ADHD Coaching-A Powerful Secret Weapon

ADHD Coaching-A Powerful Secret Weapon

Melissa Fahrney, M.A., A.C.C. is a certified ADHD life coach and school psychologist. For questions please contact her at Feel free to visit

You feel like you’ve tried everything, but progress is slow, or minimal, or just plain frustrating. I’m talking about working with your ADHD student. Perhaps she is getting the preferred and recommended multi-modal treatment of: medicine, counseling and behavioral interventions. But, maybe not. Maybe only one is happening, just therapy, or just a prescribed stimulant medication. Either way, if managing ADHD still seems to be a struggle…there is another recommended strategy to have the treatment become well-rounded, multi-modal and much more powerful than just medication or therapy alone. Introducing ADHD coaching!

Never heard of it? Or….heard of it but not quite sure? For those who have heard of it and used it, you’ve found the “secret weapon” for boosting your student (or yourself) to a higher level of support and success. Secret weapon? I hear you questioning…..well, as far as a profession, professional coaching in general, which covers business coaching, life coaching, wellness coaching, etc. has only been around since the very late 80’s or so. The specialization of coaching to clients who have ADHD, or ADD…depending on your type or subtype, is still relatively new. However, lots exist now as do some extensive training programs. But all in all, it’s still kind of in the secret stage if you ask me. While the ADHD community and ADHD coaches work hard to promote our services, I have found that not too many folks are familiar with or would be able to locate one in their immediate locale.

But what is the point? What do they actually do? How can it help? Well, let me explain….while all ADHD coaches are unique and have their own style, like anyone, their main focus is to support their clients without judgment, to help them get ahead, get on, get over or get started. I’ll use the similarity of a personal workout coach, as they are pretty prevalent nowadays. A personal workout coach helps you develop goals, set a plan and customize what you will need for you to reach your goal in a realistic timeline, right? And they are usually pretty enthusiastic, positive and hopefully inspiring. ADHD coaches can help students and adults do that in the areas that seem to be a challenge or difficulty in life functioning. You may be familiar with some of these: remembering things, keeping track of personal and school items, starting or finishing a task or project, making decisions, problem-solving, lack of attention to details, or hyperfocusing on a favorite activity (to the detriment of other responsibilities), low confidence or self-esteem, anxiety, social skills, emotional self-regulation.

As a brief example, let’s say that your student has trouble initiating tasks. She also can’t keep track of the materials needed to be able to start the task. She is very good at reading her favorite books and enjoys pop music. She needs an organizational system as well as a plan for motivation, which involve strategies she can use herself, or some that her parents can also implement. But it needs to be one that will work for her. If her parents go out and buy her the best calendars, day planners, apps and whiteboard products, it still won’t work. There needs to be customization to her strengths, interests, motivations. Her coach would probably use her pop music and reading interests to build a positive plan that she would want to use. And, she needs consistent practice to make it stick once it’s put together. A coach can do that. And do it without nagging, pleading, or coercion. A coach can give praise and encouragement, championing little and big steps, and help the rest of her supporters (parents, teachers, therapist, doctor) give her the encouragement as well. An ADHD coach can be one of the modalities in a multi-modal treatment plan and help a client make great strides. By collaborating with the other professionals involved, the support of a coach can be powerful.

How do you find an ADHD coach? How do you know who will work best with your student? Locate certified and trained coaches via directories provided on ADHD resource websites ( and are 2 excellent places to start), ask local physician and therapy clinics that specialize in ADHD. Ask the coach for an interview or consultation. Ask for a mini-session to see what coaching can look and feel like. Weekly sessions with daily check-ins for accountability is a common set-up for coaching. With technology available, phone, Skype, texting and email are often used. For clients 13 and younger, sessions should be in-person.

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