Why A Coach Might Recommend Therapy

Recently, I was invited to present to a group of therapists on ADHD coaching. The goal of the presentation was to introduce coaching to the therapists, describe the benefits, including the evidence to support the success of coaching as an intervention, and to delineate the differences, and crossover, between ADHD coaching and therapy.

I receive inquiries from potential clients that are hoping that coaching will help them to address their challenges related to ADHD; that is my hope as well. But sometimes, these potential clients are not “available for coaching.” And therapy, either while in coaching or prior to starting, would l enable them to move forward.

Having ADHD can cause one to doubt one’s abilities, sanity, and value. It can ramp up anxiety; it can, when challenges become too great, cause the ADHDer to sink into depression. 

While it would seem that addressing ADHD challenges would cause ones mood to lift, anxiety to lessen, and self esteem to rise, the past is still there. The feelings of being “less than” might dissipate; but having had those feelings before coaching can still get in the way, because they are ready to jump up when something doesn’t work.

For example, let’s say one of the strategies that a client and I discuss as a possibility is having a morning routine that includes taking time to eat breakfast, while sitting at a table with actual silverware and plates (by the way, a great way to start the day!). So, my client tries this out, finds they look forward to it, and so are more apt to get up on time. A win!

Until the day they oversleep.

And then, there is no time for this luxurious breakfast. There’s barely time to shower. And the entire time, the messages of the past pop up, sometimes in the voices of parents or teachers, ready to destroy the client’s self esteem and good feelings.

Now if this happens once in a while, it can be addressed in a coaching session. But if the client is struggling, these events of the past, and the subsequent emotions they evoke, can really get in the way.

Potential clients sometimes want the shortcut (really, who doesn’t?) They want the answer to how to deal, without addressing what has been before. However, shortcuts that ignore how a client shows up for support don’t work. And any responsible coach will tell you that.

Therapy addresses your past. Therapists help clients to explore what happened, how it impacted one’s emotions and self-talk, and how to deal with those pesky messages in the future. And when clients have dealt with their past, coaches are there-ready to walk side by side with clients, into the future.

What’s The Deal With Gratitude Journals?

I’m not sure how many of you are from the New York City area, or have been there, or have just seen it on television. However, I think it’s fair to say that most people, when they think of New Yorkers, think of tough, unfiltered, often rude people, who do not tolerate B.S. ever.

Not only am I a born and raised New Yorker-I’m from Brooklyn. Telling this fact to my former students on Day One of school prompted good behavior for at least a few days.

So when Oprah started talking about gratitude journals, and stopping to notice the birds and flowers, I thought that the idea was ridiculous. “Who has time for that?” I thought. “Sure, I’m grateful for a lot of things and people in my life, but can’t I just be grateful and not make a big deal out of it? I know that I’m grateful, no one needs to tell me how to do it.” 

And there’s no way I needed another item on that to-do list, right?? It’s overflowing as it is.

Of course, as with most things, Oprah actually had it right. Especially for someone like me.

You see, having that tough Brooklyn persona requires keeping your feelings hidden-with the possible exception of anger. The whole premise of being a New Yorker is being unflappable. Add ADHD into the mix, and there can be the guilt and shame associated with missing deadlines, etc.-being tucked away where no one can see.

However, being that stoic, unaffected human doesn’t just keep you from getting carried away when something bad happens. It also prevents you from getting pumped up about the good, particularly the little things that can go unnoticed. In fact, not only can you miss acknowledging them-it might, in fact, be uncool to do so. Who stops their day to note their gratitude for the technology that lets you pay your bills online, and therefore on time?

Well…now I do.

I don’t know what possessed me to start my gratitude journal-I think I was given a really nice notebook, and wanted to use it. I try to take note of the small things-my dog’s soft ears, talking to my kids, having a productive day.

Having this become a habit has trained me to notice things I’m grateful for during the day, so I have something to write about. I consistently notice the good things in my life, which in turn lifts my mood.

When one is dealing with ADHD, finding that little kernel of happiness in a day can sometimes be the key to persevering. To saying, “Okay, I paid that bill late. But I’m not a loser. I’m grateful that I only paid it two days late, and that I’m smart enough to find a strategy to help with this.”

Plus anything that helps one focus on something is always a good exercise for ADHDers.

Neurodiversity, From The Inside

In honor of Back To School, today’s blog post was actually written by my son. It was his Diversity Statement for his law school applications, written seven years ago (he has since attended law school and become an attorney). 

While I know it’s impossible for me to be objective, this essay is one of the most poignant pieces of writing I’ve read about ADHD. On the one hand, it hurts my heart to think about my son, a little boy, struggling with feeling so different, and being made to feel just…wrong. But on the other hand, I am so proud of him, of the person he is (and was all along), of how he has battled the struggles of ADHD, and continues to persevere. He is one of my heroes, and I feel blessed and lucky to be his mom.

Scattered among my old papers and school supplies are dozens of painstakingly crafted childhood dalliances–trail maps of fictional ski resorts drawn in my free time, hundreds of loose-leaf pages of notes and classwork from my academic career, the words therein corralled by extensive marginalia and doodles– reminders of the all the time I spent in my own little world.

Since my preschool days of apathetically watching my classmates entertain themselves by scouring the floor together collecting staples, I knew that I had a talent for getting enthralled in my own thoughts at the expense of the outside world.  When my kindergarten teacher excoriated me for being “rude little boy” and spacing out during math, or when my ninth grade history teacher scolded me daily for asking questions that had already been answered, I wondered why my peers had no trouble focusing in class, relating to others, or being “normal.”

Finally, I discovered the name of my affliction; ADHD.  But I was surprised to learn that this was more than just a daunting obstacle.  Certainly I would need to offset my focus problems with color-coded school binders, and by ensuring that my homework was complete before watching TV–and I have continued to employ similar strategies to this day.   My doodling habit, far from distracting my easily-misled mind, has become a means of stimulating creative thinking and focusing my scattershot thoughts on the task at hand.  Yet I have also found that ADHD causes me to selectively and intensely get absorbed in the things that actually interest me.

This “hyperfocus,” a component of ADHD, gives me the opportunity to turn things over in my mind in a unique way, and  has caused me to develop a unique perspective. So whether I was telling my friends about the Loch Ness monster in third grade, or finding nuances in situations for use in my sketch comedy class, I can draw conclusions that others might not, and use these seemingly quirky observations as a bridge to others, instead of the wall it once was. 

Don’t Fear Summer With ADHD Kiddos!

It’s summer!! Woo-hoo!

Said very few parents of ADHD kids, ever.

Parents of ADHD kiddos love their kids. But when summer comes, this small-ish child (or children!) looms large in their parents’ minds-and what goes through their heads are the tantrums, the meltdowns, the mess. And the dread.

I’m here to tell you – you can actually have a good summer with your ADHD child. Maybe even a great summer. Let’s talk about some strategies.

1 – Give your kid(s) ownership of their summer. You all are one team (maybe even give it a name!). You can work together to determine what your family would like to do this summer, and how to make some of those activities happen. You, as the adult, have veto power – but before you outright nix an idea, brainstorm ways to modify or limit the activity to make it acceptable to you. Nothing engages kids (and adults) more than planning an activity. And ADHD kiddos are so often told they are wrong, or bad – helping to plan an activity for the family will be so empowering! However, if after talking it through, you are still 100% opposed, do not be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, but we can’t do that.” You are in charge.

2 – Think out your boundaries, and share them with your kids. What do you need from this summer? Are you working? Then you need time to do that, at a time that you determine. Do you want your house to be straightened up each night? Would you like to work on a project? All of these activities require time, and might require alone time for you. You will need to unflinchingly tell your kids your boundaries, and let them know that these are non-negotiable. Period.

3 – Structure each day/week. ADHD kids do so much better  with structure. Each day should have some basic parts – meal times, TV time, reading time, etc-and every week should also have a plan. The weekly plan can be looser than the daily plan – this week we will go swimming, go to the beach, and visit Grandma – and then you can slot activities in when it works with your schedule.

4 – Have a team huddle every morning – and include praise for your kids’ efforts. 10 minutes to set expectations for the day in the morning can prevent meltdowns later in the day. And recognizing when you see them being team players is so motivating!

5 – Guarantee quiet, solitary time for each kiddo every day. We all wish our kids would wake up each morning and be so thrilled to see their siblings that they’d never argue. Ha! Good one! In order to prevent meltdowns, consider letting your kids hang in their rooms, alone, not as punishment, but just as time by themselves.You can determine the time of day, based on when it seems they are getting on each other’s nerves, and amount of time. But just knowing there will be a breather from their sibs could carry your kids through some rough waters when they’re together.

6 – Assign chores to your kids – and consider paying them. Parents generally feel that kids can’t do chores. Quite bluntly, that;s incorrect. If your kids balk at chores, before you take away TV, etc,find out what’s causing that. It may be something as simple as not knowing how to perform the chore. Paying them a small amount is a great incentive – after all, we get paid for work, shouldn’t they?

Finally, although these strategies will help, be ready for some rough days. Some days during the summer will be awesome, and will provide some wonderful memories for all of you. But there will be difficult days, when you will yell, the kids will cry, and your house will look like the proverbial tornado hit it. Those are the days you pop in a movie, or let the kids play videogames in their pj’s for the rest of the day, while you retreat to Bravo TV and serve something delivered by Door Dash for dinner.

And that’s okay. Because you and your team will go on to play another day.

Why It’s Okay To Say “Hey, Siri?”

I was chatting with a client the other day, discussing a strategy we had designed together to help keep her on track with keeping her house more organized and clean. When I asked her the question, “How will you remember to do this?” her response was “Well, I can set a reminder, but I really should be able to remember without it.”

She SHOULD remember without a reminder? What does that even mean??

The word “should” implies a rule or requirement, like you should eat vegetables, or you should drive under the speed limit. But as far as I know, there is no rule in this world that requires people to remember tasks, birthdays, and anything else, without any sort of support.

And yet, this is a common ADHD lament…I SHOULD be able to do this without using any of the many things that would make it easier/shorter/more likely to happen.

Interestingly enough, neurotypicals don’t feel this way. In fact, they embrace any and every thing that will help to make life easier. Apple watches, Alexa, air fryers, dashboard reminders for oil changes-these are all ways that technology helps to make things smoother. And it is not just ADHDers who are calling out, “Hey Siri?”

So that got me thinking about why neurotypical folks embrace futuristic enablers, and ADHDers feel guilty about using them.

I realized that, because ADHDers often feel like they are AT FAULT, they are incapable, they are lazy-possibly because they’ve been told that by teachers, family, and others-they want to show that dammit, they don’t need help! They can do it! I’m not going to need no stinkin’ Alexa!

This is quite the conundrum. Because ADHDers are NOT at fault, they ARE capable. They are NOT lazy-and there is nothing wrong with using supports that are available, just like neurotypicals do. In fact, it can be a real game changer for ADHDers.

Look, I sew things. Now I certainly know how to thread a needle, and sew by hand. But, when given the choice, I will always use my sewing machine. And that’s not because I’m lazy, or incapable. It’s because it makes it much more likely that I will complete the project I’ve started-and I’ll enjoy it more, because the time and drudgery of hand sewing is eliminated.

So, my ADHD friends, please do NOT eschew technology, or planners, or any of the things that can make it more likely that you will succeed. Be the intelligent, creative person you are, and utilize anything you can to improve your life.

I’m not going to say you SHOULD embrace supports. Maybe…just strongly consider it.