Who you see and when will depend on where you are on your ADHD journey. A person who has been recently diagnosed might see more professionals at a greater frequency than someone who has been actively treating their ADHD for several years.
Also, ADHD is not a stagnant condition, it changes with age and can be affected by what is happening in your life. You might need more support when your life changes (a baby, new job, a relationship) than when your life is more settled.
Here is a brief guide of who to have on your team:
Your family doctor is usually your first port of call. They can offer support, guidance and refer you to other medical professionals when needed. Some family doctors prescribe ADHD medication, and others will refer you to a psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about ADHD.
A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in mental health. They are usually knowledgeable about ADHD, depression, mood disorders and other co-existing conditions you might have. Psychiatrists can diagnoses ADHD and prescribe medication.
Your psychiatrist might also offer therapy and education about ADHD. Sometimes people feel there is stigma attached to seeing a psychiatrist, but there is no shame to getting the right help from the right person.
Working with a psychologist or therapist helps you process events and emotions that can stem from having ADHD. For example, low self-esteem, anger, relationship issues and shame. They can also help with conditions that frequently co-exist with ADHD, such as anxiety, addictions and depression. There are many types of therapy, however research shows Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CTB) is an effective form of therapy for people with ADHD. Look for a therapist who has experience with adult ADHD.
The success of therapy and coaching (see below) depends on your relationship with the therapist or coach. If your personality or styles do not gel, that doesn’t mean therapy or coaching isn’t for you. It just means you haven’t find the right professional for you.
Coaches help with practical aspects of life with ADHD. They can help you set up structure, a routine an organized environment – all the things that help ADHD symptoms but are hard to do when you are living with it. Coaches provide accountability, and
help you develop skills such as time management and how to overcome procrastination and much more.
Does My Team Speak to Each Other?
Some people like the idea that their professional team is discussing their treatment. Others worry they will be talked about behind their back. Your psychiatrist might contact your family doctor in a letter to let them know what medications you are on. However, the other professionals would need written consent from you in order share notes or have a conversation about you.
How to Find the Right Professionals
No location is perfect. Here in Montreal there is a shortage of family doctors and psychiatrists that specialize in ADHD. On the plus side there are many excellent therapists. Your location will have pluses and minuses too. Don’t give up, be persistent. It might take a while to find your dream team but it is possible.
Ask for Recommendations
Remember the saying ‘Birds of feather flock together?’ This applies to professionals too. If you have found one professional you like, ask them if they can recommend someone else, a therapist/doctor etc. They will know people who are good in the ADHD area.
Another great place to ask for recommendations is at your local ADHD support group.
Nowadays we are not limited by location. At least half of my clients live in another country. Thanks to Skype and the telephone, we no longer need to work with people who live in close proximity to us.
Some therapists offer Skype appointments too. A good resource for finding therapists in your location or that work via Skype is: www.psychologytoday.com.
Finding your team might not happen instantly. There might be a bit of trial and error until you find someone who is both knowledgeable about ADHD and whose style resonates with you. When you find someone who fits this criteria, stick with them!
Even if you don’t need to see them for 5 years, you will know they are there.
Who is on your support team?