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The Benefits of Counseling for ADHD

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 11/9/2010

While many patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) take medication, other non-pharmacological options exist. Learn about ADHD and counseling: the types of counseling and the benefits they offer.

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    In children who are of school age, between 3 and 7 percent of them have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that can impair attention and cause hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ADHD can affect adults as well: the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) notes that 4.1 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 44 in the United States have ADHD.

    Some ADHD patients, both children and adults, may use medications to manage their symptoms. The CDC notes that as of 2003, 56 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 with ADHD took a medication for their symptoms. Examples of medications include stimulants, such as methylphenidate, and nonstimulants, such as atomoxetine. But not everyone wants to use medication to manage their symptoms or their child's symptoms, as these medications do have serious side effects. For example, atomoxetine may cause liver problems in some children, according to the

    Another treatment option for ADHD is counseling, which can be done with or without medication. With the different types of counseling available for ADHD, patients learn how to manage their symptoms. Counseling for ADHD may also help with other issues, such as social skills, and may benefit parents of patients.

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    ADHD and Counseling: Types of Counseling

    Several types of counseling exist for ADHD treatment. If the ADHD patient has trouble controlling her behavior, she may benefit from behavior therapy. In behavior therapy, the child's good behaviors are reinforced with a reward that she agrees to and the negative behaviors are discouraged using timeouts and other types of punishment. Teachers and parents are both involved in behavior therapy so that the child's behaviors are reinforced or discouraged at home and school. One method that can be used in both settings is the Daily Report Card, which can monitor the child's behaviors and if she adheres to her behavior goals set in therapy.

    If the patient has problems with social skills, the recommends social skills training. In this type of counseling for ADHD, the patient works with the therapist on her social behaviors. For example, if the patient interrupts others (a symptom of impulsiveness in ADHD), the therapist can work with her to control that and teach her more acceptable behaviors in social settings. ADHD patients may also benefit from psychotherapy, which can help them with behavioral issues, as well as other issues that may arise, such as emotional problems.

    Family members of the patient can also participate in therapy. With family therapy, the therapist includes the patient's parents and siblings and works with them on issues that have arisen from ADHD. Parents may benefit from parenting skills training, which teaches them strategies for changing the negative behavior. For example, the NIMH notes that parents can learn how to use feedback and rewards to shape their child's behavior. The family—patient and parents—may also find help with a support group for ADHD, in which they can get support and information from other families dealing with ADHD.

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    Benefits of Counseling for ADHD

    Through counseling, ADHD patients can learn to manage their symptoms on their own. The NIMH notes that behavior therapy teaches patients how to monitor their behavior, which can help them keep behavioral issues under control. Social skills training can help patients better interact with their peers. Besides helping patients control their ADHD symptoms, counseling can also help manage other issues, such as anger.

    The benefits of ADHD counseling also extend to the patient's family. As the NIMH explains, “before a children is diagnosed [with ADHD], frustration, blame, and anger may have built up within a family. Parents and children may need special help to overcome bad feelings.” By working these issues out through counseling, parents do not blame themselves for their child's symptoms, and the family can work together. For example, if a parent experienced a lot of frustration with his child's behavioral symptoms, the counseling for ADHD can help him cope with that frustration and find a better way to manage his child's behavior.

    Starting counseling for ADHD during childhood also has its benefits. MedlinePlus notes that around half of patients with ADHD during childhood have symptoms through adulthood. Teaching patients how to manage their ADHD symptoms while they are children is a skill they can continue to use as they get older.

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    CDC: ADHD, Data and Statistics

    NIMH: The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Treatment and Drugs

    NIMH: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

    MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

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    Center for Children and Families: School-Home Daily Report Card