Choosing a Professional to Diagnose and Treat ADHD
The first step is finding a specialist—though this is no easy task. Here, an ADHD expert shares her tips for picking the right professional.
Perhaps one of your friends was evaluated for ADHD recently, or you had an a-ha moment, after taking a look at your desk at the office. You thought back to your childhood and realized that you’ve always been disorganized and impulsive. Or perhaps you brought your child to a professional for an evaluation, and as the doctor ticked off the symptoms, you wanted to say, “Me, too!” So you think you may call a professional to talk with her about it.
Before you search for someone to help you, keep these facts in mind:
- A psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a neurologist is best equipped to diagnose adult ADHD. A master level therapist is recommended only for the initial screening.
- Only a psychiatrist, neurologist, or family physician can prescribe medication for adults with ADHD.
- If you need counseling, choose a psychologist or master level therapist. A psychiatrist is a good choice, depending on his or her ability to provide counseling that helps solve problems.
- Remember that your problems don’t go away once your ADHD is discovered and medically treated. There are usually a number of problems remaining for which counseling is required.
Since adult ADHD is a relatively new specialty, many professionals have not received formal training as part of their schooling. It is up to each professional to keep abreast of ADHD by attending seminars or workshops and by reading professional journals and books in the field. Some professionals are more interested in this area and more experienced than others. Some fail to recognize ADHD as a legitimate condition.
If you were to hire someone to clean your house, watch your kids, or fix your car, it would be reasonable to ask for references, so you could check out the qualifications of the person you’re hiring. When you’re hiring someone to help you with mental health challenges, you should do the same thing.
Many of us are in such awe of doctors that we find it hard to ask questions, especially if we are questioning the doctor’s abilities. Isn’t that rude? Won’t the doctor be offended? It’s your right to know the qualifications of the professional you may be working with, and most doctors realize this. See the sidebar for five questions every adult should ask his or her doctor.
An effective method of finding a doctor familiar with diagnosing and treating adult ADHD is to contact your local organization for adults with ADHD. If you don’t know of a local group, get in touch with the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA ) at add.org or Children and Adults with Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) at chadd.org. Ask about professionals in your area who might be able to help you, or check out ADDitude’s directory to find a support group or psychologist.
Check Up on the Doc: Five Questions
You don’t have to insist on asking the doctor or counselor herself the following questions. Usually the office staff can give you the information you need to make an informed decision. Feel free to print these questions for your personal use.
- How many clients with adult ADHD have you treated?
- How long have you been working with adults with ADHD?
- What is involved in your assessment and treatment process? Written tests/Interviews? Family history? Behavior modification? Medication?
- What are the costs involved?
- Have you received any special training in the diagnosis or treatment of adult ADHD?
Excerpted from Adult ADD, by MICHELE NOVOTNI, Ph.D.