Finding a Doctor to Diagnose and Treat ADHD

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There are many options for doctors and professionals who provide treatment for ADHD and it can feel confusing. Working with a doctor who is knowledgeable about ADHD is important because getting the right treatment affects how well managed your ADHD symptoms are.

Before you start looking for a doctor or healthcare professional, be clear what your goal is. Do you want to be diagnosed with ADHD? If you have already been diagnosed, what type of treatment would you like? For example, are you looking for a professional who can prescribe ADHD medication? Or are you looking for someone who can teach you practical ways of coping with ADHD? Knowing what your goal is will help to make your search easier. 

Doctors and Health Professionals Involved in ADHD Treatment

Family physicians are usually the first medical doctor you will contact regarding an ADHD diagnosis. They are qualified to diagnose ADHD; however, they usually don’t have the time to perform a detailed ADHD evaluation. Some family doctors are knowledgeable about ADHD and will prescribe medication. Others feel more comfortable referring you to other experts in their network. They can provide education and support, but they do not provide formal psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the mind. They are qualified to diagnose ADHD and prescribe medication if appropriate. They are typically knowledgeable about other conditions that can co-exist with ADHD, such as depression and anxiety disorders. Some psychiatrists also provide counseling, psychotherapy, support, and ADHD education.

Pediatricians are medical doctors who specialize in children and adolescents. They are qualified to diagnose ADHD; however, they might not have time to do an extensive evaluation. They can prescribe medication and provide education and support, but they do not provide formal psychotherapy.

Neurologists are medical doctors who specialize in the brain and nervous system. A neurologist uses brain imaging and physiologic testing to find out if the ADHD symptoms are due to ADHD or another medical condition in the brain.

A neurologist can prescribe ADHD medication but doesn't usually offer counseling and other treatments. They might, however, be able to refer you to people who do offer these skills. 

Psychologists 

A clinical psychologist usually has a Ph.D. They can provide counseling to help you with the issues of living with ADHD, such as low self-esteem and communication issues. They can also help with co-existing conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Some psychologists are qualified to diagnose ADHD; however, laws vary by state but in most cases, psychologists aren't able to prescribe ADHD medication.

Clinical Social Workers usually have a Masters degree and advanced training in psychotherapy. They can diagnose ADHD but can’t prescribe medication.

Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and Registered Nurses (NPs) have Masters degrees in nursing, are Board Certified and are licensed by states to diagnose ADHD. They can prescribe medication if appropriate and provide counseling, support, and ADHD education.

Mental Health Counselors and Therapists can diagnose and provide support, education, and counseling but do not prescribe medication. 

How to Choose a Health Professional to Evaluate You

The best mental health providers are well trained, approachable, non-judgmental, kind and communicate well. If you are an adult with ADHD, ask if they have experience with adult ADHD. If you are looking for a doctor for your child, inquire about their experience with kids. Your doctor or team should be able to answer your questions, discuss your concerns, and evaluate your needs.

ADHD Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Mind Doc Guide

Find out who specializes in the treatment of ADHD in your area. While it would be convenient to have one professional that meets all of your needs, often you will have a small team of professionals. Each professional will provide you with the knowledge and skills they excel at.

For example, you might have had a pediatrician when you were young. Then as an adult, your family doctor referred you to a psychiatrist who is very knowledgeable about ADHD medication. In addition, you see a psychologist who helps you with depression and anxiety. 

Of course, over the years, your ADHD needs may change. Rather than feeling pressured to select a doctor who will be able to help you with all future problems, look for someone who can help with the challenges that you are facing now.

If you have narrowed it down to a few knowledgeable experts and still can’t decide, go with the one with whom you feel most comfortable. Having a good relationship with your doctor and health professional is also beneficial to treating and managing ADHD. 

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