Therapy for Teens with ADHD
Newport Beach, California
Newport Beach, California
Does your teen struggle with paying attention in school? Do they seem to lack focus unless they are playing video games or watching a show? Many children today have issues with motivation and focus, and it makes sense. Every wall and pocket has a screen these days, vying for kids and adults to pay attention to the abundance of media entertainment.
Although this has become somewhat normal in this generation, many teens are noticing that their lack of focus is impacting classroom and/or work performance. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a neurological disorder commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents (teenagers). The symptoms of ADHD tend to be first noticed when children begin school (Moffitt et al, 2015), but many students do not begin to notice the impact of ADHD symptoms until middle or high school.
ADHD is considered a disorder of attention and inhibition. Attention can be defined as the capacity to hold and direct awareness onto a variety of internal (a thought or feeling) or external (something in your environment i.e. a person talking, a homework assignment, instructions) events that we consider worthy of our attention in service of whatever our goal may be in any given moment. ADHD impairs our ability to exert voluntary control over our attention. So, this doesn’t mean that teens with ADHD aren’t able to focus, but rather that it is difficult for them to control their attentional and focusing capacities. Therefore, teens with ADHD vacillate between periods of poor focus and focusing well or hyper focus. In addition to the neurodevelopmental underpinnings of ADHD, the ability to focus is further impacted by a variety of factors including but not limited to sleep, diet, mood and motivation.
ADHD is also a disorder of inhibition. Inhibition impacts the ability to voluntarily select, control and move between a variety of competing processes including thoughts, behaviors, impulses, emotions et cetera. For teens with ADHD difficulty controlling and inhibiting certain behaviors may lead to an excess of behavior that is unhelpful for the teen including blurting out thoughts that are inappropriate, acting on impulses and engaging in behavior that gets them into trouble. On the other hand difficulty with voluntary control of behavior can also lead to a deficit of certain behaviors that are helpful for the teen including initiating tasks at home and school, using organizational strategies and avoidance of activities that require sustained mental effort.
Diagnostically, ADHD is broken down into three main categories: Inattentive Type (Difficulty controlling attention), Hyperactive-impulsive Type (Difficulty controlling behavior), and Combined Type (Symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity). The symptoms of ADHD are rooted in issues with executive functioning and/or motor drive. Executive functioning is a broad term used by psychologists to explain the brain’s capacity to organize thoughts, plan ahead, and integrate perceptual information (Willcutt et al, 2005). Issues with executive functioning are most easily identified with poor attention control and organizational skills. Motor drive is used to describe the body’s level of agitation or motivation to move and be active, which is most often seen as the squirminess and “bouncing off the wall” level of activity in younger children with hyperactivity. Teenagers can be seen engaging in more highly-stimulating activities, such as sports, experimentation with drugs or alcohol, or other risky behaviors.
Although ADHD is primarily diagnosed in childhood (ages 5-12), teenagers may also be diagnosed with ADHD. The symptoms ADHD are fairly common in today’s generation, which makes an accurate diagnosis difficult for most healthcare professionals (see Harold et al, 2015). An inaccurate diagnosis of ADHD can have severe consequences on a child’s functioning and health for two reasons. First, the symptoms of other mental health issues are often confused for ADHD, such as depression (irritability, low motivation), anxiety (rapid speech, racing thoughts, distractedness), and bipolar disorder (high energy, euphoria, irritability). Second, the improper prescription of an ADHD medication can significantly affect the health and development of a teenager (see Setik et al, 2009).
This is why parents should always seek services from a licensed psychologist who is trained to do ADHD assessment. Clinical psychologists (such as those employed at OC Psychology Center) are trained and licensed to accurately assess ADHD and rule out the presence of other mental health issues. Our team of mental health professionals is determined to help you and your teenager find answers. If your teen struggles with focus, organizational skills, or motivation, let us help. Contact OC Psychology Center for Assessment and Therapy today to schedule your first appointment.
The first step for anyone who struggles with ADHD or a similar mental health issue involves an accurate diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, treatment for ADHD may look different than treatment for anxiety or depression. Although many of the issues related to having ADHD can be resolved through psychotherapy services, a combination of medication and therapy tends to be the most effective (National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Report, 2000). Medication use for teens has become far safer with recent improvements in the way prescribers provide ADHD medication, although there can be some risks. We can help teens and their parents with the process of choosing the best ADHD medication (if applicable) and provide support as needed.
Manage their schedules efficiently
Minimize or avoid risky behavior
Take medication as prescribed
Cope with the unique stressors of being a teen with ADHD
Plan ahead and set life goals
Our mission is to help teens and their families find answers and solutions through assessment (testing and diagnosis) and psychotherapy (treatment) services. To read more about our assessment services, check out our other pages on psychological testing and diagnosis. To learn more about what assessment looks like here in our clinic, read on!
Our ADHD assessment services are entirely confidential and scheduled based on you and your teen’s availability. Your teen will typically meet one-on-one with one of our psychologists to complete a testing battery that is designed based on their needs. For ADHD testing, this typically involves behavioral, executive functioning, cognitive, and academic assessments. Assessment may require scheduling multiple blocks of time (2-6 hours) depending on the testing, along with a final feedback session where we provide you with the results and our recommendations. A copy of the report will also be given to you to use, and can be sent to your teen’s school if requested.
We would love to answer any questions you might have about how our assessment and psychotherapy services for teens with ADHD can help.
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Learn more about child therapy, teen therapy and young adult therapy for treatment of ADHD, depression, anxiety and learning problems, and how our counseling services and psychological testing can help.