ADD and ADHD Behavior Therapies: Treatment Alternatives

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ADD and ADHD behavior therapies are a popular non-medication approach being used to treat these disorders. Also referred to as behavior management, the focus of these therapies is to help the patient learn to behave in ways that are socially appropriate. They set out to decrease inappropriate behavior by providing consistent negative consequences to inappropriate behavior. There are different behavior therapies that may be used, and it is important to learn about each one before deciding which is best for the individual patient.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is one of the ADD and ADHD behavior therapies. This focuses on providing the patient positive consequences for appropriate behavior. This therapy is modeled under the thinking that a person will increase his performance of appropriate behavior when he or she is rewarded for it. At the simplest level, a simple word or two of encouragement works. On a higher level, material items may work. When patients, specifically children, realize that their efforts to behave appropriately are being recognized and appreciated, they will have a strong desire to keep up the appropriate behavior.

Negative Consequences

Negative consequences is another behavior therapy that can be employed. This revolves around punishment or consequences being administered to decrease inappropriate behavior. When negative consequences are consistent, the patient’s undesirable behavior should decrease in intensity and frequency. It is important to not overdo negative consequences, and the patient must clearly understand each consequence and what behaviors lead to such consequences.


This type of therapy works to help ADHD and ADD patients to learn to accept themselves regardless of their disorder. It does not address the underlying cause or the symptoms, however. During psychotherapy, the patient will talk to her therapist about upsetting feelings and thoughts, learn how to handle emotions in alternative ways, and will explore what is known as self-defeating behavior patterns. As the therapist and patient talk, the therapist works to try and aid the patient in understanding how to cope with their disorder or change their disorder.

Social Skills Training

This type of therapy is done to help patients learn new behaviors. The therapist will model and discuss the behaviors that are appropriate in maintaining and developing social relationships. The patient will also be given time to practice these behaviors. This type of therapy helps the patient learn and develop better ways to socialize and interact with others.

Key Points

With any behavior therapy, there are ways to ensure the therapy is successful. These key points include:

  • Convey expected behavior very clearly so that the patient knows exactly what they need to do to get the reward.
  • Do not work on too many things at once.
  • Make sure the goals of therapy are attainable.
  • Make sure all expectations are reasonable.
  • Let the patient help in choosing the rewards.
  • Ensure there are plenty of social rewards.
  • Be consistent.


Rabiner, D. MD. (2010). Behavioral Treatment for ADHD: An Overview. Retrieved on December 21, 2010 from

National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved on December 21, 2010 from the National Institute of Mental Health: