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Health Team

Study looks at ADHD therapy for adults

Posted August 24, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 24, 2010 6:23 p.m. EDT

 Ashley Bowman, a Forsyth county resident is looking for a new kidney after numerous life setbacks. Bowman is on the transplant list and in full-time dialysis. Despite what she's facing, she was determined to fulfill her dream.

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy could be an effective alternative to treating adults suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"Medications don't do everything. They turn the volume down on symptoms, but they don't teach people skills to manage their symptoms," said Steven Safren, a clinical psychologist and director of Behavioral Medicine Service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Safren and researchers studied 86 people with ADHD who were already on medication over the course of nearly four years.

They helped the patients with organization and planning skills, such as keeping a calendar and task list.

"We helped people with skills for distractibility, breaking overwhelming tasks into steps as well as selecting an action plan," Safren said.

The treatment is available through a published workbook and includes about 12 sessions.

"We found a 67 percent response rate to people who got the cognitive behavioral therapy condition, compared to only a 33 percent response rate to people who got a control condition of relaxation and educational support," Safren said.

Evidence-based psychosocial treatments are relatively new for ADHD.

The study is one of the first to prove effective in adult ADHD patients, like Brian Harrington.

Harringtion says avoidance and inattention to daily tasks became very stressful for him, even though he was on medication.

The cognitive behavioral therapy, he said, is helping him break down many hard-to-do tasks into smaller, workable pieces.

"It really did give me the tools to understand myself, my strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly being a more effective employee and happier guy," he said.