Therapy for ADHD: Benefits & Types to Consider

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Written by:Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Published On: July 27, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD

Reviewed On: July 27, 2022

Updated On: July 17, 2023


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that’s estimated to affect about 8.4% of children and, according to recent research, 2.5% of adults. ADHD can cause inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors that make simple daily things — like focusing, completing tasks, and listening to instructions — challenging.

While there’s a high prevalence of ADHD in this country, there’s also a lot of hope in terms of treatment. Even though it’s not curable, this mental health condition can be effectively treated with a high success rate through several types of therapy. In many cases, a combination of therapy and ADHD medication will be most effective.

Benefits of Therapy for ADHD

Therapy is an invaluable tool for individuals who have ADHD or any mental health condition. Through talk therapy and developing healthy strategies for managing the symptoms of ADHD, people can lead happier, more successful lives. Here are just a few of the benefits of therapy for ADHD:

  • Improved focus and productivity
  • Increased ability to recognize emotions
  • Enhanced interpersonal relationships
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Better organizational skills
  • Increased motivation

7 Different Types of Therapy for ADHD

While the recommended type can differ amongst children and adults, some of the most common types of therapy for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder include:

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy
  2. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
  3. Family therapy and couples counseling
  4. Behavioral therapy
  5. Play therapy
  6. Music therapy
  7. Art therapy

Keep reading as we discuss the types of therapy for ADHD that are suggested for both adults and children. We’ll also share some tips about how to find a therapist. With the right ADHD treatment, you or the child in your life can learn to effectively cope with ADHD.

ADHD Therapy for Adults

Therapy can be a successful way to treat ADHD in people over 18 years old. Which ADHD therapy techniques for adults will be most effective will depend on you, your ADHD symptoms, and your goals for ADHD treatment.

When it comes to therapy for ADHD, adults are no different than children in terms of treatment. Ultimately, therapy will never be a one-size-fits-all deal. Thus, it’s important to be willing to look at all of the various therapy approaches out there, as well as the different types of ADHD. You might need to try a couple before you find the style that works best for you and your ADHD symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy. It’s one of the most widely-used and effective types of therapy specifically for treating ADHD in adults. Though it doesn’t address any of ADHD’s core symptoms (hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention), CBT does focus on things such as time management and procrastination.

“CBT is one of the most effective types of therapy for people diagnosed with ADHD. It helps to address cognitions, helping them change behaviors, and adds to the benefits achieved by ADHD medication.”

Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

One of the most difficult aspects for adults with ADHD is the fact that they often know what they need to do, they just might have extreme difficulty actually doing it. This is where CBT can be beneficial. It has a strong focus on implementing techniques that can help someone with ADHD.

Treating ADHD in adults through the use of CBT includes 4 main strategies:

  • Changing how you think about and approach things (cognitive modification)
  • Changing how you behave while learning effective coping skills (behavior modification)
  • Focusing on acceptance and mindfulness (emotional regulation)
  • Learning to implement techniques from therapy into everyday life (implementation)

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a type of talk therapy that falls under the CBT umbrella. It’s proving to be a great way to treat adult ADHD, offering all the benefits of CBT techniques while also incorporating the practice of mindfulness.

Newer research on mindfulness meditation suggests it might be effective in enhancing brain function — including functioning related to neuropsychological capacities that are known to be impaired in adults with ADHD, like emotion regulation and attention control. Both meditation and breathing techniques can be successful in helping the mind calm and stay in the present.

MBCT can be done in individual therapy or in a group setting. It’s useful in helping adults learn to control their behaviors, thoughts, and emotions so they can successfully manage ADHD. Recent research shows that MBCT can treat symptoms of adult ADHD substantially better than some other types of therapy might.

Family therapy and couples counseling

Family therapy and couples counseling can help the entire family unit when one member has ADHD. Focusing on communication skills and how to problem solve can be great for anyone who must interact with ADHD, whether that be the person living with it, or those closest to them.

Family therapy for adults with ADHD can address the extreme stress and difficulty a household might feel as a result of one person having the condition. When all members of the family learn to identify the specific source of that stress, they can then learn how to react in healthy, positive ways so a more peaceful and unified family life can ensue.

ADHD can make adults seem or become forgetful, impulsive, distracted, or irrational. These attitudes and actions can weigh heavily on everyone in their life, straining even the most loving relationships. Therapy can help families through.

ADHD Therapy for Children

Therapy for ADHD in children isn’t vastly different from how it’s used with adults. That said, there are minor differences that can make treatment progress more quickly and essentially be more successful.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy uses elements of psychotherapy combined with behavior modifications to achieve best results. For children, learning to get organized and how to focus on time management can be game changers. Not only can behavioral therapy help a child become successful in navigating the demands that are placed on them, it can also teach them to control their emotions and regulate inappropriate behaviors that might be causing them to struggle.

Behavioral therapy for ADHD in children will typically put a strong emphasis on helping the entire family. It’s common for parents and caregivers of children with ADHD to inadvertently contribute to some of the negative behaviors a child might exhibit.

“Behavior therapy is recommended to help children and their parents. It helps them with self-esteem, self-control, and regulating behavioral issues. Children who are 12 years or older benefit from this type of therapy. For the younger ones, it’s recommended for the parents to get behavioral training therapy so they can act as role models and guide their children.”

Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

Behavioral therapy can help the adults in a child’s life understand the do’s and don’ts when it comes to helping. Parents who are trained in behavior therapy for very young children with ADHD will learn strategies to help kids be successful at home, in school, and in relationships.

Behavioral therapy can teach a child how to successfully:

  • Share
  • Interact with peers, parents, and teachers appropriately
  • Be patient and wait their turn
  • Pay attention and finish tasks (like homework)
  • Keep their bedrooms, playrooms, and study areas tidy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT isn’t only effective for adults learning to manage the symptoms of ADHD. It’s also an excellent way for children to find ways to accept how they’re feeling and learn to react in positive, calm, and appropriate manners.

CBT is known for helping children learn to focus and concentrate. It can teach kids essential life skills like how to:

  • Stay better-organized
  • Problem solve
  • Manage their time
  • React in healthy ways to situations they encounter

Additionally, CBT might reduce some of the anxiety that’s common in kids with ADHD.

Play therapy

Play therapy helps kids by offering them reassurance that helps calm their anxieties. It can improve self-esteem and gives therapists an avenue to focus on healthy perceptions a child should have about the world around them. Play overwhelmingly allows children to feel secure and connected to their support system.

Music therapy

Music is known to enhance focus and attention, both hallmark struggles for kids with ADHD. Music therapy can reduce hyperactivity in some children. It’s been found to increase dopamine levels in the brain, which is associated with working memory, reward experiences, and regulating attention.

Art therapy

Particularly for children who struggle with hyperactivity, art therapy can be very effective in how to treat ADHD. Art can be an expressive outlet that gives a child focus while keeping their hands busy. Art therapy can teach children with ADHD how to problem solve, communicate, and become more successful in social interactions.

Finding a Therapist for ADHD

Finding ADHD therapy techniques for adults and children will be both easier and more effective if you seek out a therapist who’s skilled, trained, and experienced in treating this neurodevelopmental disorder. ADHD can interfere with how successfully someone is able to complete tasks, remain organized, self-regulate, and interact with others. The right type of therapy (led by the right therapist) will offer strategies and coping mechanisms that will be key in any adult or child learning to successfully navigate an ADHD diagnosis. Anyone with ADHD can learn to be productive, successful, and accomplished in life. It just might take some help through online therapy to get there.

Talkspace therapists have exceptional knowledge about the various types of therapy for ADHD that will help you or a loved one manage. Learn why so many people are turning to Talkspace for help in how to deal with ADHD. With Talkspace online therapy, you can learn to not just live with ADHD, but to thrive with it.

See References

Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Cynthia Catchings is a trilingual licensed clinical social worker-supervisor, mental health consultant, professor, and trainer for federal law enforcement agencies. Cynthia has over 15 years of experience in the mental health profession. She is passionate about women’s mental health, life transitions, and stress management. Her clinical work, advocacy, and volunteer service have focused on working with domestic violence survivors and conducting mental health research in over 30 countries.

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