What's An ADHD Coach?

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated May 10, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Affecting an estimated 6 million children and 8.7 million adults in the US, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an increasingly common mental health condition—and one that can create significant challenges in an individual’s life. ADHD can impact children and adults.

Given the prevalence and effects of ADHD, individual demand for an ADHD coach who can provide solutions for managing its symptoms is growing. An ADHD coach is one such expert, trained to help individuals navigate many of the challenges this complex neurodevelopmental disorder can present.

Below, we’re providing an overview of what an ADHD coach does, how they work, their efficacy, and how to choose the right coach for you. 

ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by trouble focusing, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Typically developing in childhood, and often persisting into adulthood, ADHD can present significant challenges throughout an individual’s life, potentially affecting their professional and academic careers, relationships, and mental and physical health. ADHD is divided into three subtypes—inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and combined type—each of which is described below.

  • Inattentive Type – This subtype of ADHD is marked by trouble focusing, inattention to detail, difficulty completing tasks, and disorganization. 
  • Hyperactive/Impulsive Type – This subtype of ADHD is marked by fidgeting, pressured speech, frequent interruptions during conversation, and trouble with time management.
  • Combined Type – This subtype of ADHD is characterized by a combination of the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive ADHD symptoms listed above.

Many of the symptoms associated with ADHD can be at least partly attributed to executive dysfunction. Executive function is our ability to plan, organize, and complete tasks; manage our emotions; and make decisions. Executive dysfunction refers to the impairment of this set of skills. Thought to arise out of alterations in the structure and function of certain brain regions, executive dysfunction is partially responsible for many of the common challenges of ADHD, including struggles with school, work, and relationships. 

As we’ll explain below, ADHD coaching often focuses on these particular concerns, helping with communication skills, difficulty concentrating, chronic disorganization, impulse control, self-efficacy, and more during coaching sessions. However, mental health research is constantly evolving, so older sources may contain information or theories that have been reevaluated since their original publication date. Keep up to date on recent studies on children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to learn about the most current research available. 

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ADHD coaches

Because of the above-mentioned difficulties ADHD can present, many people turn to experts, like an ADHD coach, to help them address their symptoms. ADHD coaches typically help individuals with areas like time management, goal setting, social skills, organization, and emotional control. While medication is the primary component of most treatment plans for ADHD, many people who take it still require guidance when it comes to some of the practical, everyday challenges of the disorder. ADHD coaches can provide that guidance, helping individuals improve their executive functioning, self-sufficiency, and self-esteem. ADHD coaching can be conducted in person or virtually and is usually offered in either a group or individual format. 

ADHD coaches typically focus on behavioral change in various areas of an individual’s life. The coach and client might focus on time management, organization, planning, relationships, emotional control, and a host of other potential areas of concern. Some coaches work specifically with children, college students, or adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and some focus on certain goals, such as academic or professional success for their clients. In general, an ADHD coach helps individuals develop helpful skills and reach their personal goals.

Typically, the first session consists of a thorough discussion of the client’s life, their experience with ADHD, and the objectives they’d like to achieve through the coaching relationship. Together, the coach and client can set long-term goals and develop a general plan for completing them. For example, if an individual wants to make better grades, their coaching plan may focus on improving test preparation, developing time management strategies, and managing stress. Sometimes, a coach may offer a trial coaching session to determine whether they are a good match for the client.

Then, the coach and client can regularly set shorter-term goals that help the individual gradually make progress toward their long-term objectives. For example, they may set a series of daily goals that includes studying for two hours, waking up at 7 am, and implementing stress-management strategies for 30 minutes. Over time, the coach can monitor the client’s progress, provide encouragement, and adjust the goals as needed throughout the coaching process.  

It can be important to note that co-occurring disorders, such as bipolar disorder or challenges with substance abuse, generally need to be treated separately by a licensed mental health professional.
If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.
What qualifications do coaches have?

Unlike mental health fields like therapy and psychiatry, ADHD coaching is currently uncontrolled, meaning there are no qualifications an individual must fulfill before taking on clients. Therefore, not every ADHD coach is a licensed mental health professional, and they may not have gone through formal training. However, there are several different certifications that coaches can obtain through training programs and other organizations, and industry standards have been established to help legitimize the field. While certifications are generally not required, they can signal to clients that the coach has the proper knowledge and experience to help them achieve their goals. 

The ADHD coaches organization

ADHD coaches can become certified through different organizations, such as the ADHD Coaches Organization, International Coaching Federation, the ADD Coach Academy, or the Professional Association for ADHD Coaches. These credentials are often earned when a coach has completed required educational courses, gained a certain amount of experience, and passed exams. Coaches may also be part of their local CHADD chapter (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a nonprofit organization). While a coach may not be a licensed mental health provider, they may still be a degreed professional who has certifications through these organizations.

The International Coach Federation

One of the most well-regarded certification programs for life coaches is the Professional Certified Coach credential through the International Coach Federation (ICF). This certification requires an individual to complete at least 125 hours of education, attain 500 hours of experience, and pass a credentialing exam. The International Coach Federation oversees this coach training process for an individual to become a certified international coach. It could be said that the best ADHD coach has been certified through the ICF.

Most coaches also have educational qualifications, such as degrees in counseling or related mental health fields. Many ADHD coaches have backgrounds in healthcare, education, business, life coaching, or other industries—experience which may help inform their practice and dictate what type of coaching they provide. For example, a coach with a business background may focus on helping executives or students in business school with goal setting, management training, and other areas of business. It may also be helpful to note that many coaches have had personal experience with ADHD, which may have been a big part of their choice to become a coach and begin working with ADHD clients.

Is coaching effective?

Research suggests that coaching can improve executive function, emotional control, and other facets of life that ADHD may affect. In a broad-based review of studies, researchers concluded that coaching can be beneficial for individuals living with ADHD. The review included studies linking coaching to improved self-esteem, healthier relationships, and even higher student GPAs. In a similar review, researchers concluded that ADHD coaching can lead to greater executive functioning in participants, including improvements in areas like organization, time management, and planning. Coaching can be helpful for children, adolescents, young adults, and older adults with ADHD, although adult ADHD often requires different symptom management strategies than ADHD in children.

Finding the right coach

If you’ve decided to work with ADHD coaches, there are several considerations to keep in mind as you search for the right person for you. You might first want to decide whether you’d like to participate in coaching remotely or in person. If you live in a sparsely populated area, you may be best served by meeting with a coach virtually. 

Additionally, while you will be able to set goals during sessions, consider outlining some of the objectives you’d like to achieve before searching for a coach. Take some time for introspection and self-discovery as you determine which psychological issues you’d like to tackle through coaching. Are you looking to better manage your time? Do you want help staying on task? Do you need a coach for school, work, or another specific activity? Because many coaches are specialists, knowing which facets of life you’d like to address can help you narrow down your options.  

The ADHD Coaches Organization provides a directory of ADHD coaches that allows you to filter options based on your location, areas of concern, and meeting preferences (e.g., in-person, remote). When browsing the directory, you can view any certifications each coach holds, along with their education, specialties, and location. You can also get a referral for a coach from a primary care physician or another healthcare professional. Some people may be able to find a coach through an event like the Conference on ADHD held by the organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). 

As you narrow down your list of potential coaches, in addition to researching their qualifications, look for testimonials or reviews. These may help you learn more about how well you’ll work with a coach and ensure you choose someone who has the knowledge and experience necessary to find solutions for your specific concerns. You may wish to seek out a coach who is a certified teacher, a trained professional, or a licensed mental health professional, according to your preferences.

Additionally, the success of your collaboration with a coach will typically depend on how aligned the two of you are when it comes to goals, approach, personality, etc. Prior to signing up with a coach, you can typically request a consultation so that you can become acquainted with them, learn more about the techniques they use, and get a feel for how well you’ll work together. You may want to get a prospective coach’s answers on how many clients they already have and what specific training they completed to become a coach.

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Managing ADHD with online therapy

The results of an increasing number of studies show that online therapy is an effective way for individuals to manage symptoms of ADHD. For example, in a study on the effects of online cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD, participants reported experiencing improvements in symptoms that were sustained for a year post treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely utilized method of addressing ADHD that focuses on helping the individual reframe negative thought patterns that may contribute to their symptoms. 

Online therapy platforms can provide you with comprehensive, convenient mental health care as you address ADHD or other mental health-related concerns. With BetterHelp, your therapist can motivate you and help you reach your goals for ADHD treatment remotely through video calls, voice calls, or in-app messaging. BetterHelp works with thousands of mental health professionals—who have a range of specialties—so you’ll have a good chance of matching with someone who can help you navigate your specific challenges regarding ADHD. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have sought help for similar concerns.

Therapist reviews
“Kenneth is a spectacular and very understanding counselor. I appreciate that he genuinely understands my experiences with ADHD anxiety, and depression and gives me a very helpful, step-by-step plan to overcome my issues and get to the root of them. I also greatly appreciate that he is great at validating and giving me a safe space to talk and not feel judged but rather empowered and happy! I highly recommend him!”

“Tasha has been amazing in the few months I’ve worked with her, and she’s helped me a lot! She’s been patient with me and the technical issues that arise sometimes, and she’s always a listening ear and a great “common sense” voice that has helped me a lot during anxiety or depressive episodes. She’s helped me a lot with all the useful info and worksheets she’s provided with techniques and information on calming techniques, challenging my destructive thought processes, and dealing with my ADHD. Tasha is great!! I’ve loved talking to and working with her.”

Takeaway

Coaching can be a beneficial component of a treatment plan for ADHD. ADHD coaches can provide emotional support, encouragement, and guidance that may lead to improvements across a range of symptoms. If you’d like additional support navigating ADHD or other mental health-related challenges, consider getting matched with a licensed therapist online. With the right help, you can manage ADHD symptoms and take the next steps on your mental health journey. 

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