Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, is a neurodevelopment condition that affects behavior. And while most ADHD treatments typically involve medication, psychotherapy can be a more effective solution.
Here’s where behavioral therapy comes into play. Different symptoms of ADHD react to medication differently. Behavioral therapy manages ADHD symptoms by encouraging positive characters and behaviors and improving self-esteem and self-control. When used effectively, behavioral therapy can develop a wide range of skills to help ADHD patients to manage behavior-related challenges.
The effectiveness of behavioral therapy also varies from one person to another, and many doctors recommend medication to get the best results.
This post will discuss what behavioral therapy is, how effective it is for treating ADHD, and the different behavioral therapy techniques. Read on:
What is Behavioral Therapy? How It Alleviates Symptoms of ADHD
Behavioral therapy is basically an umbrella term used for different forms of therapy that focus on the patient’s behavior. The primary aim of this psychotherapy treatment is to help the patient identify harmful or unhealthy behaviors and change them by adopting more helpful behaviors.
That’s to say, behavioral therapy is based on the idea that a patient can learn behavioral patterns. As such, you can learn new behaviors through therapy, although learning and reinforcing them can take time.
Some common forms of behavioral therapy that have proved to be very effective include:
We will discuss more about these therapy treatment options later on in the article.
How Effective is Behavioral Therapy for Treating ADHD?
Symptoms of ADHD can be quite severe, depending on the stage of the condition. Similarly, certain behaviors associated with ADHD can be very disruptive and quite challenging. And while medication may help control most of its core symptoms, behavioral therapy can be more effective in helping patients learn helpful coping skills and strategies.
On a similar note, it is important to know which behavioral therapy is most suited and will be the most effective for each patient. Different behavioral therapy forms can help:
- Reduce procrastination
- Stay focused for longer
- Avoid hyperactivity when it’s inappropriate
- Organize thoughts and tasks
- Identify and correct impulsive actions
All these are evidence that behavioral therapy is effective and plays a critical role in treating ADHD. The CDC also cites that patient training and behavioral therapy can help alleviate symptoms of ADHD, especially in young children. However, this may require caregivers, therapists, and teachers to establish the rules and define positive behaviors jointly.
Another study found CBT to be a more effective behavioral therapy treatment option for adolescents with ADHD who haven’t responded well to medication. The study found that college students who participated in the study experienced less severe symptoms of ADHD and improved “executive functioning,” which helped them manage time, complete tasks, and control behavior and emotions.
Several studies also show that adults with ADHD respond well to CBT. There’s already mounting evidence that this behavioral therapy treatment may help reduce symptoms of ADHD in adults. CBT can also address anxiety and depression symptoms, which is common in adults.
Does Behavioral Therapy Work for All Ages?
As the above study suggests, some behavioral therapy forms may benefit people with ADHD of certain ages more than others. For example, the report by the CDC shows that basic behavioral therapy and training may be more useful for children under 12 with ADHD.
This form of training can help parents and caregivers to provide their children with the structure and support they need to develop positive and helpful behaviors.
Can Behavioral Therapy Help Kids with ADHD?
Yes! Behavioral therapy has already proved to be very effective in helping kids (and adults) with symptoms of ADHD. However, studies show that it is even more effective for kids than adults.
Most kids with ADHD struggle with anger and self-control, which can lead to other problem behaviors. It is also not uncommon for these kids to lie frequently, especially on matters related to chores and other everyday tasks.
Behavior therapy takes a more businesslike approach to help kids with ADHD change their behaviors and responses to situations. One of its main goals is to eliminate arguing and give them the motivation to change without involving parents.
The point of introducing behavior therapy is to replace your kid’s negative behaviors with positive ones. That’s why its system of rewards and consequences plays a very critical role in molding kids.
Whatever the reward is, it should also be coupled with praise for good behavior. You can also make your child’s teachers aware of this plan, so they can reinforce it at school too.
Equally important is verbal recognition and praise for each time your child completes a task. Praise words like “you did a great job” and “I’m really pleased with you” can go a long way towards helping your child.
Consequently, as you can praise and reward your child for positive behaviors, you can also teach them to expect consequences for negative behaviors. For example, you can deny them points or take away their screentime each time they misbehave, lie, or get involved in fights.
Behavioral Therapy Forms for ADHD
There are different forms of behavioral therapy that you can use to alleviate your symptoms of ADHD. Some are more effective than others, depending on your condition, age, and other factors.
Some forms of behavioral therapy you might consider trying include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the patient’s thoughts and behaviors. CBT can help change your negative thoughts to positive ones by changing how you view challenges. It will also help you find more effective approaches to organization, planning, time management, and impulse control.
Some studies also show that CBT can help patients to manage stress and emotions.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can help you to tolerate and regulate your emotions by teaching you different techniques to help you understand your emotions better. It also teaches you applicable ways to manage your emotions and change your behavior. DBT is effective at preventing impulsive or self-destructive behavior patterns in ADHD patients.
Coaching is a practical intervention strategy that targets specific areas of difficulty for people with ADHD. These may include planning, goal-setting, time management, problem-, and organization-solving. Coaches help you solve practical skills and teach you how to overcome challenges associated with ADHD.
Neurofeedback involves measuring brain activity and trying to alter it to minimize the symptoms of ADHD. Most ADHD patients typically show less activity in certain areas of the brain associated with behavior, learning, and personality. Neurofeedback attempts to increase activity in these sections of the brain.
Which Form of Behavioral Therapy is Effective?
While each behavioral therapy form is different, they overlap in using classical and operant conditioning techniques.
In classical conditioning, the ADHD patient is associated with two stimuli to determine which effect it brings. For example, associating a specific sound with sleep can help the patient feel sleepy whenever he/she hears that sound.
On the other hand, operant conditioning focuses on reinforcing certain learning activities and consequences. For example, you can teach your ADHD child to expect rewards and praise after performing certain activities.
After identifying a problematic behavior, you can formulate a plan that addresses it and substitute it with positive behavior. This may involve a reward or praise for switching to a more helpful behavior. Or, it could mean facing the consequences for continuing with the problematic behavior.
Demonstrating positive behavior can also move your child a step closer to his/her reward, while negative behavior sets him/her back. That’s why some doctors suggest having a goal chart for your children to let them see their progress and have some sense of accomplishment whenever they complete a task. You’ll basically be guiding your child toward his/her goal.
When to Expect Results
Like most medicines and therapy treatments, behavioral therapy isn’t a quick solution. Instead, it takes time and a lot of discipline before you can start seeing results.
Changing someone’s thoughts and patterns of behavior needs a lot of consistent effort. The pace of progress differs from one person to another, depending on factors specific to each individual and how effective their treatment is.
By working closely with your therapist, you will start seeing improvements from your symptoms of ADHD and have more control over your behaviors. But even after seeing improvements, you should stay consistent with the rewards and consequences system so you don’t backslide.
Combining Behavioral Therapy with Medication
Many doctors often recommend behavioral therapy treatments alongside other treatments, like medication. Stimulant and non-stimulant drugs may also address the neurological component of ADHD.
Behavioral therapy complements medication well and can be very effective, especially when medication alone does not help.
Behavioral therapy involves identifying negative behaviors and working on substituting them with positive ones. Several studies already suggest that behavioral therapy is effective in helping manage your symptoms of ADHD.
Your doctor may also suggest that you take medication alongside your behavioral therapy treatments for the most effective results. It is worth considering if you haven’t tried it before.