The morning alarm goes off and you drag yourself out of bed; “drag” because you stayed up too late the night before. You got so engrossed in exhaustively researching a prospective purchase online that you just couldn’t stop until you were done.
After you take your ADHD medication, you begin to feel more alert. Suddenly ideas start to ricochet across your brain, faster than you can keep track of them. You feel energized and capable and on top of the world and write run-on sentences like this one and have all these great plans to accomplish so much with the rest of your day!
You have several big projects that need doing (not to mention a variety of smaller tasks), so you sit down to get to work. Almost immediately you’re sidetracked because something else you have to do pops into your head.
If I don’t do it now, you think, I’ll forget about it; I’d better do it now. So you jump up, intending to do the thing that popped into your head; except that, on the way to do it, you see something else that needs doing. After you do that instead, you can’t remember what you got up for in the first place.
Soon it’s evening and it hits you that, if you’re going to get the project done that’s due tomorrow, you’ll have to pull an all-nighter tonight. Thanks to caffeine, sugary snacks and the “motivation” of impending failure, you finally manage to focus. The night flies by and the project gets done (and done well, since we ADD-ers tend to be perfectionists).
Then you grab a couple of hours of unrestful sleep and drag yourself out of bed yet again, even more tired than you were the previous morning.
Why does this always happen? you wonder. Do I have to feel so stressed all the time? I thought this medication was supposed to be helping me. Why can’t I channel my energies and harness my thoughts so I can get more done?
Taking Action to Help Ourselves
While medication definitely improves the symptoms of ADHD for most people, what we need to do to improve our lives is to implement structure and organization in a way that works with us and for us – not against us.
Before we knew we had ADHD, we felt guilty and blamed ourselves for what we suspected were weaknesses in our characters. We were lazy, or unmotivated, or irresponsible; or we felt “broken” or “weird” because we couldn’t do things that came easily to others.
Now that we know better, it’s our responsibility to learn how to get the help we need. Remember that knowledge is power.
Consider a Coach
As if in answer to the ADHD person’s prayers, some sympathetic genius came up with the idea of the ADHD coach. David Giwerc, co-founder with his wife, Marla and president of the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA) – and an ADD-er himself – denies that the concept originated with him.
“I have been coaching longer than most, but I can’t say that I was the first ADD coach,” Giwerc says. “I can say that I was the first ADD coach to specialize in coaching entrepreneurs and business owners with ADHD. I can also say that ADDCA trains more skilled, educated ADD coaches than any other coach training program.”
Giwerc also serves as the current president of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), which describes itself as “the world’s leading adult ADHD organization.”
What ADHD Coaches Do
“(ADHD coaches) tell our clients that they’re not broken; their brains are just wired differently,” Giwerc says. Besides educating clients about their ADHD, coaches support and empower them by helping them to:
#1 – Let go of and change beliefs that are obstacles in their lives: things like, “If I can’t do it the way ‘they’ want me to do it, I’m no good” (rather than “I have a different style that works for me”) and “If I don’t get the result I want, it’s a failure” (rather than “it’s a learning experience”).
#2 – Identify their passions, talents and successes – i.e., the things they love to do and do well – and focus on them rather than exclusively on their weaknesses
#3 – Understand how ADHD characteristics, such as creative thinking and hyperfocus, can be utilized as strengths when integrated into their daily schedules
#4 – Develop their unique skills
#5 – Create customized structures and strategies that utilize their natural learning and processing styles so that they can function more effectively and achieve their goals
#6 – Learn what do to when they get “stuck” because of ADHD-related challenges such as procrastination, perfectionism, distraction and lack of time awareness
While coaching is no substitute for medication, Giwerc says that it can be part of a comprehensive approach to managing ADHD that also includes 1) accurate diagnosis; 2) identification of the most effective drug and dosage for the individual; 3) psychotherapy, if needed; and 4) physical exercise.
Where Do I Find a Coach and What Should I Look For?
Many websites advertise ADHD coaches. At the ADDCA site, for example, you can find the names of suitable coaches by clicking on the “Find a Coach” tab and then choosing the specialty you want (for example, “Adult” or “Children and Adolescents”) and/or the location you prefer. Coaches usually offer a free introductory session so that you can both determine “if there’s a connection,” Giwerc explains.
Although the International Coaching Federation (ICF) certifies coaches in general coaching skills, there’s currently no ICF certification specifically for ADHD coaching. Coaches should be graduates of ADHD coach training programs, however, such as ADDCA’s 12-month long-distance program that leads to the ACG (ADD Coach Academy Graduate) designation. Graduates of ADDCA may then pursue advanced training to earn certification as a CAC (Certified ADDCA Coach).
For helpful guidance about selecting an ADHD coach, see “The ADDA Guiding Principles for Coaching Individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder” at the ADDA’s website.
The Nuts and Bolts: How Does Coaching Actually Work?
Although you can meet with a local ADHD coach in person, most ADHD coaching takes place via telephone or e-mail. Three or four 30-to-60-minute phone sessions are usually scheduled each month, with e-mail or brief phone contacts in between. Fees may run between $200-$600 a month and are probably not covered by insurance (but you should check with your own health plan to be sure).
Coaching relationships don’t have a set timeframe. They can run from six months to two years or more, depending upon the individual client’s desires and progress.
As important as a coach’s credentials are, even more crucial to a successful coaching experience is the ADHD client’s willingness to do what he or she can to create a more fulfilling life. Coaches can inspire this willingness. “We teach our clients to shift perspective, to discover and embrace their strengths instead of their challenges,” Giwerc says.
In fact, adds Giwerc, “With the help of a well-trained coach, a client learns how to take his or her natural ADHD tendencies and convert them into strengths.”