4 Keys to Better Communication with ADHD Clinicians

child psychologist counseling young girlWhen your child receives psychological treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) or other issues, it is important to work collaboratively with the therapist or counselor to ensure the most effective treatment. More specifically, your therapist should be up to date on what is going on at home (i.e., how is homework completion going, are there serious instances of impulsive behavior occurring); you should communicate your needs (more assistance enforcing consequences, managing meltdowns) and your child’s needs; and you should try to be respectful of your clinician’s time/preference for methods of contact outside of the scheduled session time.

While this list is not all-inclusive of items that should be touched on between parents and mental health clinicians, it provides a general framework to improve communication:

  1. Keeping the provider up to date: The clinician needs to know what is going on at home and at school when working with a child or teen. Depending on the situation and the clinician’s style, he or she may want frequent updates from you at the beginning of the session, end of the session, as a message/email before the session, or in another manner. In other cases, clinicians may prefer to let the child/teen update them initially on what is going on, especially with older individuals, and then obtain collateral information from parents later on. Related to this, if a counselor gives specific strategies to use at home, it is extremely helpful for him or her to receive feedback on how they went. This feedback sheds light on what works and doesn’t, and can help guide future interventions.
  2. Communicating your needs: Parents typically know what they need from the counselor, but don’t always communicate and then get frustrated when they don’t receive it. If you need specific parenting strategies, or if you want books to read on a specific issue, help creating a behavior plan, or other assistance, reach out. Depending on what you need, it is possible the clinician may feel that it is beyond the scope or boundaries of the work being done, and might refer you to another individual who could better assist you. As an example, if a parent needs significant support related to individual issues, the parent may be better served by his or her own individual therapist rather than relying too heavily on the child’s therapist to address such issues.
  3. Communicating your child/teen’s needs: Many children and teens can’t voice exactly what they need assistance with. Thus, making sure your clinician is kept up to date on what your child/teen needs is important. While the larger issues are probably fairly self-explanatory and likely were discussed during the initial session, smaller items may emerge. For instance, if you’ve noticed that your child has become fearful of social situations, let the clinician know so that he or she can further examine the situation and help. Another example: if you’ve noticed that your child/teen has been having difficulties calming down at night to go to sleep.
  4. Communication with clinicians outside of sessions: As mentioned previously, it is important to discuss with your child’s clinician a mutually agreeable way to communicate information. Many clinicians do not use email, or do not use it, understandably, for clinical issues. Thus, you may need to leave a voicemail. It is also important to be mindful, when sending emails or leaving voicemails, that clinicians don’t always have the ability to respond right away. At busier times of the day, they may see several people back-to-back-to-back with limited breaks, and thus may take a few hours or longer to respond.

Effective communication with your child or teen’s therapist or counselor is key to a successful treatment outcome for ADHD and other issues. I hope these suggestions are helpful.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey Heller, PsyD, ADHD: Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • sadie

    July 31st, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Why withhold information from the provider or clinician? There is not way that he can help your child if you are keeping critical information from them. Even if you think that the change is minor, it could be something pretty significant that you could be overlooking or may not know how this could influence the treatment plan.
    Share everything because there is nothing so small that the clinician will not want to hear about.

  • Jeffrey

    July 31st, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    You need to be there to be an advocate for the children. I am sure that there are those children who feel intimidated by a situation like this so it is important for mom and dad to be there for them, to be their strength and help them convey their thoughts and feelings when the child may be too reserved to do it himself. Iam not saying to talk over him or to talk when the child clearly has something to say.. . just don’t leave them stranded and struggling when they need you to help them.

  • G Stone

    August 1st, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    None of us always want to share our hopes and fears but in an effort to get better and to learn more about ADD or ADHD and the things that we can do to help ourselves, this is the person to share with.

    Your doctor or the person who ius helping you with this can have so much information for you that you have never really had any kind of access to. He or she will have resources available to help you in many different situation but you have to be willing to tell them what you think that you need so that they will then know what the best direction to point you in will be. Again it is essential that you share these things with them as they are one of the best sources of information out there for us.

  • Mikey

    August 2nd, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Do you think that they would get tired of me if I called and left voicemenails when I needed them? I mean, even when you try hard there are people who always seem to drive you a little crazy at times with all the phone calls so I would never want to be so persistent that it turned them off.

  • Leah

    August 4th, 2014 at 4:15 AM

    Above all this has to be a working relationship between the parents, the child, and the one giving the treatment for ADHD. No one person can be left out of the loop so to speak for real change to be put into place.

  • Belle

    August 5th, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    All of this is true for any kind of provider/patient relationship. No matter what kind of doctor you see it is important that you don’t hold anything back and that you talk to him or her about all of the things that are bothering you and the things that you think could contribute to this.
    I am not saying that this will always be a comfy conversation and that you will have your finger on the exact causes; but you know yourself better than anyone and anything that you can share with the clinician could be helpful when it comes to what treatment plan will be the most beneficial to you.
    We like to think that they can read minds or read between the lines of what we are trying to say but they are human just like me and you and they need a little something more to go on at times to come up with best plan of attack sometimes.

  • Zee

    August 7th, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    Honesty is key to success!

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