Before you pounce on me, let me just say that, as one of the first people to receive the Senior Certified ADHD Coach designation, I obviously do believe in the value and effectiveness of ADHD coaching. I’ve been both an ADHD coach and an ADHD coaching client, and I am a big fan of coaching. But there are times when ADHD coaching really doesn’t work, and can even do you more harm than good. If you’re considering working with an ADHD coach, then be sure to read this list first!
Here are 5 reasons why ADHD coaching doesn’t work:
1. You’re Not Ready for Coaching…Yet.
Coaching won’t work if you rush into it. It’s probably not a good idea to get a coach right after you get your ADHD diagnosis. It takes some time to ease into your diagnosis and you’re much better served to take your time learning all you can about ADHD and how it’s affected you throughout your life. Read books, subscribe to websites like this one, attend local support groups, and have some good conversations with the clinician who diagnosed you. Consider trying medication, getting regular exercise, or exploring other treatment options.
Next, consider psychotherapy. I’m a big fan of therapy, too. Psychotherapy is different from coaching because a qualified therapist who is knowledgeable and experienced in treating ADHD can help you through the grieving process that many people experience when they first get an ADHD diagnosis and realize the impact that undiagnosed ADHD has had on their lives. A therapist can also help you process childhood difficulties and past traumas (and we all have them), and build your self-awareness.
I’ve noticed that many of my clients who have been highly successful in the coaching process are no strangers to psychotherapy. That’s because their experience in therapy has opened them up to deeper levels of personal awareness. They know themselves pretty well, and they welcome observations and suggestions from the coach. There comes a time in therapy when most people feel that they’ve gotten as much as they can from it, and they’re ready for something more. And that’s a great time to start coaching!
Of course, you can work with an ADHD coach even if you haven’t had therapy. But you’ll certainly get the best results after you’ve taken the time to learn about your diagnosis, and about yourself.
2. You Don’t Actually Want a Coach.
One of the most popular inquires we get here at the ADD Management Group goes something like this: “My husband needs a coach! Can Jennifer call him and convince him that he needs to work with her?” Or: “My son is in college and is going to fail out if he doesn’t work with Jennifer right away! He doesn’t want a coach but I told him I’m paying for it so he better show up to the appointments! Can Jennifer take him on as a client?” (Curiously, it’s very rare that a mom inquires for her daughter, or that a dad inquires for his kid. And I don’t think we’ve ever had a husband inquire about coaching for his wife!)
However well meaning these spouses and parents are, our answer to these questions is always a resounding “no.” That’s because, as a young coach, I made the mistake of working with people who didn’t actually want to be coached. They participated because their spouse or parent wanted them to, and more often than not they harbored resentment towards both me and the person who signed them up. And who could blame them, really? They felt forced into making self-improvements out of guilt or obligation, and not because it was something they wanted to do—or even necessarily thought they needed to do—for themselves. Under these circumstances, of course ADHD coaching won’t work.
For many years now, our rule here at the office is that the person being coached needs to be the one to inquire about coaching with me. It doesn’t matter who’s paying my bill (a parent, an employer, etc.). What I care about is whether or not the client actually wants to work with me.
3. You’re Not Willing to Do the Work.
You might be surprised by the number of people who are willing to pay quite a few bucks to talk to a coach on a regular basis, but not wiling to do any work in between sessions.
ADHD coaching is a process. It takes time, energy, commitment, and dedication. And in order for it to be effective, you have to be willing to do the work. The goal of coaching is to move you forward in some shape or form. And if you’re not willing to collaborate with your coach on new strategies and systems, try them out, and observe what works and what doesn’t work, then you’ll remain stuck where you are. At that point coaching becomes a waste of everyone’s time, and a waste of your money.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll revamp your entire life with a few weeks of coaching. You might want to work on time management or organization with your coach and, in that case, you’ll be able to see the concrete, physical results of your work. But you might also choose to work on other things, like self-awareness or self-esteem, in which case you can still move forward tremendously, but the results may not be outwardly noticeable to those around you. It doesn’t matter. Everyone gets different results from coaching and, when it’s working, you’ll know it.
4. You Have the Wrong Coach.
There are some great life coaches out there who are superstars in their respective fields. But a life coach, a weight loss coach, an executive coach, or any other coach who is not trained in ADHD and ADHD-specific coaching will more than likely be the wrong coach for you. It’s not their fault. They’ve been trained to work with the 95% of the population that does not have ADHD. They don’t know about the workings of your ADHD brain or the executive functions challenges that you deal with.
If you ask this coach to repeat something, they may assume you’re not listening, rather than realize you may processing things a bit slower or need to write things down to remember them. If you show up late to a session, they may think that you’re not committed, instead of realizing that you actually need help with time management. Worse yet, they may have a policy that you forfeit your session if you’re late! Over time, even a very good life coach can get annoyed with you, and you will end up feeling very bad about yourself, simply because ADHD got in the way.
Now, I’m not saying that you should have a free pass with your ADHD coach! Typically, if a client shows up late, I allow them the rest of their allotted session time. I may even go a few minutes over time if my schedule permits. But if it becomes a routine problem, then at some point I’m going to insist that we address the time management challenge head on. I also allow one missed session “freebie,” because forgetting an appointment happens to the best of us. However, these are my policies, and other ADHD coaches may have different policies. There’s a line between understanding a client’s ADHD challenges and babying them. Babying isn’t coaching, and it really doesn’t help in the long run.
5. Your Coach Sucks.
Yeah, you read that right. One of the biggest reasons why ADHD coaching doesn’t work is that you have the unfortunate experience of working with a sucky coach. And there are plenty of them out there. The problem is that anyone can call themselves a coach, or an ADHD coach. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they know what they’re doing. I’ve met plenty of “ADHD coaches” whom I cringe to think of working with clients.
And even though I’m a certified ADHD coach, I don’t think credentials are the most important thing to look for in a coach. Experience is what matters. The best ADHD coaches have had extensive ADHD coach training. They’ve learned about ADHD from a scientific, psychological, and practical perspective. And they’ve been taught, preferably by a highly experienced and successful ADHD coach, how to apply coaching techniques to ADHD individuals. They’ve coached other people with ADHD, and perhaps they even have ADHD themselves, as many of us do.
You know your ADHD coach sucks if they make your coaching experience all about them. It’s okay, and even nice, when a coach shares a personal experience here or there, when it’s relevant. But your coaching interactions should be about you, the client, and not about your coach. Your coach should explore your options with you, and support your decisions. Your coach should encourage you and know when to challenge you, but not boss you around.
A good coach will use their training, knowledge, and experience to work with you. And when it does work, it can be fantastic. The right ADHD coaching relationship can help you move forward and achieve goals that you never thought possible.
Now it’s your turn! I welcome your feedback. Coaches and clients, feel free to let me know what YOU think…