ADHD Coaching: 5 Case Studies and 10 Common Challenges

A short definition of ADHD Coaching followed by real, relatable stories from our Shimmer members

Published on
March 17, 2023

We get this question all the time: can you give me examples of how others use coaching? Finally, we’ve surveyed 5 Shimmer members and their coaches to understand their situations, coaching plan, and results more in depth. The full list of our testimonials if you’re curious is here.

In this article, we'll explore what ADHD coaching is, real case studies of Shimmer members and the coaching plans that were developed to address their challenges, and other common challenges that members come to Shimmer ADHD Coaches with.

ADHD Coaching, defined

In short, ADHD coaching is a partnership between someone with ADHD and an expert ADHD coach, where they work together to bridge the gap between where the client is, and where they want to be. The coach helps the client to set goals, re-ignite a sense of hope, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and overcome ADHD-related challenges to reach their goals. The more obvious benefits include improvement in executive function and achievement of goals but the more nuanced benefits include things like improved self esteem and general feeling of support and understanding.

The ADHD coaching process generally starts with vision setting & goal setting, arriving at a shared understanding of the client’s situation and what has worked or not work before, and an understanding of mutual working styles. Then, they will develop a personalized coaching plan that will play out out over weeks to months of working together. Each week, they will meet to keep accountable, reflect on progress, celebrate wins, and problem solve around challenges. Over the course of the coaching journey, the coaching partnership with experiment with various methods, explore skills & strategies, and eventually land on a system that works uniquely for the client.

For a full comparison of ADHD treatment methods, check out our Head ADHD Coach, Noelle’s blog post “ADHD Treatment Options: Medication vs Coaching vs Therapy

Shimmer member case studies

Cases below are inspired by Shimmer members—however, they are altered for brevity and anonymity. These cases are specific to each member & their life, and we try to include sufficient details and rationale, so you can apply similar methodologies to your challenges, but you’ll likely end up with a different solution! Feel free to ask your coach for support here!

Case Study 1: Impulsivity in relationship

Situation: Member was struggling was impulsivity at home. They would frequently say things to their partner that they later regretted.

Coaching plan: Member & coach jointly embarked on a multi-step, CBT-based plan

  1. Week 1: Journal each time impulsive action came up and afterwards, write down what a better action would have been. Together in session, member & coach debriefed situations and looked for patterns
  2. Week 2: On 1 sticky note per common situation member was impulsive on, they wrote out a short bullet point script on what they should say instead. They put it visible in front of their computer screen and silently rehearsed it 2x/day, pushing it into muscle memory
  3. Week 3+: Member replaced stickies with new situations and celebrated when 1 needed to get “tossed away” because it was in their muscle memory

Final outcome: Member had far less situations where they said impulsive things to their partner, and their partner gained empathy & respect for the amount of work they were putting in to address this important issue

Case Study 2: Job Hunting with ADHD

Situation: Member just finished school and was applying to jobs. The task was large & daunting, and the member wanted to make sure they were taking the right steps.

Coaching plan: Member created a career vision, explored ADHD-fit career types, and broke career tasks into chunks to stay accountable with coach

  • Career vision: Member journaled about their vision as to what a perfect career and job would look like, and dug into the “why” behind it. This exercise involved reflecting on what jobs were energizing & not in the past, and what learnings to bring forward
  • ADHD-fit career types: Member & coach explored together career types better fit for people with ADHD (and why).
  • Member: “It was incredible! I never knew there were certain jobs more fit for my ADHD than others, and how to think about accommodations.”
  • Breaking tasks into chunks: Each week, the member set goals as to what was needed to be accomplished in the job hunting process (e.g. portfolio, research on companies, networking events, etc.) and stayed accountable with their coach

Final outcome: In 2 months, member secured a dream job! We wish them the best as we continue to watch their growth in other domains :)

Case Study 3: Working deeper, and more strategically

Situation: Member never had enough time to do deeper, strategic & creative work that was required for them to be considered for their next promotion. Their calendar was peppered with calls, and they could never get into “flow state” long enough without being distracted

Coaching plan: Member & coach designed a 3x weekly deep work block, plan for distractions, and moved around call slots to work FOR the member

  • 3x weekly deep work block: Coach asked questions to get to the root of member’s issue, that there was never long enough blocks of time that was protected. Together, they came up with a realistic 3x/week block, decided on the exact days & time, accompanying ritual (a special coffee), and reward (pre-cut watermelon)
  • Coach also shared “time blocking” resource by Cal Newport
  • TimeBlockPlanner.pdf
  • Plan for distractions: Member identified things that could potentially come up and pro-actively designed mitigation strategies for each of them.
  • (1) A customer could call → auto-forward to co-worker during those designated times,
  • (2) A thought or notification could distract → created special distraction log on a sticky note that is on the table, and carve out time at the end of the deep work block to attend to them
  • New calendar / call system: Member identified it was difficult to get anything done in 15-30 min blocks between calls, over 50% of their day was “dead” time. Together, they blocked the calendar so calls were stacked in the mornings only for Mon/Wed/Fri, and afternoons only for Tue/Thu. This gave flexibility for other parties to book calls but carved out dedicated “work time” for the member

Final outcome: Member’s work was noticeably more creative and “out of the box”, and several colleagues mentioned and praised them! They also had an easier time getting in and out of “work” zone and “call” zone each day.

Case Study 4: Following through on daily to-do lists

Situation: Member was struggling to complete their daily to-do lists. They were confident the right things were on them, but couldn’t follow through

Coaching plan: Member & coach jointly embarked on a multi-step journaling & awareness plan

  1. Week 1: Journal each time member actually felt motivated, indicating if the source of motivation was (1) accountability, (2) novelty, (3) personal interest, or (4) other. The goal was to identify which drivers were THEIR personal drivers.
  2. Week 2: Together in session, they discovered accountability as the biggest driver, with novelty as a close 2nd. Then, they brainstormed specific ways the member could inject accountability into mundane, non-urgent tasks. This week, the member sent their “mundane” list to a coworker in the morning, and looped back each afternoon with the outcome
  3. Week 3: Next up, they brainstormed ways the member could inject novelty into specific tasks. They came up with a specific playlist and new location (outside the office) they would do these tasks, to make it feel “fresh” in other ways
  4. Week 4+: When certain strategies & systems were getting stale, they brainstormed other ways that fell in the 2 buckets of accountability & novelty

Final outcome: Member had a long list of 8-10 strategies on their office wall that they could draw on to pump their own personal motivation factors (novelty + accountability) into

Case Study 5: Self esteem issues from lifetime of criticisms

Situation: Member identified general self esteem issues paired with impulsive behaviors. Throughout their life, they had faced criticisms like “lazy”, “not living up to potential”, and generally felt misunderstood

Coaching plan: Coach and member took a CBT-based approach starting with psycho-education

  • Psycho-education on emotions and identifying specific feelings as a starting point
  • Tracked negative thoughts/behaviors and examining underlying beliefs behind them
  • Identified cognitive distortions and actively challenging them through CBT

Final outcome: Member had more awareness as to where emotional outbursts were stemming from and more productive conversations with partner to address issues appropriately

Other common ADHD coaching topics

Don’t see your situation? Here are some other common topics members come to Shimmer ADHD Coaches with. This list is not ordered nor exhaustive. We encourage you to take time to reflect which topics are most important and helpful for you to explore, and the list below is simply inspiration!

  • Feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed, unable to turn brain off
  • Issues with self-esteem and negative self-talk
  • Inability to focus during working hours leading to a disrupted sleep routine and lack of self care
  • Holding themselves accountable to changes, needing help challenging “excuse” thoughts on why things can wait
  • Creating routines & schedules (e.g. morning/night)
  • Paying attention in conversations and perspective taking
  • Missing work deadlines, falling behind in projects
  • Task initiation & task switching
  • Being more productive (particularly when working from home or running own business)
  • Job hunting (and the lack of structure when between jobs)

If you're interested in working with a Shimmer ADHD Coach, visit our website to learn more about our coaching services and how to get started.

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