Types of Therapy for ADHD

Photo of a therapist writing down notes during therapy with her female patient

Dragana991 / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Medication is typically one of the go-to treatments for adults and children dealing with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but for those who want extra support or don't want to take medication, therapy for ADHD can be helpful in managing their condition.

Whether you're looking for concrete steps to take and skills to learn or more insight-oriented therapy to learn how some of your habits are affecting your life and relationships, there is a type of therapy out there for you.

Types of ADHD

There are three main types of ADHD, though treatment for them all largely looks similar:

  • ADHD, combined type: This type, the most common, is a mixture of impulsive and hyperactive behaviors with inattention and distractibility.
  • ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type: The least common form of ADHD, this type is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors with no inattention or distractibility.
  • ADHD, inattentive and distractible type: Symptoms of this type generally include inattention and distractibility, without hyperactivity. 

Types of Therapy for ADHD

There are many different kinds of therapy for ADHD, though some of the methods may vary between children and adults. Types of therapy used to treat ADHD range from dialectical behavioral therapy to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

Therapy for Adults With ADHD

Treatment for adults with ADHD will look a little different than treatment for children with ADHD. Children's therapy for ADHD may involve the teachers, parents, or both.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is generally considered the gold standard for ADHD psychotherapy. While “regular” CBT can be helpful for ADHD, there are also specific types of CBT for ADHD.

Some of the things this can help with include improving daily life struggles such as procrastinating, time management struggles, and poor planning. CBT helps people find new coping strategies as well as finding the emotions and behaviors that interfere with implementing strategies. 

The CBT for ADHD model organizes around three core modules and two optional ones:

  • Psychoeducation and organizing/planning
  • Coping with distractibility
  • Adaptive thinking

Optional:

  • Addressing procrastination
  • Involvement of a partner or spouse 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Research has shown that this type of therapy may be helpful because of how meditation and mindfulness affect the brain and neuropsychiatry.

Some benefits may include: 

  • Reducing mind wandering/daydreaming and distractibility by improving the functioning of the default mode network in the brain, which modulates attention
  • Learning to observe emotional states
  • Emotional regulation
  • Improved executive functioning 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy is another form of therapy often used for people with ADHD.This type of therapy is focused on teaching people skills to deal with their ADHD through the following module: Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness and Distress Tolerance, Impulsivity/Hyperactivity and Attention.

Its efficacy is proven by the fact that the control patients on a waiting list tended to have worsening troubles with attention and hyperactivity while waiting for treatment. Those who were receiving the treatment fared better, as measured by the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI), which assesses emotional regulation and impulse control.

ADHD Coaching

While it is technically not psychotherapy, ADHD coachingis gaining popularity as a way of managing symptoms and quality of life for people with ADHD. Though there is no standardized protocol, this type of coaching usually includes goal-setting and homework, discussing successes and roadblocks, and problem-solving.

Coaches used techniques such as text messages, emails, or phone call reminders to help clients meet their goals.

People were encouraged to use self-rewards or rewards from either the coach or others.

Supportive Psychotherapy

Supportive therapy is a form of therapy that helps clients optimize the coping skills that they already have so that these strategies can be used to reduce distress and manage symptoms such as time management and organization.

This type of therapy is very much patient-driven, symptom-focused, and measurable—such as planning to control anxiety or manage coursework.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy is typically employed to address issues that may have developed between a client and others due to misunderstandings from their ADHD symptoms, such as if their forgetfulness or procrastination are affecting those in their lives.

One key feature of this type of therapy is that it may be used for the therapist to help the client see the difference between their inner experience and how their behaviors are affecting others.

This type of therapy may also address personal issues such as a sense of failure or low self esteem, that relate to the person’s ability to cope with their ADHD symptoms. 

Group Therapy 

Group therapy can be a helpful way for people with ADHD to learn from other people dealing with similar types of challenges and how they have dealt with or have overcome them.

A specific type of group therapy for ADHD-I (Inattentive Type) called CBT for ADHD-I teaches group members planning, how to start activities and end activities, lifestyle changes, and how to troubleshoot where they have issues in these areas.

It uses a combination of applying the techniques in the in-person sessions along with homework outside of the groups. Mindfulness meditation is also practiced to help group members reduce stress and improve attention regulation. 

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy has been found to be helpful in people with ADHD to help reduce the self-stigma they may experience. Many people with ADHD tell themselves that they are lazy and underachieving, leading them to wonder what the purpose of trying is and thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Narrative therapy can help people with ADHD externalize their issues, so the lack of attention becomes the problem, rather than “I am the problem.” This type of therapy can also help people identify the “sparkling moments” when things are different from the stories they tell themselves so that they can see their strengths rather than their challenges.

One study of school-aged girls who participated in narrative group therapy found improvement in their school performance following the therapy because they identified and replaced negative self-beliefs. The narrative therapy also increased their ability to see that they could find their own solutions to problems (as age-appropriate).

ADHD Therapy for Children

For children with ADHD, typically there are two major ways that therapy is delivered: by parents and by teachers; each for different reasons. Both of these methods are collaborative, with parents and teachers working together, regardless of which one is leading it.

In parent-delivered behavioral therapies, parents will be taught:

  • How to discipline their child consistently and appropriately for their condition
  • How to implement structure
  • How to introduce positive reinforcement
  • Positive ways to interact with their child 

In teacher-delivered behavioral therapies, teachers learn similar strategies: how to teach children with ADHD to address their challenges, how to help them with time management and organization and how to help them overcome emotional and behavioral challenges. 

A Word From Verywell

Therapy for ADHD may be particularly challenging because it requires the consistency and structure that many people with ADHD struggle with. But the right therapist will create a space where you can feel safe in managing your symptoms and learn how to live with ADHD.

Was this page helpful?
11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (Adhd) in children.

  2. Sprich SE, Knouse LE, Cooper-Vince C, Burbridge J, Safren SA. Description and demonstration of cbt for adhd in adults. Cogn Behav Pract. 2012;17(1):10.1016/j.cbpra.2009.09.002. doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2009.09.002

  3. Bachmann K, Lam AP, Philipsen A. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and the adult adhd brain: a neuropsychotherapeutic perspective. Front Psychiatry. 2016;7:117. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00117

  4. Narimani M, Bagiyan-Kulemarez MJ, Ahadi B, Abolghasemi A. The Study of Effectiveness of Group Training of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) on Reducing of Symptoms of Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Promoting Quality of Life of StudentsJournal of Clinical Psychology. 2014;(6(1)):39-51. doi: 10.22075/jcp.2017.2153

  5. Cole P, Weibel S, Nicastro R, et al. CBT/DBT skills training for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)Psychiatr Danub. 2016;28(Suppl-1):103-107.

  6. Prevatt F, Yelland S. An empirical evaluation of adhd coaching in college students. J Atten Disord. 2015;19(8):666-677. doi:10.1177/1087054713480036

  7. Gentile JP, Atiq R. Psychotherapy for the patient with adult adhd. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2006;3(8):31-35.

  8. Strålin EE, Thorell LB, Szybek K, Lundgren T, Bölte S, Bohman B. Cognitive-behavioral group therapy for ADHD predominantly inattentive presentation: A feasibility study of a new treatment protocol. Nordic Psychology. Published online January 2, 2022:1-15. doi:10.1080/19012276.2021.2020683

  9. Baldwin J. Narrative Therapy to Reduce Self-Stigma: Empowering Children to Reduce Self-Stigma: Empowering Children, Adolescents, and Their Families.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parent training in Behavior Management for ADHD.

  11. CHADD. Teacher to Teacher - Helping teachers meet the needs of students with ADHD.