Types of Therapy for ADHD (2024)

Medication is typically one of the go-to approaches for adults and children dealing with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. However, for those who want extra support or don't want to take medication, ADHD therapies can help manage 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 affect your life and relationships, there is a type of therapy for you.

At a Glance

ADHD is a form of neurodivergence characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Medications are one of the most popular and effective ways to manage ADHD characteristics, but there are also ADHD therapies that can be helpful.

Types of therapy you might consider include cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, ADHD coaching, supportive psychotherapy, and others. The type that is right for you depends on your needs and goals.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

This can help with improving daily life struggles such as procrastinating, time management struggles, and poor planning. CBT helps people find new coping strategies and the emotions and behaviors that interfere with implementing strategies.

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

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


  • Addressing procrastination
  • Involvement of a partner or spouse

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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

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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 modules:

  • Mindfulness
  • Emotion regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • 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 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 coaching is 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 use text messages, emails, or phone call reminders to help clients meet their goals. People are often encouraged to use self-rewards or rewards from 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 the therapist may use it to help the client see the difference between their inner experience and how their behaviors affect others.

This type of therapy may also address personal issues, such as a sense of failure or low self esteem, that often stem from the challenges people with ADHD traits experiences trying to fit in to society's neurotypical expectations.

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 combines applying the techniques in the in-person sessions and homework outside of the groups. Mindfulness meditation is also practiced to help group members reduce stress and improve attention regulation.

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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. 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 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.

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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.

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Types of Therapy for ADHD (2024)
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