CBT for ADHD: Does it Really Work?

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurological disorder which is present from birth. ADHD symptoms can be seen as early as childhood and continue into adulthood, with symptoms changing and adapting with age and maturity.

Typical symptoms of ADHD include:

  • A tendency to fidget or difficulty sitting still
  • Inattention
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impulsivity

Due to the difficulties listed above, people with ADHD often require support with learning to implement structure in their daily lives, being organised and with problem solving. Therefore, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), in most cases, is an ideal fit. One of CBT’s basic principles of practice is for  it to follow a clear structure to help make clear to the patient what to expect, and to maximise the time used on CBT – the type of environment someone with ADHD can thrive in.

Why Choose CBT For ADHD?

As aforementioned, with CBT taking a structured approach during sessions, this can make it ideal for someone hoping to manage their ADHD better whether its a child learning to manage ADHD or managing ADHD in Adults While learning and implementing new strategies as homework exercises is key, CBT also takes into account that homework assignments may be challenging. CBT takes a step-by-step approach with each exercise, demonstrating problem-solving along the way to help identify barriers for engagement and how to overcome them.

In addition to these new strategies that can help compensate for the core symptoms of ADHD, CBT is also ideal for taking a whole-person approach and encompassing psychological presentations into the ADHD treatment plan. It is not uncommon for psychological comorbidities to present alongside ADHD. People with ADHD are likely to experience setbacks in their lives due to growing up in a society that caters for neurotypical people. This may lead to negative thought biases, self-doubt, and low self-esteem. In the case of mood and anxiety disorders, CBT has been an increasingly popular treatment for many common mental health disorders and difficulties, with growing evidence for its effectiveness.

The most effective treatment plan is likely to be that which takes all the conditions into account. When adapted for ADHD, CBT will consider how impulsivity and inventiveness symptoms can add to unhelpful thought biases and behaviours, that in turn can impact your emotional and physical anxiety.

Does it Work? What to Expect When Seeking ADHD Support With CBT

CBT sessions, when used for ADHD, are designed to help patients build upon skills to assist with the management of their symptoms. Below, we explore some specific techniques:

  • All CBT treatment begins with psycho-education. This part of treatment is paramount as it focuses on helping the patient to truly understand their condition/s. In the case of ADHD, the therapist will explain the neurodevelopmental aspects of the condition and why you experience the difficulties you do. If you also experience a psychological difficulty then the therapist will encompass psycho-education for this condition and will explain how the two co-exist and possibly trigger/maintain one another.
  • To improve time-management, strategies that may be employed will likely encourage patients to break down large tasks into smaller, more achievable and time-specific tasks, learning to plan and follow a schedule and learning to make adaptations when necessary, to help maintain good time management.
  • In succession with the above strategy, understanding how your neural reward system works can play a key role in your motivation to complete the tasks planned in your schedule. Your therapists will help you to plan not only manageable tasks and activity but will help you to build an effective reward system for yourself that will motivate you to complete the tasks that you usually struggle to engage with.
  • Working on maintaining different types of attention (e.g. sustained attention, multi-tasking, switching attention etc) plays an important role in CBT treatment too. The therapist will discuss with you various internal and environmental factors that can impact attention and will help you work on making the appropriate adjustments to create an environment where your attention thrives.
  • As aforementioned, due to comorbid psychological conditions often being present with ADHD, CBT treatment will encompass both into your treatment. As well as attention difficulties affecting motivation, negative thoughts, self-doubt and anxiety can also bring about low motivation and hopelessness which in turn trigger procrastination. Thus, working on the psychological presentation through traditional CBT techniques such as thought challenging can also play a vital role in treating the management of ADHD.

Finding The Right Help For Managing ADHD

When it comes to managing ADHD symptoms, there are a wide range of options available. CBT is an evidence-based therapy with substantial research backing for its use and effectiveness when working with ADHD, in addition to common mental health difficulties. With an effective and practical CBT therapy plan, a person with ADHD can get the help they need to manage challenging situations in their daily lives.

Book an assessment with Psymplicity Healthcare today to speak with one of our trained specialists, and find out if you or someone in your life is dealing with symptoms arising from ADHD.

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Mavish S

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity. Since beginning undergraduate studies 13 years ago, Mavish has worked in various mental health settings within the charity, NHS and private sector. Mavish’s passion for learning and professional growth has led to a vastness of experience and accelerated growth in her career while delivering one-to-one therapy, group workshops, training and supervision for professionals and senior team management. Mavish is a keen writer and writes many of the articles on our website, as well of our self-help resources.

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