Differences Between Therapists and ADHD Coaches

As an ADHD coach, one of the questions I am frequently asked is “What is the difference between therapists and ADHD coaches?” While there is some overlap between the two professions, therapists and ADHD coaches have two distinct roles:

Role of Therapists

Therapists help folks deal with their feelings. They help get to the root of emotional issues by looking at the “why” behind them. This often involves looking into a person’s past and diagnosing psychological issues or conditions. In other words, a therapist is an expert who is focused on healing. The therapeutic process often starts with a diagnosis and moves from there to treatment, which often includes dealing with any emotional issues – depression, anxiety, stress – arising from or surrounding the condition.

In terms of ADHD, a therapist is often the professional who first diagnoses it. While a therapist may refer a patient to a physician for a medical prescription, a therapist also helps a patient deal with the emotional impact of ADHD on his or her life.

Role of ADHD Coaches:

Coaches, on the other hand, help folks to clarify and reach their goals by asking “what now?” and “how?” A coaching relationship is focused on action and moving forward to deal with practical issues and reach goals. The relationship is a collaboration and is often more flexible than that of a therapist and patient.

In terms of ADHD, a coach initially helps a client understand how ADHD is impacting his or her efforts to move forward in their lives. A coach acts as a project manager for a person by working with him or her to find direction, motivation, resources, and strategies. A coach helps a person break down a goal into manageable tasks and provides consistent accountability. Most importantly, a coach often acts as a cheerleader, providing a positive “you can do it” voice amid the negative self talk that is so often present with ADHD.

Positives of Disorganization

Sometimes dealing with ADHD challenges is a matter of perspective. The key is to look at our unique brain wiring and ADHD tendencies in a positive light. The author of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, gives us a great example of how to do this by looking at the positives of disorganization:

One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.

ADHD Diagnosis or Personality Type INTP

I have a few questions for you to determine if you fall within the Personality Type INTP:

  • Are you sometimes so focused on something you can seem detached? Oblivious?
  • Do you live in your mind?
  • Are you shy with new people?
  • Are you sometimes rebellious of social conventions (AKA fashions, homework)?
  • Can you be rigid when it comes to your values or beliefs?
  • Do you sometimes abandon projects once you lose interest in it?
  • Do you sometimes have a difficult time giving warmth and support?
  • Are you sometimes late turning in homework or paying bills?
  • Do you second guess yourself a lot?

If you said yes to most of these questions, you may be a Myers Briggs Personality Type INTP, one of Carl Jung’s 16 personality types. The letters themselves stand for Introverted, Intuition, Thinking and Perceiving; but I betcha you thought I was going to tell you the characteristics mentioned fall under the ADHD umbrella. They do, which makes sense when you consider ADHD as simply a different kind of brain wiring. However you characterize the tendencies listed above, the trick is to figure out how to use them to your advantage.

If you want to find out more about INTP and personality types, check out TypeLogic.com and PersonalityPage.com.

ADHD Information Nugget: Success and Depression

I read an article the other day by noted ADHD experts, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D. In the article, the authors provided 50 management techniques for people living with ADHD. As I read through them, a couple jumped out at me, but none more so than number 37. The item talked about the depression that often follows a success for a person with ADHD.

Wow! It’s an ADHD thing.

These noted experts in the field just acknowledged one of my life truths that in addition to leaving me depressed also left me feeling confused and frustrated. That’s right, I have a hard time enjoying a success, yet I can ruminate like nobody’s business on a mistake or failure.

The article goes on to say that the depression is most likely the result of coming down from the “high stimulus” of the preparation and challenge of the activity. As you mull this over, remember that the ADHD mind thrives on stimulus. Good or bad, the revved up feeling you get as you prepared for something is stimulating.

The “tip” in the article is to expect to feel down as you experience the lull following a success, but I’d add a little tip of my own here. Like many “tendencies” of ADHD, perception is everything. For instance, the ADHD tendency of hyper focus can be good or bad depending on how you look at it and use it. In this case, that revved up feeling can be good or bad as a stimulus depending on how you perceive and label it. If you label it as anxiety, it is something to avoid. If you label it as excitement, it is something to be craved.

If this trick of perception can be true of a stimulus, it can also be true of the lull that follows it. If you expect the lull and are willing to look at it differently, you can take a deep breath and dismiss it as your “come-down blues” or “post-happy glum.”

Do you experience depression following a success? How do you handle it?

Coming to Terms With ADHD

Frankly, I didn’t even think of ADHD when my son started having challenges in elementary school. Granted, he wasn’t the most sociable of kids, but not every kid is. Homework, too, was something that wasn’t his forte; but, hey, he functioned well enough, and he certainly wasn’t hyper or disruptive.

The worst that could be said about my son during his elementary-school years was that he needed a nudge or three to get school work done. Compared to the kid who had daily temper tantrums or the one who consistently disrespected the teacher, his issues seemed relatively tame. He was just in own little world; but, hey, he was six. Eventually, though, he was seven and then eight.

As the years went by, our parent-teacher conferences got more challenging. While he wasn’t setting the world on fire in school, he was functioning and everyone recognized he was bright. That’s why it seemed a little over the top when a teacher tried to talk us into putting him on Ritalin. I think we had a knee jerk reaction to the situation because the teacher seemed focused on pushing the medication rather than truly explaining the disorder.

After all, didn’t ADHD mean he couldn’t focus? But he could focus! Just try to get his attention when he was doing anything Star Wars related. Should we really put him on medication indefinitely because he seemed bored by writing down the assignments from the blackboard or doing homework when he already understood the material? Did we really want to label him with ADHD?

Looking back on it, we simply didn’t understand ADHD. To us it meant that something was wrong with our son that could only be fixed with heavy-duty medication. It didn’t help that we got conflicting opinions from his teacher, tutor and pediatrician. Sure, ADHD was on the table, but so was the idea that he was simply bright and apparently very bored. Which explanation would you grasp with all your might?

These days, I better understand ADHD. I understand that there are positives as well as negatives to the unique brain wiring. I understand that simply being aware of when and where ADHD affects my son’s day-to-day life helps him to find strategies to better reach his potential. I also understand that medication and/or accommodation can simply level the playing field.

I just wish all this hard-won knowledge was available to me a little earlier.