ADHD Self Help Books ..ADHD Coaches ...and everything else

I am often asked to recommend books for children, adolescents and adults with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Most of the time my primary recommendation is one of the ADHD books by Dr. Russell Barkley, for whom I have great respect. Dr. Barkley is one of the major figures in the ADHD field and should be read by every professional in the field. His books about ADHD with children and adults are also highly useful.

If your reading this post you have probably been reading  several recent articles in the news about the increasing number of ADHD diagnoses, as well as the impression many people have that ADHD is OVER diagnosed. This may or may not be true in certain settings. Until very recently we did not diagnose a teenager or adult with ADHD. If you hadn’t been noted to have the symptoms of ADHD at an early age it was assumed you didn’t have ADHD. More recently we have seen how the effects of the executive deficits that are core to ADHD might only become serious when there are specific developmental demands you might not be confronted with until you are 15, 18 or even 25 (and got that promotion that require a new, higher level of organizational and planning skills).

But back to recommending books, especially self help books. One of the problems I see in recommending self help books for teens or adults with ADHD is that almost all of the good books – those based on firm scientific grounds – are just too long!  The one I’m going to recommend right now, The Energetic Brain: Understanding and Managing ADHD by Cecil Reynolds, Kimberly Vannest and Judith Harrison is just over 400 pages. If you have ADHD it seems a little stretch to me that you’re going to not only finish  but understand – underline, take notes, pick out the parts that are meaningful to the book!  This is why self help books for ADHD (as well as for high functioning autism/ASD and Aspeger’s Disorder) often need to be used with some help – an ADHD coach, therapist or counsellor.

The Energetic Brain: Understanding and Managing ADHD is, despite its length, a really excellent  book. Cecil Reynolds, one of the authors, is a highly respected writer, researcher and test developer.  Many of the assessment tools I use were developed by Cecil Reynolds. This means that the book is based not upon anecdote and myth, but instead is based upon “exacting scientific evidence and uses data-driven interventions to manage the disorder.”  As the foreword points out, you are able to benefit from not just good and what appears to be practical advice, but from the authors “collective expertise in neuropsychology, psychology, education, and behaviour...”  For those with children or adolescents with ADHD in school  the authors also address the critical issue of PBIS (Positive Behavioural Intervention Support).  While a lot of the materials about schools is addressed to public school law in the United States, I thinks it’s a good idea for those in Canada to take a look at how things SHOULD be for a student in school with ADHD. Note: We DO have laws, regulations about ADHD, and the provincial ministry as well as individual school districts have policies and procedures about students with ADHD. They simply fail to implement them.

Overall this is a great book. I usually have it in my office for patients, along with Barkley’s books. These two sources of information make a good starting point for anyone dealing with ADHD.

One of the things I am reminded when reading these books is the need for some sort of ADHD Coaching, and the need for this ADHD Coach to be someone with real training in the field. I’ve discussed this issue with several colleagues and there are two points of view: 1) Than a coach is a coach, and that the skills they are going to teach and support are the same as with any one of their clients; and 2) You need an ADHD coach who is familiar with all of the issues relating to ADHD – neuropsychological, psychological (depression, anxiety), education (being familiar with the requirements of the school setting – from elementary to graduate school) and the work setting (experience with workplace rehabilitation issues). The first coach is going to cost you $50.00 an hour. The second $175.00 and up.  But I’ve seen too many clients work with coaches who do not have the knowledge of neuro-psycho-social issues and waste their time and money. If nothing else I would suggest using a coach who is associated – supervised by a licensed professional such as an MD or PhD. Looking over the ADHD coaching sites in this area I find mostly individuals who do not have the appropriate background, and often have little life experience themselves. Locally there are two coaches who as far as I can tell have no other successful work experience and simply decided they had ADHD, had read a lot of books about it, and therefore would make good ADHD coaches. When looking for a coach, at a minimum, ask for their resume and ask for a couple of professional references if they are not a professional themselves (What psychologist or medical doctor have you collaborated with?).

Regretfully during the past few years ADHD has become a way to make money for a lot of people. They approach the field as, “I’m going to open an ADHD business” rather than being a professional who focuses on ADHD. It reminds me of someone who opens a business whitening teeth. They aren’t a dentist. But lots of people need to have their teeth whitened. Why not do that? There is little to learn, some training when you get the tools you need or sign the contract for a franchise. But my dentist, who WOULD charge more also checks for many other issues.

Check out the book, and if you think you have ADHD and wonder, see a licensed/registered professional for a comprehensive diagnosis. Do not diagnose yourself. ADHD looks like a lot of other issues, and a lot of other mental health issues and learning deficits can look just like ADHD. A comprehensive assessment is the best way to go.
(In British Columbia only a medical doctor or registered psychologist can make a diagnosis of ADHD. “Counsellors,” registered, licensed or certified,  cannot. The same holds true in Washington state and California. )

For more information on my practice please visit my website at or  I am licensed and practice in British Columbia, Washington State and California (San Francisco).


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