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Navigating ADHD
with Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC

How to be Your Own ADHD Coach

When I work with someone who has ADHD, it’s not just about reaching into my bag of tricks and offering them another tip, solution, or strategy. My role as their coach is to help them clarify their goals, identify potential barriers, and create a plan for success. In essence. I’m really teaching them the skills to act as their own coach after our weekly sessions eventually come to an end. Here’s how you can tackle your ADHD-related challenges like a coach.

1. Educate yourself about ADHD, particularly your own

The first step toward finding a solution is defining the problem. That’s why It’s critically important to educate yourself about the neurobiology of ADHD and how it plays a role in the challenges typically associated with the condition such as poor focus and follow through. You don’t need a degree in neurology by any means but learning the fundamentals of how the ADHD brain functions is often a lightbulb moment for many of my clients.

For example, many people are unaware of the fact that the ADHD brain is actually UNDER stimulated and needs to be activated in order to function efficiently. That’s why activities and tasks that you find easy, fun, or exciting are probably much easier to tackle than those you don’t.

Knowing that the ADHD brain requires stimulation in order to function properly is an integral part of creating a successful action plan (more on that later).

However, it’s not enough to know about ADHD. You need to get to know YOUR ADHD. ADHD will look different from person to person so it’s important to pay attention to the ways ADHD is showing up in your life as well as any contributing factors which improve or worsen your symptoms.

2. Identify your unique learning/processing style

Each of us have preferred methods of taking in and processing information. For example, some people are visual learners or need some type of visual stimulus in order to focus; others respond well to auditory or hands-on learning methods.

Most people have a learning and processing style that combines multiple preferred methods. Knowing how you best attend to and take in information will help you choose the appropriate tools and strategies for the way you learn.

To determine your preferred method/s, pay attention to the methods you tend to gravitate toward. If you love audio books and podcasts, you’re probably an auditory learner. If you learn best by watching a step-by-step demonstration, you’re likely a visual learner.

3. Recognize and celebrate your strengths

The first thing I ask my client at the beginning of our session is, “What are your wins? What went well this week?” It’s so incredibly important to take the time to actually recognize and celebrate our strengths. We tend to get so caught up on what isn’t going well that we completely miss what is.

Much like your learning and processing style, when you understand what your strengths are you can choose strategies and create an action plan which takes advantage of your natural abilities and attributes.

Not sure what your strengths are? Here are a few questions to ask yourself…

What do you love to do? What are your passions, talents, and hobbies? What do you enjoy about them?

What are you good at? What makes you good at that particular activity?

What have loved ones, co-workers, or friends said they love or appreciate about you?

4. Take note of what works and what doesn’t, without judgment

Coaching is a process through which you begin to discover what contributes to or hinders your success. I tell my clients that there is no failure, only results. Rather than being self-critical when things don’t go as planned, use it as a teachable moment: What went well? What didn’t? What might you do differently next time?

Whatever the outcome, here are some important questions to consider…

What contributed to your success or kept you from reaching your goal?

What has helped you overcome this type of challenge in the past?

When has it been easy for you to be on time, stay organized, follow through, meet a deadline, etc.? What was it about these scenarios that contributed to your success?

Is this a pattern that you have been repeating?

What emotions came up for you in the moment? What triggered these emotions?

Did you engage in positive or negative self-talk? How did this help or hinder your success?

A great way to keep track of what works and what doesn’t is to create your own “operations manual”. Keep a running log of successes, ongoing challenges, helpful strategies, tools, etc. that you can refer to when creating an action plan.

5. Create an action plan

Now that you have all this great information at your disposal, it’s time to create an action plan.

The first step is to clarify your goal: What specifically are you working toward? What’s the end result? How will you know you’ve achieved your goal?

Next, identify the steps you will take toward reaching that goal. Writing each step down can help you stay organized and on-track. Make sure to break each step down into action items that feel doable. If you feel intimidated or overwhelmed, make the steps smaller.

Finally, give yourself a deadline for completing each task. When will you work on each step and by what time does it need to be completed by?

Here are some other questions to consider when creating your action plan…

How can you use your strengths and preferred learning/processing style(s) to help you reach your goal?

What strategies, systems, and/or tools will you use to help support you?

How can you make working toward your goal more fun, exciting, interesting, and engaging in order to activate your brain and prepare it for action?

What, if anything, has gotten in the way of achieving this goal, or a similar goal in the past? What can you do to prepare for and address these potential hurdles?

7. Review, revise, and repeat

This is perhaps the most important stage in the coaching process: reviewing your progress, making changes where needed, and trying again. Go back to the questions in step 4 to help you determine what worked and what you might try doing differently next time.

When we are attempting to make positive changes in our lives, it is never a success-only journey. There will be lots of ups and downs, stops and starts. And that’s okay. The most important thing you can do is to keep trying until you find success. And don’t forget to celebrate when you do!

Image: Pixabay/Mohamed_Hassan

How to be Your Own ADHD Coach

Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC

Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC is a social worker, ADHD consultant, and certified life coach. Her practice, Lotus Life Coaching Services, provides coaching services for adults, youth, and families impacted by ADD/ADHD and executive function challenges.

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APA Reference
van Rikxoort, N. (2019). How to be Your Own ADHD Coach. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Oct 2019
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