On a Monday in October (the first work day of ADHD Awareness Week) I had the chance to meet with some Boston area coaches and run these questions by them.
What are they like?
Well, nobody's ever asked me this, but it may be the most interesting thing about ADHD coaches. After speaking at an annual gathering of coaches in Chicago earlier this year, I just had this keen sense that "they really get it." ADD/ADHD is not just a disabilty, although it is that. And it's not just a gift, though many have articulated the advantages of the different ways in which the ADD brain works. The coaches I've met seem to have a firm grasp of both the heartache and the humor, the advantage and the challenge, of being - or loving - a person with ADHD
What is an adhd coach?
The role of a football coach is pretty clear to most of us, and the idea of specialized coaches is not altogether unfamiliar - voice coaches for example. More recently, the fields of executive and life coaching have emerged. The ADHD coach is a life coach with specific expertise in identifying the obstacles common to students and adults living with ADD/ADSHD symptoms. These are coaches who assist clients in identifying and clarifying goals and developing practical strategies and work-arounds. They also provide follow-up, by phone or text for example, in order to increase accountability.
Coaching support doesn't appear to be a quick fix approach. Several of the coaches with whom I spoke suggested that a minimum 3-month commitment would be required for individuals beginning work with a coach. The most meaningful changes, according to a couple of ADHD coaches who shared their experience, may take place in the second year of coaching.
As I've written before here at this blog, there are Two Questions which guide effective time managers through their daily activity: 1) is this fun? And 2) is this important? It may be that adults with ADD/ADHD need the most support when they are engaged in fun-but-not-important activity (excess television or internet, for example). And children with attentional challenges may need help with tasks that are important (as defined by the adults in their lives) but not fun (I'm thinking about chores, certain writing and math assignments, and waiting for mom to get off the phone). Coaches can provide that type of support for difficult-but-important-tasks and set up systems to make it easier to manage time-wasters.
Demonstrating the efficacy of these efforts is an important emphasis of this new field. Among others, researchers associated with the Edge Foundation (which provides support for college students impacted by inattention and distractibility) are involved in ongoing data collection to establish evidence-based support for coaches' interventions.
Where can I find an ADHD coach?
The coaches at Monday's meeting suggested that you simply search "ADHD coach" and check out a few websites. If you add your town to the search term you could connect with local coaches, but these services can also be delivered by phone or Skype with in-between email and text contact.
Another way to find an ADHD coach is to check out the web site of one of their professional organizations and do a search among those members. One coach pointed out that finding a good match could take a few conversations, getting a "feel" for different coaches style and areas of expertise (college-bound, executive, career change, or assistive technologies, to name a few).
How does one train to be a coach?
The consensus appears to be that an ADHD coach first develops foundational coaching training through one of the organizations which trains organizational and life coaches. Next follows a period of additional specialized training in the specifics of ADHD coaching.
All kinds of coaches
I started Monday's conversation with questions about coaches' strategies and techniques. The group noted that although strategies are an important part of their work, the most important part of the coaching work might be the initial getting to know the client and drawing him or her out about the specific ways in which ADD/ADHD has "shown up" for them at work, in relationships, or at school.
The best quote of the meeting might have been a "hand on the doorknob" comment as I was leaving the meeting. One of the coaches framed it like this:
"Just as no two individuals with ADD/ADHD are alike, so no two coaches are alike. There are all kinds of coaches."
As a neuropsychologist, I feel my best contribution is accurate evaluation and assessment of learning and attentional disorders, with meaningful feedback and time for Q & A with clients and families. As I travel the country offering trainings on ADHD and the Processing Disorders, I meet teachers and parents who have specific, and different, roles with these same individuals. Likewise, physicians and nurse specialists, occupational and speech therapists, school counselors and the social worker - these are all important supports for folks who struggle in these areas.
The ADHD coach, likewise, brings unique training and perspective to the table. I look forward to new and creative ways to collaborate with my newfound colleagues!
photo: put me in coach