Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - Help for Children with ADHD

When children are first diagnosed with ADHD, practitioners typically recommend the use of medications to help treat symptoms associated with the disorder. This approach is based on the idea that by reducing the symptoms of ADHD (e.g., hyperactivity, inattention, etc.) the child’s behavior will improve, facilitating advancements in academic and social domains. 

While it is indeed true that pharmacological management of ADHD can be an important foundation of treatment for children with this disorder, there may be instances in which medication may not ameliorate all of the challenges faced by the child. When this happens, parents may need to consider supportive therapeutic interventions. However, choosing the right approach can be difficult.

Therapy for the Treatment of ADHD
A review of therapeutic interventions for ADHD indicates that many approaches are not effective for addressing the specific challenges faced by individuals with this condition. Because of the unique issues faced by individuals with ADHD, treatment must provide a behavioral component enabling the client to alter actions and reactions to help control pertinent aspects of behavior. Given the unique therapeutic requirements for individuals with ADHD, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has been widely supported as a viable option for addressing these issues. 

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? 
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a specific method of therapeutic support that works to address the faulty thoughts (cognitions), which can give rise to negative behavior. Clients receiving CBT are asked to identify negative behaviors and the thoughts that give rise to these behaviors. Faulty cognitions are challenged through a series of approaches used by the therapist to change, alter and improve these thoughts. By improving cognitions, the therapist is able to improve behavior. When clients no longer think negatively about themselves, their behavior improves. 

The description of CBT provided here is typically employed in working with adolescents and adults diagnosed with ADHD. Adolescents and adults can think reflectively and introspectively about their thoughts and behaviors to create change in these areas. When applied for use with children, CBT focuses more on the positive reinforcement of behaviors to change the way that the child views him or herself, rather than on the identification of faulty cognitions. 

In particular, CBT when used with children requires adults to recognize positive behaviors and reward these behaviors with praise and small treats. By providing this type of positive reinforcement, the child learns appropriate behaviors and builds positive and accurate cognitions that can be used for facilitating decision-making and behavior in the future. 

The Benefits of CBT 
The principal benefit of using CBT for the child with ADHD is that it facilitates a behavioral learning process that can be used as a foundation for addressing the specific problems faced by the child with this condition. Although the diagnosis of ADHD implies the presence of specific characteristic behaviors, the intensity and frequency of these behaviors and the way in which these behaviors manifest will be different for each child. 

By developing an individualized program for addressing these needs, CBT can facilitate behavior and cognitive learning specific to the child. This process can serve as a foundation for the child to continue to learn across the lifespan as his or her abilities for introspection and reflection increase in adolescence and adulthood. 

CBT for the treatment of ADHD also offers additional supports that may be needed by the child even when medication is provided. Although pharmacological intervention for reducing the symptoms of ADHD has proven to be effective, many children continue to struggle with certain aspects of the disorder. Utilization of CBT in the treatment of these children provides a targeted approach, which specifically addresses the unique needs of the child. This can improve outcomes for the child in meeting short-term goals while building a foundation for the development of lifelong skills that will be essential for coping with various facets of ADHD. 

Helping Your Child 
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and continues to struggle with symptoms despite the use of medication, consider CBT as an option for therapeutic intervention. Although CBT cannot be used to replace medications for the treatment of ADHD, research does support the use of CBT and medication to improve outcomes for children over the use of medication alone. Talk with your healthcare provider to identify professionals in your community that can provide this type of therapy.

Dr. Clatch practices at the Courage to Connect Therapeutic Center, 2400 Ravine Way, Suite 600, Glenview. For more info, call 847-347-5757 or visit couragetoconnecttherapy.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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