Bad ADHD CoachBefore 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…

 


Jennifer Koretsky About Jennifer Koretsky

Jennifer Koretsky, SCAC is the Managing Partner of the ADD Management Group, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of ADHDmanagement.com. She is a Senior Certified ADHD Coach, and the author of Odd One Out: The Maverick's Guide to Adult ADD.

Comments

  1. I was really with you this whole post until the end with the “your coach sucks” part and how if the coach makes it all about them. WHAT COACH DOES THAT? Period. Your message at the end feels like your saying most coaches make it about them. I’m a coach and I train coaches. I think it should be made clearer that most coaches are trained not to do that, and if ANY coach does that it’s out af alignment with what coaching is. It’s a rarity for a coach to behave that way.

    • Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

      I absolutely agree with you, Emiliya. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is a rarity to come across someone who calls themselves a coach and doesn’t act like one. That’s one of the points of this article–a client needs to vet a coach and make sure that they are getting the service they pay for. ADHD coaching simply won’t work if the coach isn’t well-trained in both coaching techniques and ADHD.
      :)

  2. Jerry Gwaltney says:

    How does anyone with ADD go about finding a reputable coach? At 65 yrs. of age, my life has been ruined by this problem and I am on my own and just lost. I have been reduced to living on SS disability (I’ve been told that my problem is exceptionally bad) and I don’t know that I could even afford a coach.
    I have a collection of books on the subject and it’s various attributes as they apply to myself but I can’t stay with anything to get anything accomplished.

  3. I found this article to be very helpful and aligned with my own experiences. I am a livelihood/career coach who specializes in working with ADD adults, entrepreneurs and professionals. My own diagnoses later in life inspired me to work with my tribe. I will often recommend my clients to qualified coaches I think would be a good match and am always looking to get to know coaches for my referral base.

    Just as I’m not a perfect match for everyone seeking career coaching, I feel it is important for potential clients to interview and feel positive, even excited about getting started once they find an ADD coach that feels like a good fit. It is a big investment of time and money in most cases. Clients deserve to feel they are being served as evidenced by their progress marked over a period of time. ADDers are often very intuitive and should use that instinct to their advantage when selecting the right coach.

  4. Kate Turner says:

    As a long-time ADHD coach and therapist, I can definitely relate to what you say in this article! I live in a college town, and tend to cringe when the parent of an incoming freshman college student calls me and wants me to work with his/her child. Rarely do I even see those children, much less have success in working with them. If they turn up on their own 2 years later, it’s an entirely different experience. And, of course, it’s like that with everyone – when it’s time, and you’re ready to work with a coach effectively, you can benefit greatly. My own training consisted of a single long-weekend workshop with two experienced coaches (20 or so years ago), several ADDA conferences, the experience of raising two kids with ADHD, and a lot of reading, among other things (in addition to my training and experience as a psychotherapist). My take is that ADHD coaching is quite different from many other forms of coaching. Jennifer’s words about looking for someone who knows ADHD are right on point. The best coach in the world may not understand that it’s WAY too easy to get WAY off track in the course of a week, for example, which could result in you feeling like a failure. Most people with ADHD have already had too many experiences like that. Anyway, this is a very useful and insightful article!

  5. I like the article but find it so hard to even find a good ADHD coach. As an example, my last coach (although certified and considered to be one of the better in my area) was late (over 30min) in 3 of 4 of my “introductory” sessions with one excuse stated “I didn’t realize it was on my schedule”

    I understand what is being said, but with a continued lack of credible resources out there to “find” a coach, I think that the premise of this article is a little off. As a person with ADHD, it is a bit frustrating to start / stop this process to even find a good coach!!!

    • Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

      You have a very valid point, John. I’ll address it on the next podcast. It tapes tomorrow and should post by early next week, so stay tuned!

      P.S. Dump that coach who has been late several times with no good excuse and no respect for your time. Seriously.

  6. I am so happy you have said this. Everyone want’s to give me attitude about the issues around sucky coaches because they have the paper but know nothing about ADHD or those that say they know and are just so shabby.

  7. Great advise! Clear, to the point without any bias. Great!

    As to wanting an experienced coach. If you asked my wife: keeping an ADHD-er on track is a BIG and DIFFICULT job. Even if the patient is willing to cooperate!

  8. These are great points because it’s so true.
    For a newly trained coach though, there’s a bit of a “catch 22″.
    You need experience to be a good coach, you need to be a good coach it get and keep clients that give you that experience.
    Would it be beneficial to have many supervised coaching sessions?

    • Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

      Brett, the reputable coach training programs all have a great deal of practice coaching and supervised coaching included in the program. There are also plenty of mentor coaches available who will supervise coaching sessions, and plenty of clients who are more than willing to volunteer to be coached by a coach-in-training. So in short, yes, I think it’s beneficial to have supervised coaching sessions. :-)

      And even when one is a seasoned coach, it can still help to observe other coaches and to continue attending coach training sessions at conferences and online. :-)

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