Therapy or Medication for ADHD?

How to choose between therapy or medication for ADHD diagnosis? Is one more relevant than the other, or is it possible to avoid medication altogether?

Intervention in cognitive-behavioral therapy addresses certain aspects of ADHD that medication alone may not always address. In fact, psychotherapy mainly addresses and modulates behavioral difficulties related to inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Self-observation, becoming aware of one’s difficulties, recognizing them, identifying warning signs, and understanding their repercussions are the basis of psychological intervention. It is through these foundations that the psychologist will help the individual implement strategies and act to modify, correct, modulate, anticipate, and avoid these behaviors. For example, knowing how to recognize signs of irritability or anger and applying relaxation techniques (breathing, visualization, etc.); learning to implement strategies to pay better attention to details or knowing how to self-observe and recognize moments when one may be less attentive. Psychotherapy can complement medication for ADHD or can also be useful in cases of mild ADHD where medication is not absolutely necessary. In addition to psychotherapy, there are also other specialized types of help for young people: for example, educational therapy to help them function better at school regarding organization, planning, and study methods to increase efficiency; or psychoeducation to help regulate behavior, modulate emotions such as anger, or promote social skills.

Medication for ADHD represents the second approach, and potentially the most effective for stabilizing attention. However, it is important to understand that medication alone is not a complete solution, but rather a tool that will help the individual optimize their functioning and maximize their performance. In this regard, the choice for a parent is not easy, and many are concerned about medicating their children. As long as the individual with ADHD remains functional on a day-to-day basis, the implementation of strategies, intervention plans, or support in psychology/educational therapy/psychoeducation should help to some extent in compensating for their difficulties. It is rather when the symptoms of ADHD compromise the quality and integrity of family, social, academic/professional functioning, or the health/safety of a person that medication is then recommended.