by Leanne Maskell
Being diagnosed with ADHD aged 25 was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. I was ‘diagnosed and dumped’, and left to figure out what to actually do with this by myself.
I was put on medication, but my life was still a swirling vortex of chaos. I’d scrape together money for therapy, where I’d talk non-stop for 60 minutes to a woman who looked as overwhelmed as I felt - and leave feeling no different.
So when I found out ADHD coaching existed, and even better, that the Government could pay for it, it felt like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Having coaching from someone who understood the complexities of my brain and guide me through it in an accessible, engaging way, changed everything.
I stayed in my mental health and disability law job for 2.5 years, published ADHD: an A to Z, did talks for companies like Microsoft, and, most importantly, discovered a sense of self-acceptance I’d never had before. This led to me becoming an ADHD coach myself and setting up ADHD Works to help empower others.
Here’s everything you need to know about ADHD coaching...
1. What Is ADHD Coaching?
Being diagnosed with ADHD, or taking medication, can feel like putting on glasses for the first time - I could literally see dust and finally understood why people said I was ‘messy’, even when I’d tried my hardest to clean.
However, it doesn’t give you any of the tools to manage this mess, so things can actually become even worse. Metaphorically and literally speaking, I didn’t have any strategies for cleaning, or not destroying my own life.
This is what coaching does: it helps us to actually do something with this information. ADHD Coaching is a process done through a specific lens, supporting people to understand what ADHD means for them, how to overcome the challenges, and harness their strengths.
We figure out how to ‘do what you know’, and put our learnings into practice, through setting goals, breaking them down, and accountability. Through this process, you get to learn the strategies that work best with your brain, and build self-confidence and an understanding that you are not broken - just different, which is a good thing!
ADHD coaching empowers you to accept yourself exactly as you are and work with your brain, instead of against it.
2. How is ADHD coaching different from ‘normal’ coaching?
Coaching that isn’t tailored to ADHD doesn’t have this lens of being able to identify and manage ADHD-specific challenges, such as Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. This helps us learn about our ADHD as we go, and ADHD Works clients get to access our wide range of courses to support this.
Neurotypical coaching usually places the responsibility on the client to bring the agenda to each session. I know the overwhelm of trying to think of what to focus on myself, so created a 12-step framework based on executive functioning skills for my clients to work with in sessions, if they want to.
Other types of coaching also tend to put less emphasis on accountability between sessions, and as ADHD-ers, we need it! So ADHD Works includes extra accountability such as automated text and email reminders in addition to setting actions in an ADHD-friendly way, and my clients can contact me in between sessions. I get lots of essays, work projects and photos of people’s houses every day - it’s never boring!
Working with an ADHD Coach who also has ADHD can be an extremely validating experience because they ‘get’ you. I know how to motivate someone and harness their interest-based nervous system, and how to help them harness the unique assets ADHD brings, such as hyper-focus, to make it work for them. It’s impossible to be ‘too much’ in this space!
3. How can ADHD Coaching help?
As my client Charli Clement recently shared, she started coaching after learning medication wasn’t an option, which she’d previously seen as the only way forward. Since working together, she’s completely changed how she’s harnessed her ADHD, writing a book, getting firsts in her university essays, and managing work such as training the NHS alongside it!
ADHD coaching doesn’t ‘fix’ ADHD, because there’s nothing to be fixed! However, it can help you to curate the environment where you can best thrive, implement sustainable changes, achieve your goals, and build your confidence.
I’ve seen it completely transform people’s lives (as well as my own!), by having an independent life cheerleader with the expertise to help you manage your own brain, no matter how overwhelming it might seem at times.
My clients have changed everything from the foundations of their lives, like implementing a morning routine, to managing challenges at work and getting the promotions they deserve by being able to confidently advocate for themselves, identify and understand their unique needs, and improve their relationships with others by managing Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.
Personally, ADHD coaching has helped me to repeatedly get back on the horse when I’ve fallen off due to burning out, and know there is support out there that works for me - when I’ve previously felt ‘unhelpable’. Ultimately, it can help you to understand what ADHD is, how it impacts you, and how to work with your brain, instead of against it, despite living in a neurotypical world.
It’s why I do what I do - I practice what I preach!
4. What does ADHD coaching involve?
ADHD coaching typically involves talking sessions with a coach, which might be one on one, or in a group setting - like the ADHD retreat I ran in 2022! These sessions may include reviewing ADHD-specific exercises, discussing topics you want help on, and setting achievable goals.
Ultimately, you get out of ADHD coaching as much as you’re willing to put into it - it’s all about the overall transformation as you learn what works for you, implement actions and see your growth!
5. How much is ADHD coaching?
ADHD coaching can vary in cost between providers. Typically, it’s more expensive than therapy, as it’s designed to be for a shorter-term basis - my job is to work myself out of a job!
However, if you live in the UK, there are a variety of support options available, including Education, Care & Health Plans, Disabled Students’ Allowance, and Access to Work funding.
6. How can you access funding for ADHD Coaching?
Although it seems daunting, it’s actually really simple to apply - you will just have to wait for 5-6 months to hear back! This will usually look like an independent assessment with someone to help you access the best support possible. If relevant, you may need to then find and provide 3 quotes for coaching - they will go with the lowest one.
If you’re not happy with the outcome, you can appeal it - I did! The funding tends to be for a certain period (typically 3-6 months), which can be renewed.