In the ADDA professional directory ADHD professionals fall in to several categories. Many professionals can diagnose ADHD using comprehensive interviews and behavioral ratings scales.
A diagnosis is a good first step, and essential if you want to try medication. But medication is not a cure for adult ADHD. And as we say, “pills don’t teach skills.” You’ll also want to seek help from other professionals specializing in adult ADHD.
Effective support rarely comes from one person, video, website, professional or prescription. You need a treatment “team.” Most adults with ADHD will work with several ADHD professionals. The diagnostician will rarely be the one who treats you. The doctor or psychiatrist prescribes medication. But they won’t teach you how to live with ADHD.
Many professionals can diagnose ADHD. How to choose the right one? Be clear about your goals. Are you looking for an ADHD diagnosis? Do you want someone to prescribe medicine? Or are you looking for practical help and guidance coping with ADHD?
So, who can diagnose ADHD?
- Family doctor
- Nurse practitioner
- Clinical social worker
These professionals can all diagnose ADHD, but some can determine co-existing conditions and offer information about your strengths and weaknesses. Some know you and your medical history, but have limited ADHD experience. We recommend beginning with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist. These professionals likely have the most experience diagnosing ADHD. However, this is not guaranteed, and any of these practitioners can have more experience than is typical for their area of practice.
When searching for answers, only you can determine which professional works best for your needs. Ask questions. Then ask more questions. You have a right to know your ADHD professional shares your core values and beliefs. You must feel confident they understand how ADHD affects you. And you must be confident they’ll understand the changes you will experience during your lifetime and how that will affect your ADHD. The best choice is always a professional who is open to learning more as you work together.
Find a professional who is familiar with ADHD so they’ll understand minor obstacles such as being late, interrupting, or struggling to follow through on treatment goals are a function of your ADHD. An ADHD-friendly professional will view these situations as opportunities to help you step away from shame-based stories about your challenges.
Remember your goals and create your list of questions with them in mind. Here are a few common ones to include when screening an ADHD provider:
- What is your approach to working with clients with ADHD?
- What is your experience working with people like me (age, gender, etc.)?
- Are you familiar with ADHD organizations such as ADDA?
ADDA’s professional directory can help you find ADHD professionals in your area. However, it can be challenging to find an ADHD professional near you. You may need to travel for an official diagnosis, but you’ll only need to do it once. Professionals such as psychologists and ADHD coaches will often work remotely, over the phone or video-conference.
Seek professional help, yes. But we recommend you connect with your peers. ADDA is a virtual organization of adults with ADHD for adults with ADHD. We offer support for all adults with ADHD, regardless of where you live.
Peer support groups help build new skills and coping strategies. They also help you process the emotional and interpersonal effects of ADHD. There is no replacement for being around other people who “get it.”
Psychiatrist or Medical Doctor
Health care providers such as psychiatrists, medical doctors, osteopathic doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other advanced practice providers who are licensed to prescribe Schedule II drugs can prescribe ADHD medication. Medication helps manage brain-based functions and symptoms. It is often used to normalize brain activity. The prescribing provider must prescribe and track any medication. For ADHD medication, a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner is better than a primary care physician. Stimulant medications are most effective for most people with ADHD. Some adults with ADHD prefer long- acting formulations. Others respond better to short-acting medication. Some adults with ADHD take a long-acting medication and short-acting “booster” dose. Not everyone with ADHD responds well to stimulants. Your health care provider may prescribe adjunct medications and other non-stimulant medication.
A psychologist works most the emotional aspects of having ADHD. They can also treat co-existing conditions such as mood disorders and anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based practices are effective therapeutic interventions. ADHD brings emotional and interpersonal effects a therapist can help with. Most people with ADHD feel shame, guilt and chronic stress or overwhelm. Group therapy programs are helpful.
ADHD coaches focus on practical solutions to problems in everyday life. An ADHD coach can teach you strategies for organizing your life. They can help you to structure your day, set your priorities and choose your projects and tasks. Some coaches can help you solve specific issues. Many coaches have specialized experience. They may help you manage your money or grow your business. Your ADHD coach can help you set and meet goals, and improve productivity. Your coach will help you make positive life changes and provide accountability.
Coaches can — and often do — work on emotional challenges. And psychologists work on life skills. The difference is in the degree. If you struggle with managing or understanding your emotions, start with a psychologist.
A professional organizer can be very helpful for adults with ADHD. If you have difficulty organizing your belongings or your space. Organizers can help you reduce clutter and develop better organizational systems.