According to WebMD, between 3 and 10% of children suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But the neurobehavioral disorder is not strictly a childhood condition. In approximately 60% of cases, ADHD symptoms will carry on into adulthood, states WebMD;and in some cases, the disorder does not make itself known until an individual is grown up.
Due to the hyperactivity, inattention and/or impulsivity associated with ADD/ADHD, a person afflicted by the disorder can be affected in a variety of ways, from having problems completing tasks to relationship struggles or low self esteem. If not managed properly, one’s life can be severely altered to the point of unhealthy functioning.
Inattention, Impulsivity and Hyperactivity are the three main traits associated with ADD/ADHD, states HelpGuide.Org. Depending on the person, one, two OR all three traits may be exhibited.
For example, a child with ADHD/ADD might be “inattentive but not hyperactive or impulsive,” “hyperactive and impulsive, but able to pay attention” OR “inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive”.
“Children with ADHD often benefit from behavior therapy and counseling, which may be provided by a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health care professional,” states the MAYO CLINIC. Adults too can benefit from seeking help from an ADHD counselor.
If you see yourself in this counseling profession, part of your role will be to help clients comprehend their disorder, wiping away any stigma associated with the condition or its effects. As National Certified Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Dr. Stephanie Sarkis says (in her book 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD): “If you understand that ADD is a biological disorder, you will hopefully feel less guilt or self-blame about your ADD.”
ADHD Counselors At a Glance
- Degree Level Requirements: Master’s Degree
- Licensure Requirements: Licensure is required to practice as a counselor; check your state’s regulating board.
- Median Annual Salaries: $40,080*
- Job Outlook: 37% growth from 2010 to 2020**
Treatment for ADHD/ADD is often a team approach. This may include parents or other family members, physicians, teachers, counselors and other professionals. Each treatment approach depends on the individual and may include counseling/behavior therapy, medications or a combination of both.
Specifically an ADHD counselor’s role may include the following:
- Help patients develop coping strategies, such as organization skills, goal setting and dealing with emotions.
- Help determine what kinds of environments are best suited for learning and working.
- Listen to patients as they talk and explore their feelings, impulses and behaviors.
- Address underlying issues or co-exsting conditions, such as anxiety, depression, problems at home or learning disabilities.
- Teach patients about ADD/ADHD to foster understanding, confidence building and healthy ways of managing their condition.
- Facilitate various forms of therapy, such as family counseling, play therapy, behavior therapy and social skills training.
- Communicate and work with all those involved, such as parents, family, partners, teachers and physicians.
Specializations & Concentrations
For counselors, ADHD might be among their specialties. In other words, while there may be some counselors that focus solely on patients with ADD/ADHD, it is not uncommon for a counselor to treat patients dealing with several different conditions or issues.
For example, Lesa M. Reyna, a licensed professional counselor (LPC), an LPC supervisor and a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) at Banyan Counseling in Houston, Texas, has experience “working with individual adults, children and families of all ages experiencing life transitions, divorce issues, school behavior concerns, communication, and those affected by ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, and anger.”
Examples of ADHD Symptoms
- Difficulty remembering things
- Often misplaces belongings
- Gets bored before finishing something…
- Blurts out answers before being called on
- Trouble waiting his/her turn
- Temper tantrums
- Excessive talking
- Trouble relaxing
- Trouble staying still even when inappropriate
- Frequent “zoning out” during conversations
- Difficulty completing even simple tasks
- Frequent errors due to overlooking details…
- Racing thoughts
- Risky behavior
- Engaging in many, many tasks at once
- Insecure or low self-esteem
- Feeling like a failure
- Short fuse/temper
- Blurts out inappropriate comments without thinking
- Chronically late
- Often procrastinates
The Educational Journey
To become a professional counselor or therapist, in order to help patients with ADD/ADHD and other conditions, a Master’s degree is required. You might choose to do all of your university studies at once, or take a break after your Bachelor’s to gain some applicable work experience.
- Bachelor’s Degree: Those who go on to become a professional counselor may have started off in a variety of areas—in arts, science or business—at the undergraduate level (before deciding to take the appropriate Master’s degree). If you know from the beginning that you would like to be an ADHD Counselor complete a Psychology or related degree and when given the choice, select courses related to developmental, neurological and/or counseling psychology.
- Relevant Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree: If you decide to work for a while after completing a Bachelor’s degree, positions you might consider include: psychiatric technician, child life specialist, research assistant, crisis center worker, youth probation officer, family services worker, early childhood behavioral specialist, program coordinator, etc. (Note that some positions might require a particular certification or previous related experience).
- Master’s Degree: Relevant Master’s degrees include Psychology, Educational Psychology or Counseling Psychology with specializations such as Marriage and Family Therapy, Mental Health Counseling or Neuropsychology. (You might choose to focus your independent projects/thesis on ADHD).
Certification & Licensing Requirements
To practice as a counselor, you must be licensed. Licensure requirements vary by state, but generally require a Master’s degree, the completion of a certain number of supervised clinical hours and passing an exam.
Depending on where you are employed to act as an ADHD counselor (among other specialties), you might be an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), an LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) and/or an LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist).
The National Board for Certified Counselors’ State Board Directory can direct you to your state’s licensure board: http://www.nbcc.org/directory
One interesting thing to note is that it is not uncommon for someone with ADHD to go on to help others afflicted by the same disorder. One key way they help those afflicted with ADHD is that they can relate to some of the same symptoms.
For example, in Margarita Tartakovsky’s Psych Central article, Dr. Stephanie Sarkis (NCC, LMHC) shares she has trouble “focusing on a single task,” certified ADHD coach Jennifer Koretsky says she’s had trouble sleeping and psychotherapist Terry Matlen (ACSW) discloses that paper clutter is her major problem.
- * May 2012 (for Mental Health Counselors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- ** May 2010 (for Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- † Salary data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211014.htm
- ‡ Job Outlook data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
- http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-ADHD.html#How Therapy Can Help ADHD