INTRODUCTION TO ADD/ADHD COACHING
Posted on April 19, 2011 by Mark Julian, One of Thousands of Life Coaches on Noomii.
An introductory interview to ADD/ADHD Coaching with Mark Julian, CPCC, ADD/ADHD Business Coach, in Fairfax, VA near Washington, D.C.
K: Hi Mark, can you tell us where are you from, and what do you do for a living?
M: I’m from Washington DC, and I’m a professional coach who works primarily with clients who have ADHD. I coach all types of people, but my typical clients are often entrepreneurs, business owners, or business managers.
K: Can you tell me more about ADHD? What are some of the signs?
M: ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s typically characterized by a difficulty in regulating your attention. The first thing to understand about ADHD is that it’s viewed differently and is not always seen as a disorder in the strict medical sense. So it’s actually misnamed, because many researchers feel that ADD offers some beneficial ways of being for a number of people. So I prefer to think of people with ADD as being different from people who don’t have it, rather than only as having a medical disorder. And it’s also misnamed in another way, because it’s not that people necessarily have a lack of attention, but instead they have trouble consciously focusing their attention on what’s important. So it’s not actually a deficit. In fact, people with ADHD often experience something called hyperfocus, which is the ability to focus so completely and entirely on one thing that you lose track of everything else. As you can imagine, that can either be a very bad thing or a very good thing, depending on what the task is.
K: If I thought I might have ADD, how would I know for sure?
M: The only way to know with medical certainty is to receive a diagnosis from a psychologist or psychiatrist that is trained in diagnosing ADHD. If you think you’re ADD, and want to explore support from prescription medication, you must have a diagnosis from a medical professional.
K: Do you think you can give an example of something that people with ADD or ADHD might experience that would not be a problem for others?
M: A good example of something that’s hard for a person with ADD to handle is what I call a “Dive Bombing Manager”. Imaging you’re sitting at your desk at work, occupied with a certain task, when your manager rushes in, demands your immediate attention, and starts asking you to do a number of things for him right away. After this “dive bomb”, he takes off again and disappears. This kind of management style is not usually liked by anyone, but it’s particularly hard for people with ADD. That’s because people with ADD don’t find it easy to suddenly stop what they were doing, switch to another task, and start doing that instead. It’s even harder when your Dive Bombing Manager gives you several new tasks, because a really hard part for people with ADD can be switching from one task to another.
K: What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?
M: Technically speaking, there is only one term: ADHD. But because so many people have problems with attention but not the associated hyperactivity, it often gets shortened to just ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder. In general, the two terms are often used interchangeably.
K: Is there a cure for ADD?
M: I don’t think that’s the right question, because it assumes that ADD is an illness that needs curing. I prefer to think of ADD as a different way of thinking, which implies that it’s something that can be managed and channeled for greater personal success and happiness, rather than something that needs fixing.
That being said, the traditional medical response to ADD is to prescribe medications like Ritalin or other stimulants. I’m not apposed to that, but I think there are a number of non-medical options that often work as well or better than medication. These are coaching, mindfulness training, and exercise.
K: You’re a personal coach who specializes in working with ADD or ADHD clients. What is coaching, and what specifically is ADD or ADHD coaching?
M: General coaching is a process in which you and a trained professional work together to help you achieve your goals. In its most basic form, coaching is an equal partnership between two people. That’s important to point out, because it’s not like in therapy or counseling where the expert tells you what you need to do. Instead it’s a partnership, because both you and your coach work together, on an equal footing, to help you overcome the obstacles to your success and happiness. And it’s the relationship that you have with your coach that makes it so powerful and transformative.
ADD coaching is a special kind of coaching, because people with ADD have a different way of thinking that responds best to specific kinds of stimulus. So I think a coach who has training and experience with ADDer’s will be better able to help someone with ADD than a coach without that. But there’s a more important reason to specifically look for and ADD coach, and that is because ADD coaches have worked with so many ADD clients, that they have a much better insight and understanding into the mind of an ADD person. Those insights and experiences really help the coach to customize the coaching, and recommend specific things that have worked in the past. Like everybody else, people with ADD are all unique and different, so what works for one person might not work for another. So it’s important that a good ADD coach has a wealth of experience to draw on.
K: Which types of tools and techniques do you most frequently use with your clients to help them manage their ADD?
M: Definitely, the best thing I’ve seen in terms of what works is mindfulness training. Mindfulness is basically the ability to be present in the moment, experience your thoughts and feelings, and purposely direct your attention to what’s going on right now, rather than dwell on something in the past or think about what might happen in the future. By focusing on the present, you’re actually exercising your mind’s ability to direct its attention. And just like working your muscles at the gym, working your “attention muscles” by focusing on the present moment helps you to better focus your attention in general. For this reason, mindfulness training is a big part of my coaching.
K: What do your clients specifically say about coaching that’s helped them?
M: There are a lot of things, but one thing that comes to mind is that they really appreciate being seen, heard and understood. People with ADD are living in a world dominated by linear thinkers, but they’re not linear thinkers themselves. So they often feel uncomfortable or out of place because their way of thinking is so different from the way that most people think. Knowing that they’re not weird, abnormal, etcetera, really helps them come to terms with their different way of thinking, and gives them the confidence that they can actually do something about it.
K: What are some of the positives about being ADD?
M: Great question! As I mentioned before, ADD is a different way of thinking. And there are a lot of good things about ADD, if you can channel them correctly. Maybe the biggest benefit that ADDers have is the ability to “think outside the box”. People with ADD are amazingly creative and innovative. In fact, some researchers looking at Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks once speculated that he may have had ADD, since his notebooks appeared disorganized and lacking in any traditional linear organization. In fact, it’s speculated that Leonardo’s non-linear approach may have been the reason he was able to achieve so many things in so many different domains, such as art, science, and architecture. His ability to link things together that otherwise seemed unconnected is the hallmark of the ingenious or “good” side of ADD.
K: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today!
M: My pleasure!