Published on ADDitudeMag.com
ADHD Professionals: Who Can Help You Manage ADHD Symptoms
Teaming up with the right professional can help you (or your child) manage symptoms more successfully.
Making Sense of ADHD Professionals
or your child has ADHD, chances are you will come across a variety of medical
professionals and ADHD specialists. Each has something different to contribute
to your care. It can be hard to sort out who does what and who you should see
when you have ADHD. The more you know, the better.
The Family Doctor
doctor, also known as your primary-care physician, is responsible for your
overall health care. Some FDs have elected to take additional courses to learn
more about ADHD and are qualified to treat ADHD. Others offer only basic care
and refer you to a specialist for further ADHD treatment.
For Kids: The Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician
pediatrician who believes your child has developmental challenges will refer
you to a developmental and behavioral pediatrician. This doctor will look to see whether there is anything
unusual about your child's body. She will examine the nervous system, noting physical strength and coordination as well as
behavior, social responsiveness, and speech. This doctor usually coordinates
the testing your child may need.
psychiatrist has completed medical school and received specialized education
and training in diagnosing and treating emotional disorders, such as ADHD,
depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Psychiatrists understand the complex
relationship between physical and emotional disorders and work with you to
create a treatment plan. They are medical doctors and can prescribe
psychopharmacologist is a medical doctor (either an M.D., D.O., or
psychiatrist) who specializes in pharmacology to treat mental and emotional
disorders. While you may not see a psychopharmacologist on a regular basis,
your ADHD professional team may choose to consult with one about your medical
psychologist has received an advanced degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D).
Although a Ph.D. traditionally was trained for research or academia work, today
many are clinical psychologists and treat patients. State laws for licensing of
psychologists vary. In most states, psychologists cannot prescribe
medication but can diagnose ADHD. The main treatment method used by
psychologists is talk therapy.
The Therapist and Counselor
and counselors specialize in therapy, such as talk therapy. They have at least
a master’s degree in either psychology or counseling. Some have elected to
receive additional specialized training to complete an initial assessment of ADHD,
but most will refer patients to a psychologist or psychiatrist for assessment.They
cannot prescribe medication.
neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in disorders of the brain and
nervous system. While neurologists may play a role in the diagnostic process,
such as testing for or treating a coexisting seizure disorder, brain tumor, or
Tourette’s syndrome, they do not normally diagnose mental and emotional
For Kids: The Neuropsychologist
neuropsychologist has special training in the biological and neurological bases
of learning and thought. The neuropsychologist assesses your child’s level of
cognitive and behavioral functioning. A neuropsychologist makes recommendations
about school placement and overall care of the child.
The Psychiatric Nurse
nurses work in psychiatric hospitals and treatment centers as patient advocates
and crisis intervention specialists. They have completed a degree in nursing
and received additional specialized training and education in working with
patients with mental and emotional disorders. They do not diagnose ADHD
and cannot prescribe medication.
The Nurse Practitioner
practitioners usually work with primary-care physicians. They have completed
their nursing degree and received additional specialized training in diagnosing
and treating illness. Most have limited knowledge of ADHD—they often know more
about childhood ADHD than adult ADHD. Depending on state laws, they may be able
to prescribe medication.
The Social Worker
workers are usually employed by an agency or hospital. They counsel patients
and clients of the agency. They can diagnose ADHD, but cannot
prescribe medication. Social workers are often helpful in locating resources
and community services for patients. They also give emotional support to
patients and their families.
For Kids: The Occupational Therapist
occupational therapist assesses your child’s ability to use smaller muscles,
like those of the hand or face. Dysgraphia (terrible handwriting) is a problem
for many kids with ADHD that an OT addresses. The OT will also look at your
child’s sensitivity to sensory stimulation—like a child who cannot stand to
have the tag on the neck of his shirt rubbing against his skin.
The ADHD Coach
coach is not a medical professional. There are no standards for licensing
coaches currently, but some organizations are working on certification
are not able to diagnose ADHD or prescribe medications. They work with
individuals to improve specific lifestyle skills, such as organization, and to
find ways to better manage ADHD symptoms.
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