Alternative Options For ADHD: Therapy And Support

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 11, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can come with a variety of symptoms that frequently impact daily life. However, many options may be available, with the most common generally including therapy, medication, and behavioral modification. You may also wish to consider alternative treatments after discussing them with a licensed medical professional. For those with ADHD, options aside from medication can help improve symptoms by working alongside, or in place of, standard methods of care. These can include elimination diets, essential fatty acids, dietary supplements, herbal medicines, biofeedback, and lifestyle changes. For more insight, it can be helpful to speak to a therapist online or in person.

Whether you are an adult living with ADHD or have a child with ADHD, it can be crucial to consult a medical professional before trying any form of medication, supplement, or alternative support options.

What is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder?

According to mental health experts at the American Psychological Association, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is generally a neurodevelopmental disorder that usually involves inattention and impulsivity, with or without a hyperactivity component. While the condition is often associated with childhood, symptoms typically persist into adulthood. Adults can be frequently diagnosed with ADHD as well.
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There are three main types:

  • Predominantly inattentive: Symptoms usually center on inattention.
  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive: Symptoms normally center on hyperactivity and impulsivity.
  • Combined: Symptoms typically involve inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

How common is ADHD?

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control published statistics about ADHD prevalence in children and adults.

  • In the United States, approximately 9.8% (6 million) of children ages 3 to 17 may be diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Other mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders may be seen in six of 10 children with ADHD.
  • 62% of children with ADHD in the US usually take medication, 47% typically receive behavioral therapies, and 23% may receive no treatment.
  • Approximately 4.4% of current adults are generally believed to have ADHD, with lifetime prevalence estimated as high as 8.1%.

Recognizing ADHD signs and symptoms

Mental health experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine say symptoms can vary from one person to another and by ADHD subtype. Researchers suggest that hyperactivity symptoms are almost always apparent by age seven and often much younger. Other ADHD symptoms may not become apparent until a child reaches elementary school. Symptoms can include the following:
  • Trouble focusing and short attention span, especially at school
  • Difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors and resisting temptation
  • Frequently losing or forgetting items
  • Trouble following through with commitments
  • Disorganization
  • Frequent mistakes due to carelessness
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty taking turns with others
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Fidgeting, squirming, or generally having trouble sitting still

Standard methods of treating ADHD

According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control, typical plans for ADHD may involve psychotherapy, medication, and behavior modification. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, medication is usually not recommended for children under age six. 


For many people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, medication can be an effective option in managing symptoms. Please speak to your doctor or mental healthcare provider to learn more about ADHD medication and if it may be a good fit for you or your child. There is a substantial amount of scientific evidence suggesting that medication can effectively reduce symptoms—studies show that stimulant medications produce a positive response in 70-80% of individuals.  


Various talk therapy approaches can be used to treat ADHD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tends to be one of the most common therapies. CBT typically focuses on identifying harmful or negative behaviors and thought patterns and replacing them with healthier, more productive ones. 

Therapy can teach children and adults how to recognize and understand their emotions, build a repertoire of practical coping skills, and learn communication methods to express their feelings and needs effectively. 

Behavior modification

Therapies often involves active, ongoing, and evolving behavior management to modify behaviors and teach appropriate reactions to various social situations. This strategy can be one of the most common ways to treat ADHD. 

Behavior management training often teaches parents practical ways to connect with their children while explaining appropriate and acceptable behaviors. Young people can receive support while they learn to self-correct behaviors for a given situation. 

Additional ADHD treatments

Alternative remedies may be used instead of pharmaceutical approaches or in combination with them as part of a comprehensive plan. 

Before trying any alternative therapies, please speak with your physician or mental healthcare provider.

This can be especially true regarding supplements, especially if you plan to give them to a child, because most supplements are not approved by the FDA. Additionally, there is limited evidence available regarding the efficacy of many avenues that provide support. Working with a licensed medical professional to review potential safety concerns and determine whether a supplement may be appropriate can be helpful. Below are some alternative therapies that could help improve behavior, reduce attention problems, and alleviate the emotional challenges. 

Are ADHD symptoms interfering with your life?

Elimination diets

One theory about ADHD suggests that eliminating foods thought to increase hyperactivity may reduce symptoms. Foods like sugar, artificial food coloring, additives, and common allergens, like wheat, milk, and eggs, are believed by some to affect behavioral symptoms in some people with ADHD. Special diets may help such individuals avoid exacerbating their symptoms. However, experts have raised red flags regarding the reliability of early studies linking certain foods to ADHD, some of which may have been conducted using faulty methodologies.  

Essential fatty acids

Your brain generally requires essential fatty acids to function correctly. There is evidence that fats like omega-3 oils can improve ADHD symptoms. In a systematic review published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, researchers found that the use of certain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids could lead to symptom reduction. 

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are commonly utilized in complementary and alternative medicine to improve ADHD symptoms. While some people use vitamin or mineral supplements like zinc, Vitamin D, and iron to treat ADHD, please keep in mind that exceeding recommended daily allowances can be harmful. 

Herbal medicines

According to several recent clinical trials, various herbal medicines may show promise as treatments for ADHD. However, researchers noted that large-scale studies may be required to determine whether herbs are effective and safe natural remedies. Proper dosages and interactions likely also need to be studied, further emphasizing the need to discuss alternative ADHD treatments with your healthcare provider. 

  • Bacopa: This is generally a traditional Indian or Ayurvedic herbal supplement derived from the Brahmi or water hyssop plant. According to studies, this herbal medicine may reduce restlessness, aid in stress management, and improve self-control. 
  • Ginkgo biloba: Thought to help with some of the cognitive and emotional challenges of ADHD—such as trouble focusing and irritability—ginkgo biloba may also help reduce stress and alleviate sleep problems. 
  • French maritime pine bark extract: This may be used as a complementary therapy to increase visual-motor coordination and reduce symptoms related to hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
  • Ningdong: Ningdong is typically considered to be a Chinese remedy believed to help with the reduction of ADHD symptoms.
  • Ginseng: Ginseng is often recognized as a Chinese herb that may reduce hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
  • Neurofeedback

An emerging therapy for ADHD may be neurofeedback training, which typically uses electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback to help a person focus on specific tasks while monitoring brain wave patterns. 


Physical activity is thought to improve executive function and mood in individuals with ADHD. For example, research suggests that tai chi—a common mind-body exercise—can help decrease inattention. And exercising while outdoors can have additional benefits as spending time in nature has been shown to help reduce stress and improve focus in young people and adults with ADHD. 

How therapy can help

A comprehensive ADHD plan often includes psychotherapy with a licensed therapist. While many people choose to attend therapy in person, some find that it’s more comfortable and convenient to connect with a therapist virtually. Whether you are an adult living with ADHD or have a child living with ADHD, therapy can prove to be beneficial. Through talk therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, you can receive emotional support, build self-esteem, and develop useful coping strategies. You can also address comorbid mental health challenges, such as anxiety or depression. 

Online vs. in-person sessions and results

Thanks to online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, adults may connect with a licensed therapist online from the convenience of their own homes. With flexible appointment formats through phone, video call, or online chat, it can be simple to fit therapy into your busy schedule. 

According to recent studies, internet-based parenting interventions like parent-child interaction therapy and parent training can provide you with strategies to help your child manage their ADHD. 

A 2022 study showed that online cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD could deliver similar results to treatments in the traditional in-office setting. Many participants said the convenience of internet-based therapy made it possible to attend more sessions, which generally increased the duration and effectiveness of therapy outcomes.


Treatments for ADHD typically include therapy (in person or online), behavioral modification, and medication, but there may also be a variety of supplements to potentially add to your regimen. Herbal medicines, lifestyle changes, elimination diets, biofeedback, essential fatty acids, and dietary supplements can all be options to discuss with your doctor. You can reach out to a licensed online therapist for support in navigating ADHD for yourself or a loved one.
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