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Psycho-Education and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Psycho-Education for Adult ADHD

Many people struggle with chronic lifelong conditions such as diabetes or ADHD. Psychoeducation provides participants helpful tools that enable them to better understand, accept, and cope with a challenging health condition. Psychoeducation offers people the information and other resources they need to understand the causes, symptoms and, possible treatments options of a disorder. Psychoeducation may be specifically designed for the unique needs of specific types of participants. For instance, some groups might be designed around the unique needs of friends and family members affected by a loved one's ADHD. Psychoeducation can help family members gain even greater compassion as they simultaneously understand more about the disorder. They may learn more helpful responses to unpleasant ADHD behaviors. Other groups might focus on the needs of the healing person. For instance, psychoeducational groups might target problem-solving skills, and/or specific behaviors such as recognizing and interrupting symptoms. Regardless of the group type, groups are often a powerful healing tool that offers hope, support, and understanding.

therapy sessionWe stressed the inclusion of various people in the assessment and diagnosis phase LINK. During treatment, it's important to include these same people and any other significant people in the orbit of an ADHD adult. In general, when folks are stressed they rely on others in their orbit, or sphere of influence. Therefore, such people can either enhance, or conversely, detract from the healing process.

Gaining the cooperation and participation of significant others in the 'sphere of influence' of the ADHD person is a bit easier in children's treatment because parents are 'running the show.' It can be a bit more complex for adult ADHD. In children's treatment, this is a bit easier as parents are 'running the show.' With ADHD adults, the inclusion of significant others is no less important, but sometimes more difficult to gain permission or participation. Nonetheless, this additional perspective is highly valuable. A helpful approach is to recognize that everyone is on the same team. As with sports teams, each person's position has a different, yet equally vital role and function. A coordinated effort is likely to yield faster, more positive results.

Despite any reservations by participants contemplating the inclusion of others in their treatment, it is well-known that treatment outcomes improve when people with intimate relationships participate together in the healing plan. Choosing which people to include can be a challenge. Fortunately, therapists are skilled in helping participants to meet this challenge. Because the inclusion of others can be helpful or not; the therapist can help steer the process toward the helpful side; beginning by assisting participants to sort through their options.

Psychoeducation is also helpful in relationships. It helps people to learn the distinction between helpful support and enabling dependence. Moreover, it teaches people how to function from the more helpful support-side of the continuum.

Psychoeducation can take place independently; or, it can be part of a formal treatment plan that might include a psychoeducation group, or class. Independent learning has the advantage of convenience. Groups have the advantage of additional support and suggestions provided by group members to each other. In either case, knowledge is key for ADHD adults in their efforts to meet their life goals. When people who are important to the participant join in the healing process, they can improve the treatment outcome for their loved one. With an accurate and compassionate understanding of the disorder, friends and family can provide much needed support, encouragement, and feedback.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD

Effective therapy for both children and adults with ADHD, are based on cognitive- behavioral theories. This approach emphasizes that people can change their thoughts, which in turn, changes their behaviors and emotions. This approach targets the identification of unhelpful thoughts with the goal of replacing them with more positive and hopeful thoughts regarding oneself, and one's future.

Therapeutic goals typically focus on symptom management; increasing healthy coping behaviors (e.g., frequent exercise); and decreasing behaviors that are unhelpful in the long term (e.g., using substances to control symptoms). Relaxation training, anger management, and stress management skills can all be incorporated into therapy sessions. These sessions may take place with just a therapist and the healing person; or, they may take place as part of a group, or family group.