The Hallowell Method to treat ADHD

A Positive, Strengths-Based Approach to ADHD

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The Hallowell method favors a comprehensive approach that addresses the totality of the child or adult who comes to us for help. Well-rounded treatment can include steps to alter first, the physical elements of what’s going on through medication, exercise, nutrition, sleep habits, prayer or meditation, as well as alternative treatments like neurofeedback and cerebellar stimulation; second, the behavioral elements of the issue through interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral modification plans, coaching, lifestyle changes, and parent counseling; and third, the psychological elements of the issue through individual therapy, couples or family therapy, or other therapies all aimed at promoting strengths and talents. Beyond that, we look at the milieu or system in which the individual lives and try to determine the best school, or the best job, or the best camp, or the best living situation, again always with the goal in mind of promoting talents and strengths.

The following is from Delivered From Distraction, my book on the treatment of ADHD, specifically the chapter “The Treatment of ADD: What Works Best”:

Whether for children or adults, the treatment of ADD should be comprehensive and include a wide range of possible interventions, certainly more than medication or some other single step. Assistance should also be provided over the long-term, as ADD generally does not go away. The person being treated may not need to go see the doctor very often, but he should always know that help is just one telephone call away.

I divide a comprehensive plan into the following eight steps. Each step need not be implemented, but each step should be considered.

The program…includes:
1. Diagnosis, which should include identification of talents and strengths. Make sure the diagnosis is both accurate and complete, taking into account the likelihood of coexisting problems.
2. Implementation of a five-step plan that promotes talents and strengths (detailed elsewhere in the book, this is too long to recap here, but is in a chapter called “How to Find the Buried Treasures: Five Steps that Lead to Lasting Joy)
3. Education – you need to learn what ADD is and what it isn’t as well as teach members of your family about it. You also need to explain it to teachers and all others who deal with your child or whomever has ADD. See the resource section of this web site and the appendix in Delivered From Distraction for more educational information about ADD.
4. Changes in lifestyle. Taking care of yourself has a huge impact on your brain and your ADD. You need to get enough sleep (critical!), eat right, exercise (which is actually one of the best treatments for ADD), calm your mind daily through prayer or meditation, stay connected with other people.
5. Structure – find external ways to create structure (there are a number of web sites that offer this type of help)
6. Counseling of some kind, such as coaching, psychotherapy, career counseling, couples therapy, family therapy
7. Various other therapies that can augment the effectiveness of medication or replace the use of medication altogether, such as an exercise program that stimulates the cerebellum, targeted tutoring, general physical exercise, nutritional interventions, and occupational therapy. Again, there is a great deal of information about this in Delivered From Distraction.
8. Medication (only if desired)

Medicinal Treatments

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When medication works, it works as safely and dramatically as eyeglasses. Medication helps about 80% of the time in the treatment of ADD. Make sure you work with a doctor who can explain the issues around medication to you clearly. Most people do not realize how safe and effective stimulant medications truly are, when they are used properly. Make sure you work with a doctor who has plenty of experience with these medications. The stimulants include medications like Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Vyvanse, Focalin, and others. As long as you take them under proper medical supervision, they can help you immensely.

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