ADHD Treatment Options: Medication vs Coaching vs Therapy

Finding the Best Treatment Option for You

Published on
November 7, 2022

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 4.4% of adults in the US have a current diagnosis of ADHD. While there is no cure for ADHD, there are a variety of treatments that can help with symptom management. The two most common treatments are medication and coaching. But which one is best for you? Let's take a look at some of the options.

Option 1: Medication

Medication is often the first line of treatment for ADHD. The most common type of medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulants, which work by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Dopamine and norepinephrine are chemicals that the brain creates naturally - but in people with ADHD, the brain doesn’t create enough, or struggles to use it effectively. There are also non-stimulant medications which may help with ADHD symptoms. These medications work by increasing the amount of norepinephrine in the brain.

Stimulant vs Non-Stimulant Medications: A Quick Comparison

  • Both stimulant and non-stimulant medications require a prescription
  • Stimulants are considered a controlled substance, and can be more difficult to obtain and refill
  • Non-stimulant medications may take 4-6 weeks to start working, whereas stimulant medications work immediately

For more information, this article includes a comprehensive list of ADHD medications and how they work.

Medication for ADHD: The Pros

  1. Stimulant medication is considered the most effective treatment for ADHD, with a 70-80% response rate.
  2. Medications can improve focus, concentration, task completion, impulsivity, emotional regulation, and many more symptoms.
  3. There are many options, including both stimulant and non-stimulant medications

Medication for ADHD: The Cons

  1. There is a great deal of stigma surrounding ADHD medication.
  2. Stimulant medications can have side effects, such as decreased appetite, trouble sleeping, anxiety, and irritability.
  3. Stimulant medications must be taken every day, which can be difficult for people with ADHD to remember to do.
  4. While medication helps give the brain the chemicals it needs to function, some people may need further assistance in learning new behaviors, habits, and strategies to fully overcome symptoms

Option 2: Coaching

Coaching is a type of treatment that focuses on helping the individual develop coping and management skills for their symptoms. A coach will work with you on things like goal setting, time management, organization, and social skills. Coaching can also help parents learn how to best support a child with ADHD at home.

Coaching for ADHD: The Pros

  1. ADHD coaching does not have any side effects.
  2. Coaching can be done in addition to other treatments like medication or therapy.
  3. Coaching can be done virtually.
  4. Coaching is a partnership that builds the confidence & capabilities of the individual
  5. An ADHD coach can see clients from any state/country they choose, so clients aren’t limited to finding a good fit locally.

Coaching for ADHD: The Cons

  1. Coaching requires significant time and effort
  2. The individual must consistently engage in coaching activities / strategies, or they may not see improvement.
  3. It may be difficult to find a coach who specializes in treating ADHD
  4. ADHD Coaching can be expensive

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Option 3: Therapy

Therapy is a great treatment for anyone struggling with tough emotions. An ADHD therapist can help change negative patterns of thinking that may impact how you are feeling about your ADHD diagnosis, how you feel about yourself, your abilities and challenges, and your future.

Therapy for ADHD: The Pros

  1. Therapy is covered by insurance, making it more financially accessible.
  2. Therapy doesn’t have side effects.
  3. Some therapists may offer telehealth sessions.
  4. Oftentimes, therapists have working relationships with psychiatrists. If you’d like to pursue medication for your ADHD, it may be easier to find a prescriber if you’re already in therapy.

Therapy for ADHD: The Cons

  1. If you use insurance, many insurance companies set limits on how many sessions you can have per year. You may also be limited to a set list of therapists that are approved by your insurance company.
  2. Currently, therapy licensure limits therapists to seeing clients only in the state(s) they’re licensed in, which limits who you can see.
  3. Therapy isn’t always the best fit if you’re looking for a more solution-focused approach.
  4. Therapy can be a difficult, uncomfortable process, as you confront emotional pain.

Medication, coaching, and therapy are all effective treatments for reducing the symptoms of ADHD in adults. Medication works by changing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, while coaching helps the individual develop coping and management skills, and therapy facilitates healing. While medication may have more side effects than coaching, it does not require as much time and effort. Ultimately, the best treatment for ADHD is one that is tailored to the individual’s needs and preferences, and may include a combination of all three treatment options.

Live better, with ADHD
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