By Sarah D. Wright, MS, ACT
Modified Excerpt from ADHD Coaching Matters
Specialized life coaching for people with ADHD, commonly known as ADHD Coaching, has been in use now for over twenty years. It is increasingly recognized as—and demonstrated to be—an effective process that supports people with ADHD by helping them to strengthen their executive function, improve their quality of life, and achieve their self-identified goals.
In order to understand what ADHD Coaching is, it is helpful to also briefly describe what it is not. Basically, ADHD Coaching is not what most people are familiar with. It is not therapy, counseling, consulting, mentoring, training, teaching, tutoring, advising, or managing. All of those disciplines may use coaching techniques in their work, but they differ from ADHD Coaching in some very important ways. Notably, in most helping professions, the practitioner is considered an expert that the client is working with to improve or fix something about themselves. In ADHD Coaching, the philosophy is that there is nothing about the client that needs fixing. The coach and client are colleagues; equal partners in identifying, clarifying, and forwarding the client’s own agenda.
That being said, it is important to note that psychological and physiological challenges such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders often co-occur with ADHD, and that additional services from therapists or doctors may be needed to help the client move in the direction they wish to go. For coaching to be effective, clients must have addressed or be addressing these issues and be ready, willing, and able to participate in the coaching process.
There remains some confusion in the field of ADHD Coaching as to whether its focus is on improving skills and performance, or on helping clients to achieve their goals and dreams. Here we use the terms skills coaching and life coaching as useful shorthand to distinguish between the two.
Skills coaching, as used here, refers to the process of helping another person to achieve or improve a particular behavioral performance. Skills coaching techniques are used by many professionals who have expertise in a particular area to impart that expertise to the person being coached. For example, skills coaching is employed by teachers, mentors, therapists, and coaches in many fields to help a student, client, patient, performer, or athlete improve his or her performance and competence. Skills coaching methods are derived primarily from a sports training model, and promote conscious awareness of resources and abilities and the development of conscious competence.
In contrast to skills coaching, life coaching is a collaboration where client and coach are equal partners in focusing on and forwarding the client’s agenda. The coaching is collaborative, client-centered, client-driven, and confidential. The coaching is focused on sustained cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes that facilitate goal attainment, either in one’s work or in one’s personal life. This style of coaching emphasizes evolutionary change, concentrating on strengthening identity and values, and bringing dreams and goals into reality.
The Definition of ADHD Coaching
As an emerging profession, it took a number of years for the essential elements of ADHD Coaching to be recognized and clarified, both through empirical evidence and research. In 2013, the ADHD Coaches Organization convened a Thought Leader Summit to develop a definition of ADHD Coaching for the profession. The Summit revealed a clear consensus as to the elements that must be present for an interaction between a client and practitioner to be considered ADHD Coaching. The following definition is based on the consensus of that meeting.
Like all life coaching, ADHD Coaching addresses the needs and aspirations of the individual being coached. Importantly, ADHD Coaching also addresses the specific needs of clients who have ADHD or ADHD-like symptoms. ADHD Coaches therefore focus on working with clients on their personal goals and the pragmatic issues of achieving them while living with ADHD.
ADHD Coaching is a collaborative, supportive, goal-oriented process in which the coach and the client work together to identify the client’s goals and then develop the self- awareness, systems, and strategies—the skills—necessary for the client to achieve those goals and full potential.
Because ADHD Coaching specifically addresses the needs of people affected by ADHD, it is a seamless blend of three elements employed by the coach as needed:
- Life Coaching: The client is regarded as an intact, creative, and resourceful person, and the coaching is collaborative, client-centered, client-driven, and confidential. The coach partners with the client in a thought-provoking and creative process to facilitate the client’s actions toward self-awareness and achievement of the client’s self-identified goals, providing structure and accountability, as needed, to help the client achieve those goals.
- Skills Coaching: The coach and client collaborate to develop conscious awareness of the client’s strengths, challenges, and resources and, leveraging that awareness, develop conscious competence; creating systems and strategies tailored to the client’s assets and environment that support and strengthen the client’s ability to manage the pragmatic aspects of life.
- Education: The coach shares research-based information regarding aspects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and related topics relevant to the client’s needs and interests. The coach may also offer information regarding tools, resources, and referrals as needed or requested by the client.
Each of those elements—Life Coaching, Skills Coaching, and Education—is a crucial part of ADHD Coaching, yet ADHD Coaching is more than the sum of its parts. The crux of ADHD Coaching is using all three elements to help clients understand and work with their own unique brains; recognizing, appreciating, and using their strengths to enjoy their passions and achieve what they want in life.
What Would You Like to Achieve?
Coaching is now broadly recognized as a process that helps individuals increase their abilities, achieve more, and develop their full potential in both professional and personal arenas. With the help of ADHD Coaching, those affected by ADHD can do the same.
Maybe life with ADHD has been sufficiently difficult and discouraging that you’ve let go of your dreams, thinking you couldn’t possibly get there, but what if you could? What would your life be like then? So, ask yourself now, if it were possible, what would you like to achieve?
You may then want to call a coach and discuss what coaching can do for you.
Sarah D. Wright +1 760-809-0780 SarahDWright.com
This article has been adapted by the author from…
ADHD Coaching Matters: The Definitive Guide
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