Growing up, I decided that I wanted to be a counseling psychologist at an early age. What I didn’t know, even after I accepted an offer with FSU’s doctoral program in psychology, was that I would become impassioned about counseling (and coaching) individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in particular, and even more specifically, adults with ADHD. Through my early experiences as a budding professional I, like many people, thought of ADHD as a childhood issue. This idea was initially reinforced when even my esteemed professors quoted examples such as Dennis ‘the Menace’ and Tom Sawyer as classic, trademark sufferers – children, usually male, unable to stay in their seats, causing trouble wherever they went. Becoming a glorified babysitter with an office full of toys was not the career I had envisioned for myself. I dreamed of being a modern day (female) Aaron Beck, the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a nuts and bolts approach to the way people deal with their thoughts, actions, and emotions, and an idea that certainly clashed with my view of the proper way to treat a rambunctious child with ADHD.
Fortunately, the professor who handpicked me as her doctoral protégé in 2003 was Dr. Frances Prevatt. Dr. Prevatt was already knee deep in the world of ADHD by this time. She had also recently helped to launch the Adult Learning Evaluation Center (ALEC) on FSU’s campus in Tallahassee, Florida, where master’s and doctoral students conducted low cost psycho-educational evaluations for adults looking to be assessed for Learning Disabilities or ADHD. Another more unique part of ALEC was the creation of a practicum in ADHD coaching, a treatment I had never even heard of let alone looked forward to conducting. However, during my first year of doctoral work, as a research assistant for Dr. Prevatt, I had slowly come to understand that most everything I thought I knew about ADHD was wrong: ADHD is not just a childhood (or male) disorder. Hyperactivity sometimes can but often does not play a role. Individuals with ADHD are not lazy or undisciplined and are frequently highly intelligent. ADHD does not exist in a bubble – disorders like depression and anxiety often play a role. And most of all, ADHD coaching shares a lot in common with CBT (more on ADHD coaching in Chapter 9: Non-medication based treatment options). Needless to say, my interest had been piqued.
My first client in my ADHD coaching practicum was Joey, an eighteen year-old freshmen at Florida State. Joey was quiet, with a sweet disposition, very unlike the typical college freshmen frat boy stereotype. He had graduated high school with a 3.0 but reported to me that he felt he always had to work “twice as hard” as his peers to keep up. Joey’s parents had been very supportive, spending hours after school helping him to keep track of and plan out his assignments. While this certainly made high school easier, Joey was shocked at his inability to manage his different courses once he entered college and in figuring out why, was eventually tested and diagnosed with ADHD. My sessions with Joey flew by. He always came ready to work and often impressed me with his insightfulness and creative approach to problem solving. He also challenged me as a new therapist and now “coach”, forcing me to think about things in a way my mood or personality disordered clients did not.
Joey caused me to fall in love with adult ADHD clients and ADHD coaching, but it was my continued work in academia with Dr. Prevatt, that kept that love growing. Together we published several studies on ADHD and the learning and study strategies of college students with the disorder, including articles for The ADHD Report and Psychology in the Schools. In my final years as a doctoral student I launched one of the first empirical studies on ADHD coaching in the field of psychology. Findings from that study can be seen throughout this text. By the time I became Dr. Levrini in 2008 my affection for ADHD coaching had become a full grown love affair. After years away I moved back to my home state of Virginia and immediately launched Psych Ed Coaches, PLLC (www.psychedcoaches.com), my one-of-a-kind therapy practice, specializing in ADHD coaching for individuals of all ages, but also addressing the issues that so often accompany ADHD such as anxiety and depression. Today Psych Ed Coaches has four offices in the northern Virginia/DC area and employs six licensed mental health practitioners/coaches. I also began speaking nationwide at conferences, city events, and schools, joined the Board of Directors for the DC/Northern VA Chapter of CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD), and started a local support group for parents of children with ADHD.
In my now eight years as a therapist and ADHD coach and Dr. Prevatt’s over thirty years of experience in the field of psychology, we have built a wealth of what we believe to be helpful and unique approaches to treating adults with ADHD. We also know that there are many sufferers out there who either don’t want or cannot afford professional help, however, that shouldn’t stop them from being able to utilize many of the same tools and strategies we use with our clients.
Our goal in writing this book was to create a “user-friendly” self-help manuscript for adults struggling with the symptoms associated with ADHD. Many individuals with ADHD complain that they cannot handle the intensity of most self-help books. Since lack of attention is a cornerstone of the disorder, the majority of these lengthy books are too overwhelming to even begin. Whether you are new to the diagnosis, or have been struggling for years, this book offers new and unique strategies for overcoming ADHD related difficulties, in a simple, straightforward manner. “Tools for Managing Adult ADHD” enables you to easily peruse its pages in short 5-15 minute segments, so as not to overwhelm you. Visual aids have been inserted showing where to “Start” and “Stop” reading. Also, each chapter is broken down into short, distinctive sections that offer many perspectives on utilizing each tool. Specifically, chapters may contain one or more of the following categories:
Quiz Yourself – Does this sound like you?: Five ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions at the beginning of each chapter that will allow you to gage if that chapter is for you
What the Experts Say: A short, non-technical interpretation of the latest research in support of each strategy
Can You Relate to This?: Case examples of adults with ADHD
Help Yourself!: Fill-in exercises to help you apply what you have read
Chapter Summaries: Bulleted lists of the most important ideas, found at the end of each chapter
For those of you interested in learning more about the research used in the development of this book, we provide an end-of-the book section full of suggested reading materials.
We hope that you will find the strategies in this book both useful and easy to apply. While any time you attempt to integrate new techniques into your schedule it takes some effort, before long you will find that these ideas will become routine, leading to a simpler, more streamlined lifestyle. So go ahead and turn on some background music, find a comfortable spot, and begin to simplify your life – 10 minutes at a time.