Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) coaching teaches people skills for managing their symptoms and maximizing their strengths.
An ADHD coach may work with an individual or with their caregivers or family. For example, a coach might teach parents how to help a child manage school and homework.
However, coaching is a complementary tool rather than an ADHD treatment. It can help people steadily master executive functioning, determine which environments are most effective for them, and advocate for themselves.
Read on to learn more about ADHD coaching, whether it works, who it may be suitable for, and how it compares to other approaches.
ADHD coaching is a supportive tool that helps people reach goals.
It is not a type of talk therapy, and it does not treat ADHD. Instead, it helps people with ADHD learn skills to help them achieve what they want.
Coaching comes in many forms. Some things a coach might do include:
- teaching a person study skills
- offering tips for improving executive functioning, planning, and organization
- helping a person advocate for themselves at work or school
- encouraging them to identify the environments in which they thrive and then recreate or seek out similar environments
- helping a person develop impulse control strategies
- teaching social skills and problem-solving
- supporting parents or other caregivers so they can interact more effectively with loved ones with ADHD
ADHD coaches can have a background in psychotherapy or mental health. However, this is not always the case because it is not a licensed profession.
In one form or another, coaching has long been part of how people support those with ADHD. For example, caregivers helping a child figure out how to break down a complicated task into smaller steps could be an example of ADHD coaching.
However, formal ADHD coaching is a relatively new profession that scientists have not studied extensively. The existing research has been generally positive, but it has some limitations.
A 2017 review looked at 19 studies that examined coaching-related ADHD outcomes. Of these, 17 studies found improvements in symptoms. Six studies demonstrated improved well-being. Six showed high satisfaction with coaching, and three showed that improvements persisted.
In a small 2019 study, researchers assessed the benefits of coaching for parents of children with ADHD. Researchers asked 31 parents to read a self-help book, while 35 got emotional coaching from a therapist. The interventions were equally effective.
However, many of the studies to date have had low numbers of participants and different study designs. This makes it difficult to know if the results are reliable or if they would apply to the general public.
Because of these drawbacks, it is impossible to conclusively state that coaching works for everyone. It is also not possible to assert how well it works relative to other approaches.
Anecdotally, though, many people with ADHD say that coaching has helped them generally or has helped with issues that traditional interventions did not.
There is little research on the specific benefits of ADHD coaching. This may vary depending on a person’s goals and the style of coaching they receive.
Anecdotally, some people report that coaching helps with:
- Understanding ADHD: Coaching usually involves education about ADHD. Understanding how ADHD works, which settings exacerbate it, and how to manage symptoms may help a person feel more of a sense of control over their diagnosis and symptoms.
- Goal-setting: Coaches work with their clients to set specific goals. This can help people identify and prioritize their needs and improve their quality of life.
- Self-advocacy: People with ADHD may need to advocate for their needs at work or school more often than others. A coach can help them identify opportunities to advocate for themselves and how best to do so.
- Relationships: Coaching may help a person learn valuable skills that can benefit relationships, such as communicating clearly and listening to others. Sometimes, coaches may also help families or employers better understand ADHD and the person’s needs.
Coaching is part of a variety of interventions that can help a person with ADHD.
One of the main ADHD treatments is medication, which a person could take while receiving coaching for additional help focusing.
Some other options include:
- Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy helps a person manage the effects that ADHD may have on their emotional and mental health. Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can also teach a person methods of managing their feelings and help them achieve short- or long-term goals.
- Psychosocial approaches: These interventions help a person cultivate social skills, relate to others, and set goals. Coaching is an example of a psychosocial approach. Family therapy, another example, can help a family learn to communicate more effectively and work together to manage symptoms.
- Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation is the process of teaching the person with ADHD and those who love them about their diagnosis. This can help a person develop strategies for managing symptoms and may reduce family conflict. It can be especially important for families of children with ADHD.
Although these interventions can be very effective, current evidence suggests they
There is currently no research on who ADHD coaching may benefit most. However, it may be especially useful as an extra form of support for people who:
- want to understand ADHD and how it affects daily life in more detail
- are looking for additional help with functioning at school, work, or in relationships
- have goals they want to achieve
- do not respond well to ADHD medications or do not want to take them
- have a child or loved one with ADHD that they would like to be able to better understand and communicate with
Coaching is not a replacement for medication, and it will be much less effective if a person does not seek treatment.
ADHD coaching is not licensed, so anyone can say they are an ADHD coach.
Generally, people have some kind of background in mental health services, social work, or direct experience with ADHD. However, this is not a requirement.
ADHD coaching is a new field with no official organization to license or regulate the people who practice. This makes it especially important for people to research thoroughly before hiring someone.
When looking for an ADHD coach, it may help to make sure they:
- have a professional background related to coaching, mental health, or ADHD
- are knowledgeable about ADHD and neurodiversity
- listen to their clients
- treat people with kindness and empathy
- can clearly explain their approach to coaching
- are open and transparent about their fees
- do not claim to be able to cure or treat ADHD
- do not step outside their scope of practice by making treatment recommendations, such as telling someone to stop taking medication
- can demonstrate their skills via positive reviews or references
ADHD coaching may help people with ADHD improve their quality of life and master new skills. It may also help them implement treatment recommendations from another professional, such as a psychotherapist or doctor.
ADHD coaching is not a replacement for treatment and may not work as effectively if a person is not undergoing treatment. However, some who do not want to take medications may find it still helps them.
A doctor or mental health professional who specializes in ADHD may be able to help a person find an ADHD coach. Because it is not a licensed profession, it is important to thoroughly research a person’s credentials before hiring them.