ADHD Home > Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD

If you are an adult with ADHD, you may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of therapy can help you cope with a number of ADHD symptoms. It is aimed at helping you learn how to address issues you may have with inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Research has shown that CBT is generally most effective when used in combination with medications.


What Is CBT for Adult ADHD?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that helps people with various mental illnesses to focus on how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related. It is a form of therapy that stresses "real-world" solutions to real problems. It can be done in group or individual sessions, and is usually confined to a specific number of sessions, unlike some other types of therapy, which can go on indefinitely. However, the exact number of sessions may vary, depending on your therapist, your goals, and your specific problems.

Can Adult ADHD Be Treated With CBT?

Most of the available research suggests that CBT can be helpful for the "residual" symptoms that remain even after an adult is treated with ADHD medications. In other words, studies generally show that medication plus CBT is better than medication alone. Medication is the first-line treatment for adult ADHD, but it typically does not take away all of the symptoms.
However, there is less evidence to support the use of CBT without medication for adult ADHD. CBT won't replace medication in most people, and there's no evidence that it can even allow people to reduce their dosage of ADHD medication. However, it can still be a valuable treatment tool when used without medication, including times where people cannot take medications, for those who do not respond to medications, or for people who simply want to avoid medication treatment for whatever reasons.
Keep in mind that it is common for adults with unmedicated ADHD to "spin their wheels" in CBT sessions, without the ability to pay attention in sessions or follow through with the suggestions from the sessions. It does little good to attend CBT sessions if you can't even focus long enough to hear what anyone else has to say.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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