Is an ADHD coach that has ADHD the best person to work with or do the coach’s experiences and potential executive functioning difficulties get in the way of being an effective ADHD coach?
Currently, there are zero search results that discuss the outcomes of people with ADHD working with an ADHD coach that has ADHD. There are many ADHD coaches with ADHD based on a search using the primary directory for ADHD coaches (adhdcoaches.org). It is worth noting that one of the foremost experts on experts on ADHD, author and psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell, has ADHD. While there has been no direct research on the outcomes of clients working with coaches who have ADHD, there has been research that has shown a positive correlation between doctors and patients with the same racial background leading to a significant increase in health outcomes (Alsan, Garrick, Graziani 2018). Additionally, in a study examining the effectiveness of “illness narratives with meaningful, competent and targeted content have been shown to provide useful guides for patient decision-making and have positive influences on health behaviors. The use of narratives in decision aids can confer a sense of structure, plot, and context to illness experiences and help patients make treatment decisions that feel sensible, informed, and transparent” (Krostic, Trejo, Blumenthal-Barby 2019). While the research I have just mentioned does not examine the relationship between better outcomes for a client working with a coach that has the same diagnosis, it does seem promising that similar findings might be found in the client-coach relationship. I believe that this topic needs to be explored further by researchers. As an ADHD coach with ADHD, I would like to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a person with ADHD working with a coach with ADHD.
Working with an ADHD coach with ADHD “can” be beneficial. I say “can” be beneficial because from my observations there are certain conditions that must be met by the coach.
The coach’s executive functioning skills need to be good enough for them to consistently do the following tasks.
1. Keep detailed notes on each client to ensure they can track their success towards specific goals and can remind the client of their successes. Detailed notes are essential for clients with ADHD because working memory is impaired by ADHD.
2. The coach must act as a coach and not a mentor. Mentors play the role of the expert. In a coaching relationship, coaches are supporting their clients to achieve their client’s goals. A coach that tries to solve their clients’ problems and tell them how they have solved a similar situation robs the client of the opportunity to learn, take ownership of their actions, and gain the skills that will lead to them being independent. If a client constantly comes to coaching sessions looking for the coach to solve their problems then the coach is not doing their job.
3. Coaches with ADHD can share their experiences and normalize the experience of having ADHD. A coach that is able to identify with the challenges that their client is facing allows the client to feel understood. When a client feels understood it allows for a much stronger coaching relationship. However, a coach should never make their client feel as if they are weird or defective because the coach has never experienced what their client is going through.
4. The coach must be reliable, otherwise the client and coach relationship falls apart. If a coach says they will do something, they have to follow through. When a coach doesn’t follow through, this signals to the client that they are not holding themselves accountable to their clients. When the client feels that the coach is not reliable, then they will feel no sense to follow through on the actions they said they will take.
When a coach with ADHD has the essential qualities listed, then the fact that they have ADHD should dramatically improve their client's outcome. The ways in which my clients have benefited from me having ADHD are numerous. By having ADHD, I have helped them to articulate exactly what they are experiencing and feeling. This has given my clients a way to accurately communicate what they are experiencing to their family, teachers, and peers who might not understand what it is like to be in their shoes. This has led several of my clients to have increased confidence and better outcomes from therapy. While I do not make recommendations about medications, a result of my clients working with me to articulate their experiences has allowed them to work with their psychiatrist to find the right dosage and combination of medications that address their symptoms. I have also noticed many of my clients are more open to collaboratively brainstorming with me which could be associated with a greater degree of trust in me to understand them. Clients benefit from me calling them out on their “BS” and getting them back to a place of truth so that progress can be made in coaching. As a coach, I meet all the required qualities mentioned in this article.
Share your experience working with an ADHD coach with ADHD. Was it helpful or harmful that the coach had ADHD? Let me know in the comments.
Alsan, Garrick, Graziani 2018. "Does Diversity Matter for Health? Experimental Evidence from Oakland" National Bureau of Economic Research Program(s): Health Economics. https://www.nber.org/papers/w24787
Krostic, Trejo, Blumenthal-Barby 2019. "Suffering and Healing in the Context of LVAD Treatment." Journal of Clinical Medicine doi: 10.3390/jcm8050660.