Recently, I attended a party where one guest, I’ll call her Susan, exhibited some ADHD behavior. It was raining as Susan was leaving the party, and this inspired the hostess to share with her a story about how her basement flooded the year before. She included details of the dirty, expensive process of getting rid of the water, tearing out the wet, moldy drywall, and putting in new walls. When the hostess finished, Susan responded inappropriately with “That’s totally awesome! That’s so great! You guys are the best!” When Susan left, another guest said to the hostess, “I don’t think she heard a word of your story,” and the hostess rolled her eyes and nodded in agreement.
I think Susan meant to listen to the hostess, but had unwittingly zoned out. I think she wanted to care and show enthusiasm about the story, so she provided what she believed was a response reflecting that. But actually, her response conveyed just the opposite; it conveyed that she found the hostess and her story so boring and unimportant that hadn’t even bothered to listen.
The sad part is, Susan probably did this regularly, to everyone, imperiling her relationships, without any awareness that it was a problem.
I am a mental health counselor who chooses to employ coaching to help my clients who are struggling with ADHD. I believe that both therapy and coaching are great treatment options for most disorders, but for ADHD, I prefer coaching.
One reason for my preference is that recovery is not the goal for people like Susan, strategizing is, and coaching is all about strategizing. Therapy works well for helping clients recover from depression, substance use problems, crippling anxiety, etc., but for those with ADHD, developing strategies for minimizing ADHD’s disadvantages and maximizing its advantages is the best approach. As a coach, I wouldn’t try and help Susan recover from her inattentiveness, I would help her recognize that her problems with focus extend beyond the work arena, and help her employ techniques for addressing them.
Another reason why I prefer coaching for clients with ADHD is that unlike anxiety, depression and other disorders, ADHD doesn’t make people feel unlike themselves. They don’t suddenly notice a change in their emotion, thought, behavior, or physicality. So, unlike other types of sufferers, people with ADHD are usually unaware of the myriad ways that their symptoms are impacting their lives, because it has always been that way. Susan had no idea that she was insulting people by not listening – she didn’t even realize she wasn’t listening. An ADHD coach would help her develop awareness of how her inattentiveness was affecting her relationships, and look for the impact of disorganization, impulsiveness, poor money management, and tardiness as well.
Susan has so many strengths; she is lively, fun, enthusiastic, creative, and she can hyper-focus in ways that allow her to master some very difficult things, such as playing the banjo and creating graphic art. With a little coaching, she, and others with ADHD, could leverage their strengths, develop techniques for overcoming their weaknesses, and ultimately, play the game of life much more successfully.
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