What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for ADHD is a structured, goal-oriented psychotherapy approach focusing on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It helps patients develop strategies to manage ADHD symptoms effectively.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has emerged as a pivotal approach to managing ADHD.

This therapy focuses not just on the disorder itself but on the secondary struggles that come with it – like low self-esteem, anxiety, and chronic disorganization. About 3 in 10 children with ADHD had anxiety. So, what is cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD? 

In this article, you will discover what cognitive behavioral therapy is and how it is helpful when treating ADHD.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for ADHD is a tailored form of therapy specifically designed to address the challenges of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. 

Unlike traditional CBT, which addresses a broad range of mental health issues, CBT for ADHD focuses on the specific symptoms and everyday difficulties associated with ADHD. It involves identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that exacerbate ADHD symptoms. 

Key components include skill development in areas like organization, time management, and prioritizing – skills often lacking in individuals with ADHD. CBT also encompasses cognitive restructuring, helping patients challenge and alter detrimental thought patterns, and behavioral interventions to modify impulsive and inattentive behaviors. 

By equipping individuals with practical strategies and coping mechanisms, CBT for ADHD aims to improve focus, reduce impulsivity, and enhance overall life management. This approach not only addresses the symptoms but also the cognitive and emotional challenges that accompany ADHD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques for ADHD

CBT for ADHD employs various techniques designed to address specific symptoms and challenges associated with the disorder. These techniques focus on organizational skills, time management, and coping strategies for impulsivity and distractibility. 

Here are several cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for ADHD:

  • Skill Development: This technique involves learning and practicing skills to improve organization, time management, and planning. This is crucial for ADHD patients who struggle with executive functioning.
  • Behavioral Interventions: These include strategies to increase desirable behaviors (like focusing on a task) and decrease undesirable ones (like impulsivity).
  • Cognitive Restructuring: This technique helps identify and alter negative thought patterns that lead to dysfunctional behavior.
  • Mindfulness Training: This involves learning to focus attention and awareness on the present moment, which can be particularly beneficial for managing distractibility and impulsivity in ADHD.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: This technique teaches individuals to approach problems in a structured and thoughtful manner, reducing the overwhelm and impulsivity often experienced in ADHD.
  • Relaxation Training and Stress Management: This helps in managing the stress and anxiety that often accompany ADHD, thereby reducing their exacerbating effect on ADHD symptoms.

How CBT Can Help You Manage ADHD

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective tool for managing ADHD, offering practical strategies to cope with various challenges posed by the disorder. 

One of the primary ways CBT helps is by targeting the executive functioning deficits commonly associated with ADHD, such as planning, organization, and time management. By developing these skills, individuals can better handle tasks that were previously overwhelming or difficult to complete.

CBT also plays a significant role in modifying impulsive behaviors, a hallmark of ADHD. Through various behavioral techniques, individuals learn to pause and think before acting, reducing impulsivity and its associated consequences. This aspect of CBT is particularly beneficial in improving social interactions and decision-making processes.

Another crucial aspect of CBT in managing ADHD is its focus on cognitive restructuring. Individuals with ADHD often struggle with negative self-perceptions and a tendency to internalize failures, leading to a cycle of low self-esteem and demotivation. CBT helps challenge and change these negative thought patterns into more positive and realistic ones. By fostering a healthier self-image, individuals become more resilient and better equipped to handle ADHD-related challenges.

Stress management is another key area where CBT aids individuals with ADHD. Due to the disorder’s nature, individuals often experience higher levels of stress and frustration. CBT provides techniques for managing stress and regulating emotions, which are essential for preventing these feelings from exacerbating ADHD symptoms.

Furthermore, CBT for ADHD includes goal-setting and problem-solving strategies. Individuals learn to set realistic, achievable goals and develop systematic approaches to solving problems, reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed by larger tasks.

How Effective is CBT for ADHD?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has proven highly effective in managing ADHD.

It addresses not just the core symptoms of ADHD, such as inattention and impulsivity, but also the secondary issues like low self-esteem and poor organizational skills. 

Moreover, CBT is effective in reducing the severity of ADHD symptoms, especially when used alongside medication. It also helps in mitigating the effects of comorbid conditions, such as anxiety and depression, which are common in people with ADHD. A series of studies found a significant improvement in those with ADHD who received a combination of CBT and medication as compared with those who only received medication. 

The personalized nature of CBT, focusing on individual challenges and skill deficits, makes it a versatile and impactful approach. The structured format of CBT, with clear goals and measurable outcomes, contributes to its effectiveness, making it a recommended therapeutic strategy for managing ADHD.

Schedule An Evaluation and Receive A Treatment Plan

If you or a loved one are struggling with ADHD, consider scheduling an evaluation through the Mental Health Center in Los Angeles.

Experienced professionals who specialize in CBT can develop a personalized treatment plan to manage ADHD effectively. Embrace the journey toward improved focus, organization, and overall well-being.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does ADHD affect a person?

ADHD primarily affects a person’s concentration, impulse control, and ability to organize tasks. It can lead to difficulties in academic, occupational, and social settings.

What is the most effective therapy for ADHD?

While medication is often used, therapies like CBT have been found highly effective, especially for managing the behavioral aspects of ADHD.

Does CBT work for ADHD?

Yes, CBT has been proven effective in managing ADHD, particularly in helping individuals develop strategies to cope with their symptoms.

Is CBT effective for children with ADHD?

CBT can be effective for children with ADHD, especially when tailored to their developmental level and specific challenges.

Is CBT effective for adults with ADHD?

CBT is particularly beneficial for adults with ADHD, as it addresses both the core symptoms and the secondary challenges that arise in adulthood.

Can ADHD get worse with age?

While ADHD symptoms can change with age, without proper management, challenges associated with ADHD can exacerbate over time.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy offers a promising avenue for managing ADHD in both children and adults. 

By focusing on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, CBT equips individuals with practical skills to manage their symptoms and improve their daily functioning. 

With the right approach and support, individuals with ADHD can lead productive and fulfilling lives.