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The Foundation of ADHD Treatment: Organizing & Planning Skills

Updated: Apr 23

This treatment program was created to be done alongside a therapist who specializes in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). The strategies listed here may work for adults with ADHD who haven't taken medication, but these strategies have proven to be effective for those who do take medication.


Symptoms Checklist

Before each session, your therapist will give you a form called the ASRS Symptom Checklist to fill out. This checklist has all the symptoms of ADHD listed so you can rate yourself. Throughout treatment, you'll focus on specific symptoms each week, aiming to see them improve over time. If certain symptoms don't seem to be getting better, that's where you'll concentrate your efforts. Keeping track of your symptoms weekly helps you become more aware of them. This awareness, along with regularly assessing yourself, can be helpful in itself. It reminds you to use the skills you'll learn in therapy.


Medical Adherence

Write down how much medication you're supposed to take and note how many times you missed a dose. Think about why you missed doses, like getting distracted or running out of medication. Before each therapy session, go over this information and talk about it with your therapist. It's recommended that you write this down for your therapist to see as well.


Goals for CBT for ADHD

Now that you've finished a checklist of ADHD symptoms in adults, take a moment to reflect on it. Reviewing this list can help you identify specific areas where you might want to set goals. Think about how these symptoms impact your life and what you hope to achieve through therapy.

As you embark on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for ADHD, it's important to set realistic goals. Realistic goals are ones you have control over and can work towards effectively.

Realism and Controllability

You might have a long-term goal, like getting a better job, which is fantastic! We believe the skills you'll learn here can definitely boost your chances of achieving that goal. However, landing a better job depends on many factors beyond your direct control, like the economy and job availability.

A realistic goal, then, would be to identify steps you can take to increase your chances of getting that better job and then taking action on those steps. There may be ADHD-related challenges that are holding you back from reaching this goal. Overcoming these challenges might involve improving your job search process, enhancing your organizational skills at work, and boosting your productivity. These are areas where treatment can make a real difference because they're things we can directly influence.

Questions to Help Come Up with Goals

These questions can guide you in setting goals for your treatment:

  • What motivated you to begin treatment at this time?

  • What changes would you like to see in how you handle tasks?

  • Have others noticed any issues in how you approach things?

  • If ADHD weren't a challenge for you, how do you think your life would be different?

In the table below, please write down your goals for therapy. For each goal, indicate the degree of control you believe you have over it, regardless of your ADHD symptoms (0% meaning no control, 100% meaning complete control). Also, specify whether each goal is short-term or long-term.

It's important to rate controllability, ideally with the guidance of a therapist, to gain a realistic understanding of your CBT goals.

For instance, consider a goal like moving to a new house. While this outcome depends on various external factors like the housing market and mortgage approval, it's better to focus on a related goal that's more within your control.

For example, you could aim to complete the tasks necessary to improve the likelihood of moving to a new house. This shift in focus allows for more achievable and actionable goals in therapy.

Review your goals and the controllability ratings. Consider specific aspects within each situation that you can manage and those that are beyond your control.


Info about the Modular Therapy Treatment

This treatment is modular, meaning each skill builds on what you've learned before. You'll tackle one technique at a time. As you start this treatment program, here are some key points to remember about its structure.

The Therapy Is Active

Every session will include reviewing what you've already learned and discussing new coping strategies to try out for the following week. The more consistently you do this, the more positive results you'll likely see.

The Therapy Works on One Skill at a Time

This means that certain difficulties won't be addressed immediately. For instance, the first module focuses on organizing and planning, while the second deals with distractibility. It's clear that organizing and planning become simpler when distractions are minimized. Similarly, addressing distractibility first would make it hard to identify what you're getting distracted from if you're not organized. Therefore, it's crucial to understand that change happens one step at a time, and the key is to practice each skill long enough to see if it's genuinely helpful for you.

Practice Makes Perfect

You're about to begin a treatment aimed at addressing difficulties with follow-through, which can indeed be challenging. That's why it's important to work through this treatment with a therapist rather than trying to do it alone. It's also crucial to recognize from the outset how essential it is to practice these new skills consistently.

Motivation Is Key

Engaging in this program will undoubtedly present challenges, and it's natural to struggle with maintaining motivation. Your therapist will assist you in understanding precisely how each skill can benefit you and ensure that you're focusing on goals that are meaningful to you. Don't hesitate to provide feedback to your therapist if you're unsure about the usefulness of a particular skill or if you feel they don't grasp your goals. By doing so, you'll maximize the effectiveness of the treatment program.


Calendars and Lists Together

Many people have tried using a calendar system in the past without success, or they didn't keep up with it. Remember, the aim of this treatment is to persist with strategies until they become automatic habits. From now on, every session will involve tasks that build on using the calendar and task list system, which can be used together.

  • The task list contains information not tied to a specific date, replacing random pieces of paper that can easily get lost.

  • The calendar is crucial for scheduling appointments. When using it alongside the task list, you can assign items from the task list to specific days or times.

Rules for the Calendar and Task List:

The calendar and task list system should replace all paper notes.

  • Paper notes often get lost, so copy appointment details onto the task list or directly onto your calendar.

Phone messages, including those from voicemail, should be logged on the task list.

  • Record every phone message as a to-do item on the task list.

  • Date when you complete each task to keep a record.

All appointments must be added to the calendar.

  • Avoid using appointment slips that can be easily misplaced.

All tasks should be listed on the task list.

  • The task list will be further developed in future chapters and is a vital part of the program.

  • Review task list items daily and update as needed.

Don't obsess over creating the perfect system.

  • Avoid getting caught up in trying to create the ideal calendar and task list systems.

  • If you can't decide on the best system, opt for a simple calendar and task list setup.

  • Give your chosen system a fair chance by sticking with it for at least three months.

Use a system that suits your comfort level.

  • There are various options for calendar and task list systems, including paper, smartphone apps, and computer applications.

  • Focus on finding the best system for you, considering your preferences and proficiency.

If you're not proficient with computers or smartphone applications, you can work on improving these skills separately after completing the treatment. However, we suggest keeping this as a separate goal from the current program.

With all of this in mind, you will have some pretty effective tools to deal with Adult ADHD. It may be hard to keep this all in mind at first: but with help with a therapist and some goals to work towards, positive results will occur.

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