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Coaching/Supported Employment for Adult ADHD

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

Adults with ADHD usually need help with practical, functional skills such as employment, job performance, and relationships. ADHD coaches work with individuals to improve work and study habits, organizational abilities, relationship skills, and self-management techniques. ADHD coaching is not therapy, nor is it so-called, "life coaching". A coaching approach focuses on the specific functional skills that are needed for independence and success as defined by the person being coached. This is often called a person-centered approach. Coaches also focus on the importance of motivation. They have specific knowledge about contemporary, motivational approaches to treatment.

coworkersCoaches may work with their ADHD partners in many different ways. Some examples are: time-management; goal-setting; task initiation and completion; financial management; job training; educational advancement; independent living skills and household organization; social skills practice and training; as well as executive skills training. A good ADHD coach understands the unique challenges and strengths of adults with ADHD.

Coaches help their ADHD partners to set and achieve their own goals. Together, the coach and partner develop a plan to develop whatever skills are necessary to meet those goals. For instance, if someone wants a job, they need transportation to work. Riding a bus with enough attention to get on and off at the right stop, and to use socially correct behavior while on the bus, may be practiced and rehearsed by the coach and partner. Some coaches focus on specific skill sets, for instance supported employment. Other coaches are more generalist or work in teams with professionals who have various specialties (e.g. employment, tutoring and study habits, social skills, financial management, etc.).

Coaches work with ADHD adults to set realistic goals based on the individual's priorities. Together, coach and partner, map out a step-by-step plan to achieve goals. Coaches also focus on teaching the importance of self-care and healthy habits. Self-care includes preparing and eating a healthy diet; getting enough rest; having rewarding relationships; taking the time to exercise regularly; and, routinely visiting healthcare providers for support in following their treatment plan. In some coaching teams, medication management is part of the services offered to their coaching partners.

Like most people, ADHD folks want to move forward in life and to be successful. However, for ADHD adults, it's easy for discouragement to set in. Everyday challenges such as disorganization, feeling overwhelmed, and procrastination, have repeatedly interfered with their success. After years of struggling with these problems, it is quite natural to become discouraged. Continually struggling with the same thing over and over again causes many people to lose confidence in themselves. More importantly, this loss of confidence creates a general lack of motivation and effort. Again, this is perfectly understandable: Why put forth effort when you are met with failure every time?

Fortunately, this is where coaches step in to lend a hand. ADHD coaches help people identify the unproductive thinking and habits that interfere with their success and satisfaction in life. And, like the name implies, coaches serve to support and to motivate. They often have specialized skills in motivational therapies and techniques. The coach's role is to ensure a balance of providing challenging new skills to learn, with support for successful efforts. The coach and partner work together to problem-solve unsuccessful methods and improve upon them. This approach builds and strengthens the ADHD adult's self-confidence.