Four Informative Ways to Select and Really Benefit From Therapy or ADHD Coaching

Adult ADHD Coaching and therapy have a lot in common. Both disciplines help people create change and it can be confusing to establish the best fit. To make the decision even more perplexing, when you live with ADHD, it’s not unusual to live with other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.  To say the least, it can be difficult to understand the differences so you can make wise choices for yourself or someone close to you. 


Here are four informative ways to select and really benefit from adult ADHD coaching, therapy, or both, for you or someone you love.  


Know the Differences Between Adult ADHD Coaching and Therapy 

ADHD coaches and therapists focus on helping you evolve, adapt, and make changes. Both professionals can work with fully functioning adults who are working through difficult situations.  That said, they are different practices, each with its own unique value. The following are generalizations for illustrative purposes.


In ADHD Coaching, the focus is on the impact of your unique relationship with ADHD, as well as learning executive functioning skills through sustainable action. In therapy, the focus is on understanding patterns of feeling and behavior, healing, and/or letting go of past trauma, abuse, pain, or loss. 


ADHD Coaching helps you develop an awareness of who you are so that you understand your unique brain, innate abilities, patterns of behavior, strengths, and strongest learning styles. Your coach helps you understand how your executive functioning directs your distinctive thoughts and actions. 

You work in partnership with your coach on learning through self-discovery and sustainable action so you can create a more fulfilling life.  You experiment with when, where, and how optimal conditions work specifically for you and your life situation. While your coach asks you questions and may make specific suggestions - if you’re open to it - you make your own best judgment and discover your own answers. 

In therapy, the focus is often on understanding distressing patterns of feeling and behavior and/or revisiting childhood experiences and patterns that may be associated with past trauma, hurts, loss, or abuse. At times you may look to your therapist to help guide you through a crisis, but in time you may take on more as the therapy progresses. 


Therapists can tend to ask why and can be past-oriented to free you from past situations, so you can see fresh options for the present and future.  ADHD coaches almost never ask you why. Coaches are future-oriented so that you can breathe life into the present and open you up to your greatest aspirations so you can achieve them now.


Therapists can ask why as you engage in deep-feeling work, often freeing you from past pain and suffering and/or current complex personal issues so you can choose new possibilities for the future. Therapists help you heal and resolve the challenges that may be getting in the way of going after what matters most to you. 

Coaches almost never ask you why. ADHD Coaches help you discover the obstacles getting in the way so you can see a clear path to strengthen and fortify renewed opportunities.  Although there’s room for processing emotions, coaches do not profoundly engage with past emotions. Coaches are present and future-oriented, helping you focus on your deepest desires so that you can turn your dreams, thoughts, and ideas into concrete actions to create the life you want. 


Making the Decision Between Adult ADHD Coaching, Therapy, or Both 

Therapists are experts in human behavior, as well as a variety of mental health conditions. ADHD Coaches are experts in ADHD and human behavior.  

To make wise decisions when selecting between adult ADHD coaching, therapy, or both, keep in mind the distinctions in practices between the fields, and consider the following three questions:   


Are You Ready to Take Responsibility for Self-Discovery?

Adult ADHD Coaching is experimental in nature. You or your loved one needs to be ready to be a keen observer of themselves. You must be willing to take responsibility for self-discovery and for your learning through your actions

If you or your loved one is in a place where there may be mental health barriers that are holding you back from making progress, then there may be an underlying challenge that is typically best worked out in therapy, before the coaching process can move forward.   


To What Degree is Everyday Living Interfering?

The general rule of thumb is that if a mental health condition interferes with everyday living (personally, professionally, or socially) you or your loved one needs to engage with a therapist. Yet, as we all know, ADHD can also interfere with daily functioning.


If you or someone you love is stuck about a previous incident or trauma, and can’t seem to get past it, therapy is likely required to process the event more thoughtfully and profoundly. If dipping into a past event and acknowledging it is enough for you and you can move on, then ADHD coaching is most likely appropriate for you.

At the same time, if you can groom yourself, (though you'd prefer to be more efficient), eat well, (but maybe you’d like to cook more), get out of bed, (despite wanting a regular wake-up time), clean your dishes, (though you'd prefer more of a routine), and do your work (yet you'd like more consistency)  --- --- you may benefit from ADHD coaching, or perhaps ADHD Coaching and therapy together, depending on the individual.


Are There Any Signs of Distress?

ADHD Coaches and therapists are trained to watch for signs of distress. A referral to therapy may be warranted while also engaging in coaching, or you may find it best to pause the coaching, depending on the individual. 
It can be helpful for you to watch for the following signs in yourself or your loved one to determine if coaching is a good fit. It may also be helpful to speak to a therapist or ADHD coach to help you decide what may be best. 

• Noticeable changes in mood, such as anger, sadness, or irritability, that are not attributable to emotional dysregulation or rejection-sensitive dysphoria that you may typically see in ADHD.

• Decline in performance at school or work, or, after working with an ADHD coach, your loved one has not applied the strategies

• Social withdrawal and isolation

• Marked changes in appearance and grooming

• Sleep changes or disturbances

• Excessive worry, sadness, or hopelessness

• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

• Pre-occupation with food and diet

• Intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks

• Increasing tolerance to, or pre-occupation with substances

• Paranoia

• Incoherent speech

If you decide that therapy is more suitable at this time, please know that we ADHD coaches will always be here when you’re ready.

Confidentiality and privacy are of utmost importance in ADHD Coaching and therapy. If a referral needs to be made, Coaches adhere to the Code of Ethics and Standards set by the International Coach Federation (ICF), while therapists adhere to the Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (HIPPA)

Information shared in coaching and therapy sessions is confidential and not shared outside the session unless mutually agreed upon and documented in writing. The only exception to this is where we are required by law to make a disclosure, or where a coach or therapist has a good-faith belief that disclosure is necessary to comply with the law, to avoid harm or danger to you, your coach or therapist, or anyone else, or to respond to an emergency. In such situations, disclosure is limited to essential information. 


How do you know when to engage with both a therapist and an ADHD coach? 

Therapy can assist you to build the emotional foundation needed to participate more fully in ADHD coaching, as you upgrade your executive functioning skills that support you to live a more effective and satisfying life. 


When you work with a therapist and an ADHD coach together, there can be both emotional strengthening, issue resolution, and letting go of disruptive situations with therapy, while experiencing personal evolution, performance growth, and accountability with ADHD coaching. 

If you're questioning your readiness for coaching, you might want to try this resource: Are You Ready for Coaching? Take this Test.

To sum up, ADHD Coaching and therapy help people create change. They are both complex and challenging, as is the depth of the human experience.  To make informative decisions for the optimal fit:
• Consider the distinction in practices between the fields, and ask yourself or someone you love:   
• Are you Ready to Take Responsibility for Self-Discovery? 
• To What Degree is Everyday Living Interfering?
• Are There Any Signs of Distress?


P.S.  For more information on what is ADHD Coaching, and how it works, please see my article, Six Unique Ways ADHD Coaching Fulfills Your Life with Empowerment


Sources: How is Coaching Different from Consulting or Therapy, Thomas Leonard, 1998 

Referring Clients to Therapy: A Set of Guidelines, International Coaching Federation, 2018






 PS. Need more assistance deciding if ADHD Coaching is right for yourself or someone you love?

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk more about the opportunities in coaching that would be best for you!


Procrastination and ADHD: Four Exciting Ways to Stop Postponing Now!Three Proven Ways to Organize with Calm and Take Charge of Your ADHD Now!

Back To Top