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ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
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Family Therapy

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Some families need more help than can be provided by parent training classes. Having a child with any sort of chronic disorder can strain even the best of relationships. There are many unspoken emotions such as fear, sadness, loss, and grief. Education alone does not usually resolve these complex emotions and relationship difficulties.

family arguingA family therapist can play a key role in sorting through family concerns and related emotions. The family therapist helps the family to build and strengthen positive relationships. Strong, healthy family relationships are especially important because it can take several years from initial diagnosis to significant improvement. It's a gradual process.

Prior to their child's diagnosis, caregivers usually have formed their own ideas about the cause of their child's behavior. Caregivers often argue with each other and blame each other. One argues the other "too permissive" while the other argues the first is "too strict." Family therapy can help reduce the family tensions that arise while raising a child with ADHD. This type of therapy also provides a safe environment for caregivers and children to discuss topics that may have become extremely volatile issues. Therapists support both caregivers and children in the process of reaching fair and equitable solutions.

Once emotional issues have been addressed, family therapy can assist caregivers to address more practical concerns: "How can I help my child do well at school?" What should I do when the kids are ridiculing their sibling with ADHD?"

Therapists are experts at helping families set up a behavior modification plan. These plans help the entire family to work together as a team toward a shared purpose. When looking for a family therapist, try to find one who has experience working with families of children with ADHD. The school psychologist, pediatrician, or even other parents with ADHD kids, may be able to recommend someone with this kind of experience.