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5 Tips If You’re Considering Adult ADHD Counselling

Woman with ADHD talking to her female therapist in an office
Getty Images / Wavebreakmedia

Deciding whether you should try counselling or therapy to treat your ADHD symptoms can be tough.

When managing ADHD as an adult, therapy is typically used in combination with other treatments. But using a combination of options doesn’t mean that managing your ADHD symptoms will be easy. Therapy requires a lot of effort. Choosing to commit to the hard work of therapy can be a difficult decision for many with ADHD.

Here are five tips to consider if you think ADHD counselling or therapy might be right for you:

1. Ensure you want to commit to ADHD therapy

For many people, therapy is hard work. The process usually involves recalling and sharing emotional experiences of the past, uncovering your weaknesses, learning about your strengths, and implementing changes with the support of your therapist.

At times, some people find counselling to be emotionally draining, mentally exhausting, time-consuming, and expensive. The idea behind most counselling techniques is to help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, and to explore what you can do to change your own behavior. This process may help you learn to cope better with your ADHD.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve known for years that you have ADHD, or if you’re only recently diagnosed. If you believe ADHD therapy will be helpful for you — at any age — it’s worth considering. But remember that therapy takes a commitment of time and energy. You’re likely to get more out of therapy if you’re invested in the process and willing to implement the new strategies you learn. If now doesn’t feel like the right time, that’s okay!

2. Check your insurance coverage and budget

If you have insurance, check to find out if therapy is covered. If it is, make sure you’re aware of how much of the cost per session is covered, whether or not you have any out-of-pocket copays, and how many sessions are covered in total.

Your insurance might only provide coverage for certain types of specialists. Professionals who may offer ADHD therapy include clinical psychologists, behavioral therapists, clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication as well as provide therapy. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are registered nurses who are licensed to prescribe medication and provide therapy. Before you choose a therapist, be sure to find out whether their practice is covered by your insurance.

If you don’t have insurance, or if your insurance doesn’t cover the service you want, consider checking with a local college or university. They may have free or low-cost options available to the community. These programs usually allow students who are training to become counselling professionals a chance to work with actual clients. In addition, some clinics offer sliding scale fees based on your income to allow more people to access therapy. It’s always worthwhile to check out these clinics too.

3. Learn about different types of counselling

A variety of different types of therapy exist, and some are more commonly used in treating ADHD than others. Here are two options that you might consider:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

One of most common types of therapy for ADHD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The CBT approach is goal-oriented. A CBT therapist will work with you to identify how you think about certain situations or problems, and consider why your thought patterns might maintain certain behaviors. Then, together with the therapist, you develop strategies to change your thoughts, and in turn, your behavior.

The underlying goal of CBT is to change specific behaviors that you want to change. Generally, you’ll only work on one behavior at a time. For example, a person might choose to work on containing angry outbursts or procrastination. CBT is flexible: There’s no one way to do things, and if the strategies you try don’t work, you can try new methods.

Behavior therapy

While this approach is often used in children, behavior therapy may also be a helpful option for adults with ADHD. Like CBT, behavior therapy focuses on specific behaviors you want to change. The difference is that behavior therapy focuses on conditioning your behavior through feedback, rewards, consequences, and other factors.

Behavior therapy may help you learn to set up your environment in the best way to achieve the behaviors you want. It also emphasizes time management, scheduling, and organizational skills. One of the goals of behavior therapy is to create more routine in your life, which may make it easier for you to stick with the behavioral patterns you want.

When it comes to therapy, there are many more options available — but these approaches are two of the most common. What type of therapy you choose will depend on your specific circumstances and goals.

4. Check if your therapist has experience treating ADHD

If you’re seeking therapy to help you manage ADHD symptoms, you may find it more helpful to choose a therapist who has experience treating people with ADHD. Before you make an appointment, look into the therapist’s background. Do they say that they treat ADHD on their website? Have they done any research on ADHD? You can also ask them on the phone, by email, or at an appointment.

This tip comes from my personal experience seeing a therapist who didn’t have experience treating ADHD. I liked the therapist, but he was learning about ADHD only one step ahead of me in therapy. Although I appreciated that he was learning from me — and I loved that he emailed me articles — I think I could have benefitted from seeing a therapist with more experience in adult ADHD counselling.

To start your ADHD therapy, search the easy way — you’re already online, after all — using the Psychology Today Find a Therapist tool.

5. Find a good fit with your therapist

In order for therapy to go well, you have to feel comfortable with your therapist. Finding someone you “click” with is important. If you don’t feel safe, valued, and appreciated by your therapist — or simply feel their approach isn’t quite working for you — it may be time to move on. Trust your instincts!

It may take a few sessions for you to get a sense of whether you feel your therapist is a good fit for you. Don’t feel bad if you have to part ways: the important thing to remember is that you’re both investing in you. If it’s not working, it’s not working! It’s perfectly fine if you have to meet a few therapists before you find your match.

The take away

You may find therapy more helpful if you go into the process with some goals — it might include a vision you have for your future or challenges you want to tackle. Your therapist can help you refine these goals. During therapy you may uncover new goals, and your therapist can help you navigate those, too. You have a lot of control over the outcomes of your therapy.

In my experience, staying focused on goals and outcomes can make a huge difference. From my perspective, it helps ensure that therapy sets you back on track in your present life, helps you focus on what you want to achieve, and provides strategies you can use now and in the future.

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

Article Resources

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 

ADHD-US-NP-00016 MAY 2018

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