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Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat ADHD?

Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat ADHD?

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What is CBT?

Talk therapy, sometimes called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is a common type of evidence-based psychotherapy. It involves multiple treatment sessions and a structured relationship with a professional therapist.

CBT helps you become aware of false or negative thoughts to better comprehend and react to difficult situations.1 The main goal of CBT is to explore and create coping strategies for problems and daily actions.2

How is CBT Used to Help People With ADHD?

The neurobehavioral condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is common. It’s characterized by ongoing difficulties with executive functioning skills, including those that regulate motivation, impulsivity, hyperactivity, time management, social skills, and other brain activities.3

CBT tries to alter illogical thought patterns that make people lose focus or fail to complete tasks.

For example, CBT questions the credibility of the thoughts held by a person with ADHD who feels like “This needs to be perfect or it’s no good” or “I never accomplish anything.”4 In addition, CBT addresses procrastination, time management, and other issues rather than the primary ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Growing up with ADHD can cause more frequent and upsetting setbacks in social relationships, the workplace, and daily organization (especially if it has gone untreated). However, you can replace these misguided notions with more reasonable ones by developing the ability to detect them.

CBT sessions concentrate on recognizing the circumstances in which a patient’s daily life is hampered by poor planning, disorganization, and time and task management. For example, sessions may support a person in managing duties like paying bills, finishing work on time, and promoting healthy activities like hobbies, exercise, and sleep.

Still, many scientists believe further research is needed to demonstrate substantial efficacy rates for ADHD specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.

CBT Techniques Used for ADHD

In CBT, the therapeutic process includes certain strategies intended to promote change. It is one of the goals of CBT for you to learn to use these tactics when difficulties arise.5

The following are some frequently used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques for ADHD:

  • Planning and Scheduling Activities: Your therapist can guide you in researching practical solutions to:
  • Plan your tasks and obligations consistently and responsibly.
    • Create a daily schedule.
    • Use your time wisely.

Additionally, they will impart specific techniques for putting those abilities into use and maintaining them.

For example, planners can help keep track of appointments and bills, but each time you try to keep one, you either lose it, forget to write in it, or become impatient with how long it takes to record everything.

To reduce the time you spend planning, your therapist may advise you to use a phone app that lets you simultaneously schedule weekly or monthly reminders.

  • Cognitive Restructuring: Using this strategy, you can examine negative thought patterns that cause problems at work or in your relationships. You can identify these tendencies with the aid of your therapist, who can then help you reframe them into more positive and practical ideas.
  • Guided Discovery: This method frequently goes together with cognitive restructuring. To understand how you think about events, the therapist will probe you on your beliefs, presumptions, and self-perceptions. When they detect that you have negative self-beliefs, they may ask you about the facts or supporting evidence for and against that belief to encourage you to think about alternative viewpoints.
  • Positive Self-talk: You’ll discover how to switch out unfavorable self-talk for more uplifting and encouraging ones. Positive self-talk can motivate you to follow through on your commitments and finish projects. It can also lessen the unpleasant feelings that arise when you encounter obstacles. For instance, you state, “I can’t accomplish anything.” Your therapist may reply, “OK, you told me about one day when you didn’t do much of what you planned. Now describe a day in your life when everything went well, and you accomplished a lot. Recalling that day can help you understand that you can accomplish your goals.
  • Successive Approximation: With the help of this technique, you can learn how to break large jobs into smaller, more manageable chunks if you frequently feel overwhelmed by their size. You can also learn to create time restrictions to reduce stress and distraction.
  • Distractibility Delay: This technique instructs you to write down any potential distractions so you may put them on hold until you finish the current activity. Your therapist may additionally provide advice on:
    • Establishing a distraction-free workstation
    • Scheduling regular breaks
    • Using an alarm or other reminder to check in with yourself and make sure you’re keeping on task
    • Modifying an obsession with perfection

Effectiveness & Success of CBT for ADHD

After 12 to 15 sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD or roughly three to four months, most people start to experience improvement. However, you may want to consider prolonging treatment because it’s simpler to develop new behaviors when you receive more therapy.

Below are a few examples of effectiveness and success rates surrounding Cognitive behavioral Therapy and ADHD:

  • In contrast to medicine alone, a 2018 study found that medication combined with CBT enhanced functioning and decreased anxiety and depression in people with ADHD.6
  • In a 2018 study including 88 college students with ADHD, researchers discovered that CBT helped lessen the disorder’s symptoms, enhance executive function, and lessen anxiety and depressive symptoms. Additionally, these advantages persisted at least five months after the conclusion of treatment.7
  • A 2016 research studied the advantages of CBT for ADHD in 46 teenagers taking medication. The findings indicated that CBT could significantly help with ADHD symptoms that don’t seem to react to the medication.8
  • To determine if CBT manages ADHD better on its own or in combination with medication, 124 patients participated in a 2019 study. Researchers concluded that while CBT is helpful both with and without medication, it works best to enhance time management, organization, and other self-regulating skills when combined with medication.9

CBT vs. Medications for ADHD Treatment

You can manage your ADHD symptoms with education, medication, therapy, or a combination of the above.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD can be used as an alternative to treatment medications or as a supplement. However, current research indicates that CBT in combination with medication significantly reduces ADHD symptoms more than CBT alone.

CBT for ADHD Cost & Insurance Coverage

Sessions for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy often last 45 minutes or more and cost between $100 and $200.10 Remember that CBT is typically regarded as a short-term therapy, with an average of five to twenty sessions.

In Tennessee, insurance coverage for therapy typically includes a portion of the cost of CBT for ADHD. Your out-of-pocket expenses, however, can be affected by several variables, including the location of the therapy and whether the mental health professionals are in-network or not.


  1. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610
  2. Davis, Kathleen Fnp. How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work? 25 Mar. 2022, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/296579.
  3. “Identifying and Treating the Seven Types of ADD/ADHD.” Optimized360 LLC, 2019, https://familypsychnj.com/2019/01/identifying-and-treating-the-seven-types-of-add-adhd/
  4. Sherman, Carl, PhD, et al. “How CBT Dismantles ADHD Negativity: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Overview.” ADDitude, 13 July 2022, www.additudemag.com/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-for-adhd.
  5. Raypole, Crystal. “How Can CBT Help With ADHD Symptoms?” Healthline, 7 Oct. 2021, www.healthline.com/health/adhd/cbt-for-adhd#techniques.
  6. Lopez, P., et al. “Cognitive-behavioural Therapy for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults.” Cochrane, 22 Mar. 2018, www.cochrane.org/CD010840/BEHAV_cognitive-behavioural-therapy-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd-adults#.
  7. Anastopoulos, Arthur D., et al. “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for College Students With ADHD: Temporal Stability of Improvements in Functioning Following Active Treatment.” Journal of Attention Disorders, vol. 24, no. 6, SAGE Publications, Jan. 2018, pp. 863–74. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054717749932.
  8. Sprich, Susan E., et al. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD in Medication-treated Adolescents.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 57, no. 11, Wiley, Mar. 2016, pp. 1218–26. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12549.
  9. Pan, Mei-Rong, et al. “A Comparison of Efficacy Between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and CBT Combined With Medication in Adults With Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” Psychiatry Research, vol. 279, Elsevier BV, Sept. 2019, pp. 23–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2019.06.040.
  10. Lauretta, Ashley. “How Much Does Therapy Cost?” edited by Alena Hall, Forbes Health, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/how-much-does-therapy-cost/

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control. 

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