. These thought patterns undermine the patient's attempts at self-managing his disorder through the use of newly learned skills and techniques. This type of therapy often employs some type of token reward system to encourage healthy behaviors and positive thought processes.
Finding a Qualified Adult ADHD Therapy Practitioner
The best mental health therapists use some combination of the types of therapy discussed above. Finding an experienced, qualified therapist is critical to the success of ADHD therapy for adults. Adults can ask their primary care physician for referrals to ADHD therapists that they know and trust. Your local county psychological association can also provide referrals. Alternatively, people can ask others who have had successful treatment of their adult ADD for a referral. When consulting with the potential practitioner, the patient should verify that the therapist is specifically experienced in treating adult ADHD.
Last Updated: 15 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD