My point of view on ADHD coaching is one that integrates several researched methods of coaching to best serve people with the unique brain wiring associated with ADHD. This style of coaching is like the famous “three-legged stool.”
One leg comes from Change Theory and Co-Active Coaching, with its emphasis on client readiness and client ownership of the most important goals and values that need to be addressed. Another leg comes from the science behind Positive Psychology, with its focus on people’s strengths and what matters most deeply. The third leg is wellness and nutrition that supports a balance of hormones, improved sleep-wake cycles, brain-healthy mindset, and improved nourishment of the brain cells.
Three important things come to mind when I think about the unique brain wiring of people with ADHD. It’s like a second “three-legged stool” set up side-by-side with the first. First is the neurotransmitter “dance” that occurs in the structurally different pathways in the ADHD brain. Next is the relationship of the prefrontal cortex to focus, sequencing, starts and finishes, and comprehending the passage of time. Finally, there is the abundance of stress hormones present in the brains of those with ADHD, as managing an abundance of attention, (sometimes called “distraction”), in a very linear-sequential focused world is very difficult.
Here’s what’s important to remember:
The neurotransmitter that creates the anticipation of reward, along with the anxiety increase that drives people to seek reward is called dopamine.
Neurotypical brains have just the right balance of dopamine to communicate with the Executive Function part of the brain, areas of the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) to keep most people focused and attentive. But scientists very recently tell us that there is an abnormality in the dopamine channel of people with ADHD, so they need a great deal more stimulation from dopamine just to feel reasonably focused.
I coach for “dopaminergic interest” to help people with ADHD build their capacity to control focus.
“Dopaminization” links remembered experiences of how high interest felt helps people to apply that to more mundane tasks. There are “greater good” rewards in even the most routine of events. It just takes a bit of coaching to remember what’s most important, where you are in the process, and how to deal with the obstacles. (See my “I Will Power, I Won’t Power, and I Want Power” blog post).
Next, people with ADHD have parts of themselves that are very critical. They have learned the language of rejection, alienation, and failure from very important figures in their lives, and they have learned this language “early and often.”
It’s very difficult to change this type of negative mindset, but Positive Psychology helps with that. “What works well?” is a question that starts the change. It’s all about developing a new narrative to replace the “You big failure” story.
I coach for increased strengths awareness. Clients take an assessment, VIA Me! Character Strengths Profile, and we increase awareness of what works best, what works well, and what could be even better. Then, we co-develop tools that apply personal strengths to individual struggles, such as focus, time management, or prioritizing.
Finally, stress hormones released by, among other things (a) negative self talk, (c) criticism from the outside world, and (c) struggles with linear-sequential tasks, are very “costly” when it comes to nutrition. The brain really needs a tremendous amount of glucose to access willpower, that is, focus and self-direction. There are nutrients that help with this, as in a combination of healthy protein, essential fats, and fiber. Then, there are pseudo foods that do the opposite and deplete cells in the brain and throughout the body.
Inflammation is the word here. It is provoked by these highly addictive pseudo foods, such as fatty, salty, sugary, heavily manufactured products. I coach for mind and body wellness. I help clients become aware of the things essential for health cell structure and optimized brain function.
I coach for a rested mind and a peaceful spirit within.
Here’s a good summary visual of what it all looks like: