Chances are, if you’re on the ADHD discovery path, you’ve come across various ADHD coaching services through Google searches and following hashtags on social media.
Services you read about may range from group coaching, to online courses, to high priced one-on-one coaching sessions.
Since coaching isn’t a regulated service, unfortunately there are folks out there selling courses and online groups that haven’t been properly researched and are simply looking to make a profit.
Sadly, these programs can cause more harm than good and can be very expensive, sometimes adding up to thousands of dollars.
Caution is advised of course. But for the neurodiverse person, desperate for some strategies to help with organization and time management, they can be very tempting.
What’s a curious ADHD’er to do? Read on for some advice on how to choose wisely for your well-being and success.
It’s vital to note that coaching is not therapy. Coaches help with any number of challenges, including time management, organizing your workspace, relationships, studying for school exams, professional development, career advancement and more.
It’s important to understand that coaching can be an incredible part of a well-rounded toolbox for managing ADHD. Medication can help with focus and impulse control, but cultivating sustainable habits takes more effort and practice.
In tandem with a medical professional such as your family doctor or nurse practitioner, a clinical therapist, and a well-rounded exercise habit, working with a coach can yield incredible results.
Do your research
A good coach will usually have some form of certification and some may offer references or testimonials.
Keith Gelhorn is the founder of ADDvocacy a certified ADHD coaching and training provider.
He says it’s wise to choose a coach with lived experience of ADHD.
Keith struggled with mental health challenges before being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.
His deep understanding and compassion for the many challenges that ADHD brings are strong assets for a coach. He says implementing executive function strategies takes time, prolonged effort, and commitment to become habit.
He also advises being wary of astronomical claims from online coaching programs that promise quick fixes but don’t deliver. If group coaching makes sense for your schedule and/or budget, choose online courses that have a cohort/group coaching component with weekly or bi-weekly interaction from the coach.
While he is open about his own ADHD discovery, Keith is also a seasoned coach and can offer clients tangible exercises and tools to reinforce their commitment to improvement. It’s an effective strategy and he works with clients to meet their academic and career goals with a high success rate.
Once you’ve found a coach that feels right, don’t be shy to ask for a discovery call. Most coaches offer a 15-30 minutes of free consultation so you can ask questions.
Here are a few sample questions to get started:
Have you taken accredited training directly focused on ADHD?
How long have you been coaching?
What brought you to ADHD coaching?
Do you have lived experience with ADHD or have a close relationship with someone who does?
What can I expect in a session? Do you use frameworks or guides?
How do you measure results?
Can you offer any references or testimonials from other clients?
How much will it cost?
After a phone call, you should have a good sense of whether it’s a good fit.
Trust your gut
Always trust your instincts! ADHD’ers have often spent a lifetime not trusting themselves due to negative feedback from peers, family members, and colleagues. But your gut is usually right so if a coach feels too high pressure, or not firm enough, keep searching until you find the right fit.
Depending on your work situation, some coaching may be covered by extended health benefit programs. But if you’re freelance or a sole proprietor, it might not be covered. All the more reason to practice due diligence and research carefully before signing on with a coach or online program.
Students may find some financial relief through federal education grants.
Remember, this is about you finding healthy ways to manage some of the challenges that come with ADHD. It’s your choice and your well-being.
Whatever route you decide to take, researching and learning about how to best support your success will yield great results.
It’s April 19th, how are those taxes coming along? If that sentence strikes terror in your heart, we’ve got you covered. Continue reading for some helpful suggestions on how to tackle doing your taxes without going off the rails.
A major struggle and source of anxiety for ADHD’ers is financial paperwork so it makes sense that neurodiverse folks feel extra anxious around tax time.
But this yearly personal administrative task can potentially yield some financial relief, depending on your situation. With living costs skyrocketing across the country, spending some time to organize your files and get ready to submit your taxes can yield big results.
People with ADHD pay what’s colloquially known as an ADHD tax for all the forgotten subscription sign ups, library late fees, and spoiled groceries. Not to mention the high cost of medications that often aren’t covered by Pharmacare or personal health insurance plans.
If you're already paying more for so many other things, why not take some time to ensure you're getting the benefits you're entitled to?
In Canada, the Disability Tax Credit or DTC is designed to help offset the many costs of living with a disability. If you’re not on disability, that’s ok, you can still apply. Many working Canadians with varying degrees of challenges qualify for this benefit. Take some time and read through the criteria.
Don't leave money on the table
It’s important to research what benefits you may be entitled to! Most tax credit programs aren’t widely advertised so we’ve created a resource page, just for you.
In order to apply for the Disability Tax Credit, you’ll need to work with a nurse practitioner or your family doctor to fill out the form. Depending on your health care team and access, this should be free of charge, but check with your provider. In BC, the Medical Services Plan covers this fee. Even if it isn't covered, it can be applied as a deduction on your taxes next year.
Once you apply for the credit, it usually takes two to four weeks (longer around tax time, due to high volume) to be screened and approved. Once you receive the letter of approval, you can fill out your taxes.
But wait, there's more! Once approved for the DTC, you can open up a Disability Retirement Savings Plan which is a fantastic way to set yourself up for future financial security. For those younger than 49-years-old, there are government grants that can help you grow your funds so make sure you ask about this important resource.
Help is available
We understand just thinking about taxes and all that mundane paperwork is often the overwhelming part! But there are many free tax software programs available online if you have a fairly straightforward tax return.
There are also free tax clinics that many non-profit organizations, including MOSAIC, that help folks new to Canada navigate the complexities of the tax system.
In Vancouver for example, many neighbourhood houses host tax clinics. For a full directory of local tax clinics, visit this page on Canada.ca.
If you are on disability, there are advocates that can assist with more complex tax returns through Disability Alliance BC.
For those with very simple tax returns, Wealthsimple Tax has a no-nonsense online filing system that links directly to your CRA account.
There are expenses that you can claim but may not be aware of, including the cost of some medications, even medical assessments such as those for ADHD. A helpful guide can be found here.
At the Adult ADHD Centre, we understand how hard it is to start a daunting task such as your taxes, but as with many other projects, getting started can break the spell of analysis paralysis and/or perfectionism.
Break it down
One way to minimize overwhelm is to break it down into smaller chunks. For example, taking 20 minutes to read up on free tax clinics, then take a 5-minute break, then return to signing up for a CRA online account if you don’t yet have one. Once you get rolling, you'll be surprised how quickly it all comes together.
Remember, the urgency and stress you’re experiencing from procrastinating on your tax return may not be how the government sees it. In Canada, even if you overlook an important item on your return, you can refile through the CRA my account online portal.
Wherever you are on your journey, it’s important to give your attention to this yearly paperwork. You may even be entitled to a tax credit or refund!
For as long as he can remember, Alex dreamed about working in the film industry. But he kept putting it off, hoping that one day he would have the extra time and money to train as a cinematographer.
Now, just shy of his 40th birthday, he feels deep regret for not acting sooner.
“I’ve loved movies since I was a little boy. Watching Jurassic Park with the smell of popcorn wafting through the theatre gave me such a thrill. I wanted so desperately to learn how to make films like Stephen Spielberg.”
Discovering ADHD in adulthood
Alex was recently diagnosed with ADHD and he’s still processing how his uniquely wired brain may have caused him to lose sight of his goals.
Every time he would have the opportunity to take a class or meet up with people working in film, he would get overwhelmed with imposter syndrome and rather than reaching out or attending an event, he would scroll through social media, feeling increasingly inadequate.
“There were days I felt so inept. Like, why couldn’t I just make the call or sign up for the class? It’s been so frustrating.”
When his coworkers began commenting on how easily he would get flustered by competing priorities and a heavy workload, Alex began to wonder why. His peers seemed to be fine with managing their time and responsibilities and were also enjoying their weekends with friends while cultivating satisfying hobbies. Meanwhile, he was putting in extra hours to catch up and missing out on important rest and social connections.
After a friend suggested he might have ADHD, Alex searched Google and saw himself in the many articles and blogs about adult ADHD. After speaking with his family and taking time to reflect, he decided to look into a formal diagnosis and made an appointment at the Adult ADHD Centre in Burnaby.
A common thread
Turns out Alex is grappling with a widely experienced aspect of ADHD: regret and dealing with the consequences of not being able to act decisively and in his own best interest. When perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and overwhelm collide, it’s a recipe for paralysis that can lead to years of inaction. This can also cause diminished self-esteem.
While he works full time as a production coordinator for an animation studio, Alex is still feeling the urge to create his own stories. He recently signed up for an introductory course at a local film school that he can attend on the weekends.
“The small step of signing up for that class brought such a rush of relief and exhilaration! I never thought I’d be going back to school at my age, but I’m starting to realize there is no limit on what I can learn.”
Creating tiny wins
Instead of stewing in the overwhelm of costs associated with buying camera equipment, Alex has found a company that rents gear at a reasonable price so he doesn’t need to make a huge investment right away.
He’s also joined an active cinematography for beginners group on Facebook and he is slowly getting to know others that share his passion for film.
For the time being, Alex isn’t comfortable disclosing his ADHD diagnosis publicly, but he hopes that over time he’ll be more comfortable talking about it.
“It really impacted my life in a negative way for so many years. I wish I had known about my uniquely wired brain earlier, but I can’t turn back time.”
Studies indicate people with ADHD are more likely to have deep feelings of regret from unrealized potential and stifled dreams. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
Some careful planning, compassionate self-awareness, and a healthy dose of humour can go a long way in coping with regret and choosing new ways to cope with stress, perfectionism and the insidious shame that often arises from inaction.
Strategies to take charge of your perspective when regret takes over
1: Separate your ADHD brain from your character. You are not flawed or insufficient. Go gently on yourself.
2: Create new neural pathways by overwriting negative self-talk about an undesired outcome.
“Maybe I didn’t act then, but I have agency to act now. I’m a creative person!”
3: Create small achievable goals that aren’t so overwhelming. In Alex’s case, he could sign up for a MOOC (open online courses that can be taken in your spare time) intro class online and start to get to know other creative people.
4: Unfollow and mute social media accounts that keep the sting of regret fresh. Instead of comparing yourself to those further along, follow accounts that offer ways to move forward.
5: Practice radical self-compassion. For many people diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, it may be the first time they learn how to be tender and gentle with themselves.
Remember: you were doing the best you could with the resources available to you at the time. If anger is something you regret, take some time to name the emotions underneath and aim to make small changes, one at a time.
1: Dr Sharon Saline
2: Additude Mag
Early in 2020 when worldwide pandemic lockdowns forced most people inside, Sheila felt strangely excited. As a highly sensitive person with ADHD, she looked forward to being safely away from the office drama. Her employer’s open office concept was painfully distracting, but working from home she was certain she would be much more productive. She relished the idea of being at home with her young son. An added benefit: no more gruelling commutes!
Two years later, she’s not holding up so well.
“Some days I roll out of bed and just feel hopeless,” she said. “Between global news, the lifting of mask mandates, and my tight financial situation, I don’t know which way is up.”
Uncertainty Affects Wellness
Sheila is far from alone. Millions of people worldwide have been navigating chronic uncertainty for the better part of two years. Our brains aren’t designed for this level of heightened anxiety and stress.
Our limbic system is efficient in fight or flight response when we need to act quickly to outrun a predator or perform an urgent task, but when it feels like every day is an emergency, our entire nervous system can get overwhelmed by cortisol and adrenaline.
For people with ADHD, it’s even more disorienting as they experience more intense symptoms than the general population.
Learning to Cope
When time permits, Sheila takes her five-year-old for long walks around Trout Lake in East Vancouver. She finds the willow trees, paddling ducks, and quiet atmosphere brings her back to the present moment. Her son can cavort with other kids at the playground and skip rocks over the smooth surface of the lake.
“It’s the only time I get to just be and breathe,” she says. “Work is always busy, but trying to do it from home while my son needs my attention feels impossible some days. I’m lucky to work with a company that understands this and gives me some flexibility so I often work on my projects late into the night while he’s sleeping.”
Diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD by her family doctor at 30, Sheila manages her symptoms with psychostimulant medication but has started wondering if she is depressed. She’s far from alone: 85% of adults with ADHD meet the criteria for a comorbid condition with a high prevalence of depression and anxiety.
She has scheduled time with an online therapist to help her sort through the complex emotions she’s feeling and plans to discuss other treatment options with her doctor.
Strategies on Dealing With Uncertainty and ADHD
In the meantime, there are strategies and habits that can help Sheila, and anyone struggling with this long emergency to reduce the stress of chronic uncertainty.
1: Sheila is wise to get into nature. Studies show that even a short walk in an area with clean air and trees can reduce negative thoughts and release stress.
2: Connect with friends. Positive feedback loops help our brains build new neural pathways, which are vital for creating new memories.
3: Start a journal. While apps and notes on our smartphones can be efficient, the physical act of putting pen to paper can help calm our nervous system and slow down racing thoughts.
4: Invite more joy. Yes, the world is scary sometimes but finding moments to laugh throughout the day will help release pent up tension.
5: Reduce your news and social media consumption. ADHD brains are wired to seek out stimulation, but when it comes in the form of war and unattainable beauty standards, it can lead to tremendous suffering.
For further information on how to be assessed for Adult ADHD
More helpful suggestions for managing Adult ADHD
1 CADDRA - Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance: Canadian ADHD Practice Guidelines, 4.1 Edition, Toronto ON; CADDRA, 2020
Katzman, M. A., Bilkey, T. S., Chokka, P. R., Fallu, A., & Klassen, L. J. (2017). Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders: clinical implications of a dimensional approach. BMC Psychiatry, 17(1), 302. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-017-1463-3
3 Kathleen Fuegen and Kimberly H. Breitenbecher.Ecopsychology.Mar 2018.14-25.http://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2017.0036
Robbie McDonald was diagnosed with ADHD in mid-life and writes about mental health from her home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.