Evidence for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and ADHD
A study, published last year in the American Journal of Psychiatry, compared the effectiveness of Solanto’s CBT program to basic, supportive therapy. After finishing the 12-week program, the 41 CBT participants reported better organization and attentiveness than the 40 participants who had received basic therapy.
Solanto believes that her program is effective because it directly addresses patterns of behavior that are common problems among those with ADHD. And solutions are designed to have an immediate impact.
For example, Solanto advises her participants to enter into their ADHD-friendly planners every task they have to do in a given day — from important appointments to everyday errands. She asks clients to link checking the planner to routine activities, like brushing your teeth, eating lunch, walking the dog, and so on. This helps someone with ADHD stay on task throughout the day, and prioritizes the things to get done. "People with ADHD spend a lot of time putting out fires, instead of thinking ahead to prevent those fires," says Solanto, who has recently outlined her work in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD: Targeting Executive Dysfunction. The book teaches therapists how to apply and use Solanto’s brand of CBT in their own practices.
For Josh, it wasn’t so much the specific strategies that were taught that helped him, but the other people in the class giving him the motivation to change. "You hear from others with problems like yours, and it helps you make your own strategies for managing those problems," he says.
Solanto believes that CBT is most effective when combined with other forms of treatment, and Josh agrees. Josh says that stimulant medication allowed him to benefit from the class, because it helped him stop and think about how ADHD affected him day to day. "In order to change, you have to be able to learn from experience," he says.
How to Find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist for ADHD
Because CBT is still commonly used to treat anxiety and mood disorders, make sure to find out whether a prospective CBT therapist has worked with people who have ADHD before making an appointment. Solanto says that sessions should focus on ways to prevent the problems ADHD is causing day to day. She hopes that more therapists will adopt her program into their practices.
“Our goal is to help people develop good habits and maintain them,” says Solanto. "And, just as important, to give support to encourage their use."
Josh certainly sees the method’s impact. After starting graduate classes 15 years ago, he finally completed his graduate degree last year. He feels more productive in his career, and says that he has read and written more in the last year than ever before.
"I’m more hopeful," says Josh. "I’m more confident."
Some names have been changed.
This article appears in the Winter 2011 issue of ADDitude.
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