How ADHD coaching can lead to improved client self-efficacy and self-esteem.
Re-printed from Psychology Today
by Michael Ascher, M.D., and Lauren Ascher, J.D. M.S.T.
Clients often ask us, “Does ADHDcoaching really work?” Our answer is “yes.” Research has shown that ADHD coaching leads to improvements in ADHD and executive functioning symptoms, as well as improved client well-being, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. In addition, clients generally report high satisfaction with coaching and the ability to maintain their gains.
So what exactly is ADHD coaching? Lisa Joy Tuttle, director of Coaching and Group Programs at the Penn Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, explainsADHD coaching as a partnership that focuses “not on what’s wrong with you, but rather, what works for you.” Coaching provides a safe, collaborative space for clients to explore their interests and goals, with the support of a non-judgmental partner who collects data on which specific strategies will get them there.
No two people are the same, and so coaching provides individually tailored support to harness each client’s unique strengths. Research consistently shows that by developing good relationships, collaboratively setting goals, and instilling hope in their clients, coaches regularly achieve successful outcomes. Below are some of the ways ADHD coaches help their clients.
Verbal processors make sense of the world by speaking aloud. Talking helps verbal processors refine ideas, clarify information, and reach new conclusions. Most people with ADHD can benefit from verbal processing and, therefore, can benefit from coaching. Coaches ask clarifying questions to help facilitate client breakthroughs. Through active listening and reflection, coaches help clients extend their thinking and figure out how to realize their ideas and visions.
Accountability and Scaffolding
People with ADHD often struggle with motivation, organization, and working memory, making it difficult for them to implement new strategies. Coaches can keep clients on track. They help clients restart when distractions get in the way, and prevent the all-too-common shame spiral that usually results from their perceived failures. By working with clients on how to harness their own natural motivation, coaches teach their clients executive functioning skills to help them stay on task. This eventually leads to the ability to manufacture motivation where it might not already exist. Coaches are partners with their clients in the learning, practice, and mastery of these skills.
Individuals with ADHD tend to become stuck when overwhelmed. This is known as “ADHD paralysis,” and occurs when overwhelm gets in the way of effective thinking or functioning. This can happen when too many converging thoughts, emotions, tasks, or choices crowd the ADHD brain and cause it to shutdown. Coaches can help clients overcome this overwhelm by breaking things down into the smallest first steps. This support helps clients overcome the procrastination and avoidance that is all too common because of emotional overwhelm.
In the world of ADHD, a body double is someone who keeps you company as you tackle hard-to-complete tasks. Many people with ADHD are able to increase their focus when someone else is focusing near them at the same time, even if that person is engaged in a completely different task. An ADHD coach is the ultimate body double. By being fully present with a client during sessions, coaches become body double partners for their clients. Taking small steps to initiate unpreferred tasks with the encouragement of a coach can help decrease anxiety and help clients take action.
In sum, ADHD coaching leads to beneficial client outcomes by providing opportunities for verbal processing, accountability, decreasing overwhelm, and body doubling. As we move more towards multimodal treatment approaches to ADHD, coaching is becoming increasingly recognized as an indispensable piece of the treatment puzzle.
To learn more about the power of ADHD Coaching, please listen to Laureninterview Lisa Joy Tuttle on Episode 003 of The Wavy Brain Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Tuttle, L.J., (2021). Evidence-Based Coaching for Adults with ADHD. Attention Magazine.
Kubik, J. A. (2010). Efficacy of ADHD coaching for adults with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 13(5), 442–453.
Ahmann, E., Tuttle, L.J., & Wright, S.D. (2017). Emerging Evidence for the Efficacy of Coaching for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Maryland University of Integrative Health.