I recently got a call from a mother who was looking to hire an ADHD coach for her teen daughter. She told me that a friend of hers suggested she find an ADHD coach to which she responded, “An ADHD coach? What the heck is that? Is there such a thing? What do they do? And where would I find one?” If you’ve never heard of ADHD coaching or have considered hiring a coach but aren’t sure where to start, here’s what you should know.
Coaching is NOT Therapy
“How is coaching different from therapy?” I get this question a lot from potential clients and as someone who has worked in the mental health field for many years, I can tell you that while a therapeutic approach may involve some coaching, the two are vastly different.
Unlike therapy, coaching is client-centered, meaning that it is the client, not the coach, who determines what the focus and goal of each session will be. For example, a client might come to a session to discuss their difficulties with time management with the goal of developing a more effective morning routine.
In coaching, the client is the expert in their own life and it is the role of the coach to support them in finding the best solution for whatever challenges they are facing.
While therapy often focuses on past events and the processing of emotions and trauma, coaching is present- and future-focused. Coaches support their clients in identifying and working past barriers to help them achieve their goals.
Though coaching may be a wonderful addition to therapy, it is by no means a substitute and is not meant to provide any type of psychological intervention or treatment.
How can coaching help me manage my ADHD?
Though every coach will have their own approach and style, here are a few of the fundamentals of ADHD coaching…
1. ADHD education: It’s not enough to know about ADHD; a good coach will help you understand YOUR ADHD.
An ADHD diagnosis is a mixed bag of symptoms and challenges. What one person struggles with, another may not, so it is critically important to begin to understand the ways in which ADHD is showing up in your life.
When I work with clients, we spend a great deal of time talking about their strengths as well as their challenges. We talk about their passions, interests, and hobbies. We also talk about those times when ADHD doesn’t get in their way.
ADHD is highly situational and there is much to be learned from those instances when it’s easy for you to focus, prioritize, and follow-through. Once you understand what you need to be successful, you can begin to apply those same principles to areas of difficulty.
2. Skill development and support: So many of the challenges associated with ADHD are skill deficits which means they can be learned and improved. These include skills such as organization, prioritization, and time management as well social skills and emotional regulation.
An ADHD coach can help you develop and strengthen critical skills and provide you with tools and strategies for support along the way,
3. Personalized strategies and solutions: Because ADHD looks different from one person to the next, it requires more than a one-size-fits-all solution. A coach can help you develop personalized and practical solutions to address your ADHD-related challenges.
I often have clients tell me that they sought out an ADHD coach because even after reading all the books, articles, and blogs they were unable to successfully implement the suggested tips and strategies and blamed themselves for the lack of progress. I assure them that their lack of success isn’t due to personal failure but rather not having found the right solution.
Keep in mind, coaching is a process. You and your coach may come up with a strategy that works beautifully or falls completely flat. You might forget what was covered during your session and sometimes procrastination will get the better of you. And that’s okay! There are no failures in coaching, only opportunities for growth and learning.
I’m in! How do I find an ADHD coach?
If you’re thinking about hiring an ADHD coach, here are some important considerations to keep in mind…
Unlike the field of mental health, coaching is not strictly regulated with education and professional requirements which means that anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves an ADHD coach. However, that’s not to say that the coaching industry is without standards.
The coaching profession as a whole is governed by the International Coach Federation (ICF) which has established a set of ethical guidelines and professional competencies. Additionally, the Professional Association for ADHD Coaches (PAAC) has also put forth their own set of criteria specifically for coaches serving ADD/ADHD populations.
When interviewing coaches, be sure to ask them about them about their professional training and experience. How much training have they completed? Was it an accredited program? Do they hold any professional credentials? How long have they been coaching? Do they have any other relevant experience? It’s also wise to talk to them about their particular approach and what your goals are to make sure it’s a good fit.
To help get you started, there are several organizations, including PAAC, which maintain directories of ADHD coaches and other professionals such as the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA) and ADHD Coaches Association (ACO).