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Written by:Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD

Published On: July 11, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Reviewed On: July 11, 2022

Updated On: June 13, 2023


Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can significantly interfere with day-to-day life. It can cause impulsivity, difficulty paying attention or completing tasks, and in some cases, hyperactivity. Thankfully, when it comes to how to deal with ADHD, both children and adults can see a significant improvement in their condition by learning how to treat ADHD using a variety of techniques.

If you or a loved one has any of the types of ADHD, finding the right ADHD treatment plan can improve your life in many ways. Read on to learn about the several options available if you’re looking for information on how to treat ADHD in adults and children.

ADHD treatment options can include:

  • Behavior therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Parent training in behavior management
  • Behavioral interventions in the classroom
  • Peer interventions focused on behavior
  • Play therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Social skills groups
  • ADHD coaching
  • Organizational skills training
  • Medication
  • Holistic treatment methods

Therapy for ADHD

We have significant research on how to treat ADHD in adults and children. While therapy is among the leading treatments for ADHD, most people find that the best way to manage symptoms includes a multimodal approach involving both therapy and medication. That said, there are several therapy techniques used to successfully treat ADHD. Which works best ultimately just depends on the individual, their symptoms, and their goals for treatment.

How does therapy treat ADHD?

Treating ADHD with therapy can provide people with ADHD the tools they need to manage their symptoms more effectively. Through therapy for ADHD, it’s possible to build skills and develop coping mechanisms that can be used in day-to-day life. While ADHD can make tasks difficult to accomplish, therapy can help you learn to break things down, so they’re more manageable.

Some people might attend therapy sessions on their own, although ADHD therapy often involves the entire family — especially when treating children. Certain forms of therapy have been found more effective than others. Some of them follow.

Types of therapy for ADHD

A variety of therapy styles can help people with ADHD learn to cope and be successful in life.

“Various modalities of therapy are used in conjunction with the medications (stimulants or non-stimulants). Some are geared towards toddlers and young age groups, some are applied for teenagers and adults, and some interventions are for parents, caregivers, and teachers. Therapy helps to identify triggers in the environment and interventions on how stimulation can be modified to improve the function of the individual. KNOW, SCAN, and UNDERSTAND your environment and take charge of it to function AT your BEST.”

Psychiatrist, MD, DFAPA Muhammad Munir

Behavior therapy

This type of therapy for ADHD is commonly used to treat children with ADHD. It helps people identify negative behaviors and then replace them with positive ones.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of talk therapy designed to improve the symptoms of mental health conditions like ADHD. It helps people identify and change their thinking and behavioral patterns.

Parent training in behavior management

While some types of ADHD therapy focus on the patient, this targets the parents. It’s designed to train parents to help children with ADHD improve their behaviors. It can also be beneficial in showing parents how their reactions might be causing a child to struggle.

Behavioral interventions in the classroom

ADHD is linked to lower school performance in multiple studies. Academic interventions, classroom considerations, and behavioral intervention strategies can all help children with ADHD succeed.

Peer interventions focus on behavior

It’s common for children with ADHD to receive interventions for their behavior. Including a child’s peers has been shown to have a positive impact for some children.

Play therapy

Since play is a crucial part of child development, treating ADHD with play therapy might be used to connect with children. Play can be an effective way for a child to have the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings.

Music therapy

Music therapy can help people with ADHD build valuable skills like self-control, attention, and focus. Children can benefit greatly from the structure that music therapy provides.

Art therapy

Art therapy is an alternative treatment for ADHD that helps improve focus and problem-solving skills through art. While it’s often used to treat children, adults can benefit from this type of therapy as well.

Social skills groups

The symptoms of ADHD can make social interactions difficult for some people. Social skills groups focus on how to help someone with ADHD enhance their social skills so they can learn to avoid interpersonal issues.

ADHD coaching

ADHD coaching is a joint process where an ADHD coach and client focus on identifying, setting, and working towards goals. Coaches can motivate clients and help them build the skills they need for success.

Organizational skills training

Children with ADHD often struggle to manage their time and keep school materials organized. Organization training is an intervention that helps students figure out how to stay organized and use their time more effectively and efficiently.

Medications for ADHD

When discussing how to treat ADHD in children and adults, it’s not uncommon for medication to be considered. While therapy can take time, ADHD medicine might offer a more immediate improvement of symptoms. Some people may take it every day, while others may find they only need medication on days that they have work or school.

ADHD medication can have side effects, which is why it’s important to find the right type and dosage. Many of these side effects appear early in ADHD treatment, only to improve over time. Some common side effects might include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Jitteriness
  • Stomach ache

How does medication treat ADHD?

First, it’s important to distinguish that medication won’t ever cure ADHD — rather, it can help improve symptoms that are causing disruption in someone’s life. Medication is used to treat ADHD work by targeting brain chemicals like dopamine or norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters pass messages in the brain, and medication can help improve neurotransmission and, ultimately, communication.

The levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brains of people with ADHD can make it difficult to control impulses, complete tasks, or remain calm and focused. Medication is one way to temporarily improve these ADHD symptoms.

Types of medication for ADHD

Stimulants: Prescription stimulant medication is considered the first line, and most effective type of ADHD medication. In one study, methylphenidate (MPH) treatment exceeded the placebo response with tremendous success (MPH response was 76% vs. the placebo’s 19%).

Non-stimulants: There are also non-stimulant medications to treat ADHD that can be tried if stimulants aren’t working. Note that while non-stimulants generally take longer to work, they might have fewer side effects and a substantially lower risk of addiction or abuse.

Antidepressants: In some cases, antidepressants may be used off-label to treat patients who are suffering from both ADHD and depression.

Holistic Treatment for ADHD

Holistic treatments can be an alternative to medication. There are many natural remedies for ADHD, including diet and exercise, supplements, meditation, and memory training.

Diet: While what causes ADHD isn’t thought to be linked to nutritional problems, some foods might potentially make symptoms of ADHD more severe. A nutrient-rich diet can improve brain health, which may improve symptoms. Protein, complex carbohydrates, and omega-3 fatty acids are all great for the brain.

Feingold diet: The Feingold Diet is an elimination diet that was specifically designed to treat ADHD symptoms in children. Children on the diet avoid artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. While research supporting the efficacy of this treatment option is limited, some studies do suggest that artificial food additives might increase hyperactive behavior in some children.

Exercise: Regular exercise can be incredibly beneficial for some people with ADHD. When we exercise, our brain naturally produces more dopamine and endorphins. Any physical activity, from martial arts, to dance, to running around in the backyard, could potentially improve ADHD symptoms.

Find Treatment for ADHD with Talkspace

ADHD can significantly reduce the quality of life if it’s not properly treated. Children with ADHD might find it hard to pay attention in school, making it difficult for them to learn new things. Adult ADHD means struggling with interpersonal and professional relationships, and having a tough time feeling successful about responsibilities. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ADHD, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.

Experts have learned a great deal about how to treat ADHD. This means there are many treatment options available. Whether you try therapy, medication, holistic treatments, or a combination of several techniques, the right treatment means you can manage your ADHD and keep symptoms under control.

Learn how Talkspace online therapy can help you accept and manage your ADHD. With the right guidance, you can live your best life, feeling at peace with your ADHD diagnosis and believing that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

See References

Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD

Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA, has over 20 years of clinical experience specializing in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, and ADHD. Dr. Munir believes in “back to basics” the therapeutic alliance between the physician and patients. The hallmark of this alliance is the emphatic process whereby the patient is not only enabled, but educated and encouraged, to take an active role in their psychiatric care and wellbeing.

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