Psychotherapy may reduce symptoms in people with ADHD when they combine it with medication, according to research. There are several types of therapy that can be effective, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

There is no cure for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but various treatments can help people to manage their symptoms.

Such options can include a combination of treatments, such as medications, psychotherapy, and education.

This article discusses the use of psychotherapy in the treatment of ADHD.

A psychotherapist talking with a younger female. Psychotherapy can be beneficial for people with ADHD.Share on Pinterest
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Psychotherapy is a type of treatment for mental health conditions and emotional difficulties. It typically involves multiple sessions of active interaction between a person and a trained professional. The nature of the sessions varies depending on the type of therapy and the goal of the treatment.

Healthcare professionals will typically prescribe medications, such as stimulants, to treat ADHD symptoms. Combining medication with psychotherapy can be more effective than medication alone.

A 2020 review included 53 studies on adults with ADHD. It found clear evidence that psychotherapy could reduce ADHD symptoms, with the strongest evidence for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Another 2020 review included data on children with ADHD from 10 studies. It suggested that psychotherapy could reduce irritability and aggression in children with the condition. However, it highlighted several flaws in the studies, such as their short duration.

Learn more about psychotherapy here.

There are several types of psychotherapy that someone with ADHD can receive. The most effective type of therapy will depend on the person, their symptoms, their age, and other factors, such as co-existing mental health conditions.

Therapy for ADHD can include:

  • CBT: This may be the most effective psychotherapy for people with ADHD. It involves changing people’s thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to better deal with everyday situations.
  • Behavioral therapy: This aims to help someone with ADHD to change their behavior. It can range from practical support, such as completing homework, to emotional support. This type of support may involve other people, such as caregivers and teachers.
  • Mindfulness: This practice encourages awareness and calmness through various techniques, such as breathing exercises. People with ADHD may find the practice improves symptoms, such as reducing inattention. However, a 2017 review found limited evidence of this in children and adolescents with ADHD, and experts need more research to assess its effectiveness for ADHD.
  • Family therapy: This can involve family members or partners engaging in therapy to learn how to handle the behaviors of people with ADHD. In some cases, parenting skills training may be necessary to teach parents how to use a system of rewards and consequences to encourage behavior changes.
  • Group therapy: This typically involves multiple people receiving psychotherapy together. People with ADHD may benefit from the opportunity to learn from others with the condition and receive peer support. A 2015 trial found that group therapy was similarly effective to individual therapy.

Psychotherapy can have several benefits for people with ADHD, such as:

  • fewer side effects than ADHD medication, which can include sleep problems, changes in appetite, and headaches
  • the potential for a greater effect on symptoms than ADHD medication alone
  • tailored support and advice
  • opportunity to develop coping skills for stress and situations that will occur in daily life
  • improved communication skills

Psychotherapy can be an important part of treatment for many people with ADHD.

However, a possible downside includes the cost. Psychotherapy can be expensive, with sessions typically costing $100–$200 each time. The cost of psychotherapy may be prohibitive for some people. However, some insurance companies will cover the cost, depending on the type of coverage.

There may also be a waiting list that someone must join before receiving therapy. Group therapy can have a shorter wait time and be cheaper than individual psychotherapy because a therapist can see multiple people at once.

Some people may also find psychotherapy to be disruptive to their daily routines. Psychotherapy will typically require someone to make time in their day to visit their therapist for a session. However, people can also receive online or telephone therapy for ADHD, which can be less disruptive to daily routines.

Learn more about the most affordable therapy options here.

Medication is a primary form of treatment for people with ADHD. Healthcare professionals aim to use medication to help people with ADHD control their hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their focus. However, behavioral approaches are still the first-line treatment option for children with ADHD.

Medications for people with ADHD are either stimulants or nonstimulants. Stimulants are the most common type of medication for ADHD and work by increasing brain chemicals that affect thinking and attention. For example, stimulants include amphetamine and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

Nonstimulant medications are slower to affect symptoms but can improve focus, attention, and impulsivity. Healthcare professionals may prescribe these medications to people who experience side effects from stimulants or find they are not working.

Learn more about types of ADHD medication here.

People can find out more about treatment options for ADHD by speaking to a healthcare professional or psychiatrist. Family doctors may make referrals and recommendations for people with ADHD that can lead to therapy.

Several online resources are also available for finding accredited therapists, educational resources, and information on treatment. These include:

Learn more about who can diagnose and treat ADHD here.

Studies suggest psychotherapy can reduce symptoms of ADHD, especially when people combine it with medication.

There are different types of psychotherapy, and research suggests CBT is the most effective option for people with ADHD. Other options include family therapy.

Psychotherapy has fewer side effects than medication, but the cost can be prohibitive for some people. A person interested in trying psychotherapy to treat ADHD should check if their health insurance covers this.

They may also speak with a healthcare professional who can refer them to relevant services or use the APA directory to find an accredited therapist.