Coaching Process

The term “Inside Out” hints at many of the perspectives from which ADHD can be understood and misunderstood; 

  • ADHD is NOT an “input” problem, it is an “output” problem;
  • ADHD “external actions” do not always reflect “internal intentions”;
  • ADHD “internal challenges” can be address with “external strategies”;
  • ADHD “external social implications” can be alleviated by “internal truthful dialogue” and an awareness of “authentic inner resources”;

ADHD Inside Out Coaching provides an understanding of ADHD, an awareness of personal strengths, and an ability to thrive in whatever opportunity comes your way.

          Dan Duncan, ACC, ACG
         ADHD Coach/Consultant

What is your typical approach for assessing and helping someone with ADD? 

Coaching is largely DRIVEN BY THE CLIENT. 'Assessing and helping' them begins and continues with CONVERSATIONS about where they see their CHALLENGES in life, and what CHANGE/SUCCESS would look like for them. During our dialogue, I am constantly listening for several factors in order to REFLECT back to them, and help them DISCOVER where ADHD has had an impact on their success; directly or indirectly. 
An example of a
DIRECT IMPACT may be the inability to follow through on their best intentions.
An example of an INDIRECT IMPACT may be a mindset that is common for adults with ADHD; that is, they live life “trying NOT to fail” rather than “trying to succeed”.
STRENGTH BASED tools and strategies are developed to 

What would typical goals of treatment be? 

Clients often come to me anticipating that I will virtually help them ’NOT HAVE ADHD’. That is unhealthy and unrealistic. Instead, they develop SELF-EMPATHY and SELF-DETERMINATION; they learn to "apply their strengths" toward their goals, rather than trying to "overcome their weaknesses"... learning to do things the way that fits them best, rather than the way they 'should be doing it', or the way 'everyone else does it’.   

Common Coaching Goals include: 
IMPROVING PRODUCTION (motivation, organization, executing plans ); 
REDUCING STRESS (relationships, workload, overwhelming schedules/expectations, emotional regulation, etc);
SENSE OF SELF (confidence, empathy, advocacy, autonomy, etc)

How long do you typically work with someone to see change happen?

This is very open ended. Coaching sessions are usually 1 hour conversations on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and continue until the individual feels capable of self-coaching.  About 20% of clients would feel 4 sessions is adequate to “get going”, often connecting again when life throws them a curve. The bulk of my client base would continue with a 6 session package following those initial 4 session. About 10% probably continue on after that; often reducing to 1/2hr check-ins, or some other reduced intensity.

Inside Out Coaching

reduces ADHD Symptoms by replacing the impaired internal executive functions with personalized external strategies which replicate normal executive functioning. Simply put, whatever isn’t happening inside is replaced with personalized outside strategies that accomplish whatever was being missed.

These personalized strategies provide the vital link between the individual’s knowledge, intentions and actions; allowing greater consistency for them to “do” what they “know” as they move forward.

The foundation of these personalized external strategies are the individual’s authentic inner character and resources discovered during Coaching Conversations. (below)

ADHD Brain Function & Symptoms
It must be stressed that ADHD DOES NOT affect an individual’s ability to take external information into the brain and to make sense of that information is not impaired. Neurologically, the part of the brain that is responsible for receiving and processing information works typically.

ADHD DOES impair an individual’s ability to live from the inside out;internal to turn  decisions into external action. The part of the brain responsible for converting one's decisions into actions does not function predictably. Therefore, the actions seen by others are often not well connected to a person’s intention. This disconnect between decisions, intentions, and action is often referred to as an impairment of executive function. 

Dr. Russell A. Barkley, Phd explains this neurological dysfunction clearly; ADHD individuals do not have a problem knowing what to do, they have a problem doing what they know… ADHD, like a meat cleaver, has separated those two mechanisms so that what is known does not carry forward to influence what is done… it should be called ‘Intention Deficit.

This inneroutside  dysfunction reveals itself on the in two types of mannerisms: Inattention/DistractibilityHyperactivity/Impulsivity.

There is another dimension of LifeStyle Manifestations worth noting because it increases the level of frustration for both the person with ADHD and those around them: ADHD is “consistently inconsistent”. 

The problem is, ADHD individuals are sometimes capable of linking knowledge to action, but not always. (This is why the diagnostic criteria for ADHD symptoms requires that the symptoms manifest themselves “often” rather than “always”, and to a degree that “impairs” the life of the individual) In other words, if ADHD symptoms show up “sometimes”, or to a degree that does not impact the individual’s life significantly, it is not diagnosable as ADHD.

Symptoms are the initial threat of ADHD. This is the dimension where ADHD manifests itself so that what is NOT going on inside the brain leads to unacceptable, albeit unintentional, behaviour displayed outside for everyone to see.

Medication is a common, and often effective initial treatment used to reduce the symptoms of ADHD; however, “research shows that medication treatment alone does not improve many of the skills required to be academically and socially successful”, “it is essential that treatment be comprehensive collaborative, and multimodal.  Presently, many proven non-medication treatments for ADHD, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, ADHD Coaching, parent training, to mention just a few recommended in these guidelines…” (Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC) posted here)

Inside Out Coaching

liberates individuals from the implications of Social Responses by identifying the pervasive external narrative echoing back from the outside world and then distinguishing that narrative from the individual’s genuine inner intentions.

It is imperative that your coach or partner on this leg of the journey be both thoroughly interested and objective - holistically attentive to you, without an emotional attachment to your future outcomes. 

Coaching builds self-awareness of authentic inner character. 

    Social Responses
Since the outside actions of ADHD individuals are not aligned with their inner intentions, ADHD individuals are often misjudged and labelled:  

  • They may work much harder than others to focus on a task, but their ADHD brain eventually dislodges their attention before they finish the task
    … they are called “lazy
  • They may feel threatened or startled and impulsively overreacted physically
    … they are called a “bully"
  • They may talk non-stop about every topic that interests them but cannot repeat something important that someone else just told them
    … they are called a “
    self-absorbed” and "motor mouth

It’s bad enough that ADHD impairs an individual’s intentions by causing static between what they intend and what they do, but the judgements are more penetrating when others observe their inconsistency and go beyond judging their actions to judging their character and choices, “I’ve seen him do it correctly before (judging actions). He knows how to to it, he’s simply choosing not to do it this time! (judging intentions). He’s just lazy and stubborn (judging character).”  (read more on this…)

Perhaps the only thing worse than having a disorder, is having it “often" but not having it “always"; that is most inconvenient! People tend to expect that “if he/she can do it properly once, then there is no reason they can’t do it properly every time”.

Caregivers and bosses often attempt pseudo-behavioural psychology as a method of changing a person’s ADHD, issuing instructions or warnings to change behaviour, “Think before you act next time, or there WILL  be consequences!”. As explained above, knowledge and choice are not necessarily linked together in the ADHD brain. Instructing an ADHD person to “think before they act" is a mantra that will likely only be remembered AFTER they have acted the next time; it will not help them change their action beforehand. The same goes for the consequences. Therefore, if they do fail to “think before they act next time" it is often completely devoid of any villainous or rebellious motive, and may not be linked to any conscious choice at all. Sadly, future failures are often misinterpreted as "disrespectful, disobedient, belligerent, or stubborn”, because it seems the individual “knew what to do and chose not to do it properly."

Unfortunately, the sheer volume of inappropriate actions over time seems to justify the inaccurate judgements and labels given to ADHD individuals by others; “Nobody makes this many mistakes unless they mean to. She/He is either doing this on purpose, or simply does not care.”  This is an erroneous and judgemental assumption if ADHD is involved.

Inside Out Coaching

reconstructs the Personal Impact of ADHD by helping individuals  understand how the social implications of ADHD have affected them, and to take ownership of their genuine interests, beliefs, strengths, talents, values, and dreams.

Understanding ADHD Inside Out helps a trained coach guide individuals in a conversation of personal exploration. A coach can witness how ADHD has affected the individual deep below the layers of external symptoms and internal coping strategies. Quite simply, coaching works because the coach doesn’t accept the veneer of judgements, labels, and language obscuring the person’s view of their own true identity.

This new awareness is applied to future goals and actions rather than focusing on fixing the past.

Coaching builds self-awareness of authentic inner resources.

    Personal Impact
The longer a person lives with the negative social implications of their ADHD the more likely they are to take one of two paths internally.

They may internalize the misguided personal judgements of others, and increasingly indentify themselves based on the repercussions of their ADHD symptoms. They begin to believe that what people describe on the outsideinside.  must be the person they are on the Obviously, believing false judgements about oneself leads to extremely low self-awareness.

Another ADHD response for internalizing the mounting social criticism is to point the finger back; “I’m not the one with the problem, they are!” In this case, “they” may be a boss, spouse, teacher, close friend; anyone who has given enough negative feedback to earn the privilege of being written off of the ADHD person’s list of allies. This response comes from the inevitable frustration the individual feels from being judged based solely on their unacceptable external actions, without any understanding of their otherwise acceptable internal intentions and positive character traits. This ADHD response is more aggressive than the first but not less damaging. 

At issue here, is the simple fact that the unacceptable external actions of the ADHD person actually DO need to be addressed, but everyone - including the ADHD person - has focused on their character and choices as the core issues. Neither CHARACTER AND CHOICE ARE NOT THE CORE ISSUES… at least, they  weren't initially. Late in the game, however, nobody is talking about actions anymore, it’s all about character and choice. 

Skipping to the chase, the ADHD person who has internalized mounting social feedback by villainizing the world around them - “they are the problem” - is no more self-aware than the one who has shaped their own identity based on other people's misjudgements and labels - I am the problem". Both responses have lost perspective of how unintended actions have affected personal identity; one response refuses to address the inappropriateness of external actions (denial), and the other views their inappropriate actions as a description of who they truly are (ownership). 

ADHD Coach Symptoms Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Shifting gears, and standing in stark contrast to the two extremes of internalizing negative social implications, is the almost universal ADHD tendency to NOT take ownership of genuine positive social implications. This is often called the “Impostor Syndrome”: viewing legitimate success as accidental or purely serendipitous; “It’s not my fault I succeeded. All the stars must have aligned perfectly and I just happened to be in the way. Lucky me. I won’t be able to succeed like that again." 

The deeply seated roots of the Imposter Syndrome are revealed in the language of ADHD individuals who frequently suggest that, “if people knew who I really was, they wouldn’t like me.”

Whether an individual is an apparent failure or apparent success on the outside, the internal result of living with ADHD and the subsequent social implications is the same: a low level of authentic "self-awareness" (understanding who we truly are inside).

    Coaching Testimonials

Celina Gilligan (University of Ontario)
I worked with Dan during my first university. 
Before I started meeting with Dan regularly, I really struggled with adjusting to the differences between university and high school. I was failing all of my courses, and was consumed by the thought that I was just too stupid for university. With Dan's help, by the end of the semester, there had been a drastic improvement in not only my grades, but my overall wellbeing.
Dan is unique in the sense that he has dealt with the struggles of ADHD himself and is able to empathize even better than those closest to you.
The most valuable thing I took from his coaching was that ADHD doesn't have to be a struggle; when used in the right way, it can be a strength.
It's because of these lessons and the support that I received from Dan that I have been able to able to succeed, and I am incredibly grateful.

K.S. (Grade 11 Student)
“I believe Dan is able to empathize with me because he has been in my shoes; he’s able to reach out to me in a way no other coach or counsellor has. Dan is very easily approachable.”

“I’ve learned what my strengths and weaknesses are, and to use my weaknesses as my strengths.”

“Dan’s ability to relate to my ADHD has helped in teaching me a better outlook on why I react the way I do.”

   Dan Duncan, ACC
 ADHD Coach/Consultant    
  & Academic Strategist 

                                                         © Dan Duncan 2013                                             part of the  interior sq wht