Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Attention Deficit Disorder

Patient Expert

For some people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, medication treatment is enough. Either their ADHD is mild, they have their own coping mechanisms, or having ADHD has not left any emotional scars (or any combination of the three). However, many ADHDers benefit from one form of therapy or the other in combination with medication or by itself.

The traditional psychoanalysis (think of Freud and the patient on the couch and "how was your relationship with your mother") is not necessarily going to be helpful. After all, ADHD is a disorder that is wholly chemical. Psychoanalysis is not going to be of any help to someone with ADHD any more than it would be for someone with diabetes. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), however, is thought to be very helpful for people with ADHD.

Distorted Thought Patterns

Instead of trying to dig down to find the root cause of emotional problems, CBT goes right to the solution. For instance, many people with ADHD, especially if they grew up with it, do indeed have emotional scars from all the negative feedback they have received over the years. Over time, they internalize a lot of this negativity and turn it back on themselves, and it becomes their default thought pattern.

So someone with ADHD may say to themselves A) "I'm stupid, and I can't do anything right," instead of saying B) "I have a disorder that makes certain things more difficult for me to accomplish than other people, but I'm not stupid and I can succeed if I do things a little differently."

CBT can teach you to replace statement A, which is irrational, habitual and probably the result of external negative feedback being directed at you, with statement B, which is more reasoned, productive and healthier for your self-esteem.

It is especially crucial for children with ADHD to learn how to recognize and correct distorted thought patterns. Children tend to think in black and white terms much more than adults, and they don't have the perspective regarding themselves and people they come in contact with the way adults with many more years of living and experience do.

Using CBT to become more organized

Not only can a therapist employing CBT help someone with ADHD learn to reformulate distorted, negative thought patterns, but he or she can also help the patient learn techniques that will help to become more organized. Yes, it is possible for someone with ADHD to become more organized.

A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed a larger decrease of inattention in patients who had received CBT compared to patients who had "supportive" therapy (meeting with the therapist for education and advice on dealing with symptoms).

The patients in this study who received CBT were assigned home exercises, which likely had a lot to do with their success. Practice, as well as guidance from a therapist, can make a big difference in terms of organizational ability in people with ADHD.