While medications are excellent for symptom management, ADHD therapy can provide guidance for more complex challenges, like dealing with stress at work, enhancing self-esteem, and strengthening interpersonal relationships. If you're looking for additional help beyond your meds, consider the following types of ADHD therapy.
Behavior therapy is commonly recommended for children with ADHD. This type of therapy provides parents and caregivers with helpful ways to promote positive behaviors and discourage disruptive or problem behaviors. A behavior therapist will work with the parents to guide them in learning these techniques. In addition, the therapist will work directly with the child on ways to better manage their behavior and recognize the symptoms of their ADHD.
It's important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends trying behavior therapy before medication for children younger than 6 years old. For ages 6 and up, the recommendation is to try both behavior therapy and ADHD medication together.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
It's tough to overcome the low self-esteem and discouraging thoughts which often develop as a result of ADHD. People with the disorder may develop an unhealthy internal dialogue about themselves as a result of criticism and judgment from others.
That's where cognitive behavioral therapy can help. Commonly abbreviated as CBT, this type of therapy was originally used to treat mood disorders. However, it's now one of the treatments commonly recommended for adults with ADHD.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, patients learn to change their negative thought patterns and overcome the emotional issues that may have developed as a result of their ADHD. The idea behind CBT is that we formulate automatic thoughts in response to certain situations. Someone with ADHD who has low self-confidence due to their disorder may tend to have negative thoughts pop up in many scenarios, especially if they also suffer from anxiety or depression. People in CBT learn how to identify those negative thoughts and develop a healthier mental attitude toward themselves and their ability to handle different challenges.
There's a specific type of CBT called mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCT) which may be beneficial for people with ADHD. MBCT combines cognitive behavioral therapy principles with mindfulness meditation, which research suggests may help improve attention control and emotional regulation for people with ADHD.
Occupational therapy (OT) helps people overcome challenges in everyday activities by adapting the environment to fit the individual. People with ADHD can benefit from this type of therapy by learning strategies to help in a number of areas, such as:
- Functioning at school or at work
- Completing tasks at home
- Managing relationships and interpersonal conflict
For example, an occupational therapist could help a child who struggles with self-regulation and sensory processing by teaching them activities to defuse anger or frustration. For an adult who struggles to concentrate at work, OT could help them develop focusing techniques and time management skills. OT could also help someone learn how to set up useful routines, improve social interactions, relieve stress, and reduce impulsivity.
In occupational therapy, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. These therapists develop highly individualized plans to help each person with ADHD overcome the challenges they're facing.
Other Types of Therapy for ADHD
There are a few other types of therapy which have been shown to provide benefits for people with ADHD. Some of these therapy options include:
When someone has ADHD, their home is their safe place where they can relax and be themselves. However, that may mean that their family bears the brunt of their ADHD behaviors, which may cause tension with loved ones.
Attending family therapy can be helpful to repair and strengthen close relationships which have been affected by ADHD, like a parent's relationship with their child, the relationship between adolescent siblings, or the relationship between spouses. Working with a therapist with an understanding of ADHD can also help the non-ADHD members of the family better understand the challenges their loved one faces due to the disorder.
People with ADHD can experience a number of benefits from types of therapy which promote artistic and creative expression. For example, music therapy can involve listening to or composing music to improve memory and mood while reducing muscle tension and blood pressure levels. Similar outcomes can be gained from other types of art therapy, such as dance therapy or visual art therapy.
ADHD support groups
Support groups for people with ADHD can be a helpful resource. Some of these groups are run by licensed therapists, while others are more informal meetings with fellow ADHDers. In either case, the experience of attending an ADHD support group can be very therapeutic. It offers a chance to vent about problems and brainstorm solutions with people who understand what it's like having an ADHD brain. In addition, support groups offer a chance to form strong social bonds, which is something that people with the disorder sometimes struggle with.