How to Manage ADHD in Clinical Supervision
By Kristen Dammer
As a therapist, counselor or social worker, are you working with a clinical supervisor to obtain your counseling licensure and have ADHD? Have you struggled with whether or not to tell your supervisor in clinical supervision. Do you work with clients that have ADHD and you’re not sure whether or not to self-disclose? This article examines these potential challenges from a personal and professional perspective.
Strong Supervisory Relationship
The most important aspect of clinical supervision is having a strong, supportive relationship with your supervisor. Taking the time to choose a supervisor with whom you feel comfortable being vulnerable with is key to feeling confident in your growth as a new therapist. Remember, this relationship will typically last for two years or more years, so finding the right fit for you is essential.
Having a good relationship with your clinical supervisor is the first step in the question of should you disclose your ADHD, and if so, how. Without having that confidence in your supervisory relationship, sharing any personal information in supervision will not feel safe. Trust your instincts on when and whether to disclose your ADHD to your supervisor.
Culture Change in Disclosing ADHD
Shifting the culture of stigma with mental illness and executive dysfunction challenges is like slowing a moving train. Notably with social media platforms like TikTok, the state of our nation, and mainstream news networks now openly discussing mental health, the train is picking up speed. I am also noticing a shift in the culture of therapists openly sharing their challenges with mental illness.
In past decades, the presentation of the typical therapist was a buttoned up, robot-like person, sitting emotionless across the room from clients. Thank Goodness this changed! We, as therapists, get to be human! We don’t have to hide the fact that we too attend therapy regularly and have challenges just like everyone else.
With this humanization of therapists, a more authentic relationship with your clients develops. How can we as therapists say we are working to reduce the mental health stigma if we ourselves hide those parts of ourselves?
Self-Disclosure as a Clinical Skill
Of upmost importance is the fact that every situation, every client, and every therapist is unique. In most client interactions, self-disclosure is a skillful technique that should be intentional and examined with risk and benefit factors. I encourage you to talk to your supervisor about self-disclosing your ADHD with your clients and how to do this in a manner that benefits the client, not you as their therapist.
Your Supervisor Knows
In the supervisory relationship, I have found by sharing mental health struggles, we continue the forward progress of releasing stigma surrounding ADHD. As a side note, if you are working with a qualified clinical supervisor, chances are they already have a suspicion that you have ADHD and/or a neurotypical brain.
In my experience, sharing openly your ADHD with your clinical supervisor will give you the best advantage for your professional growth. Having ADHD makes your brain unique. You can work openly with your supervisor to arrange sessions and information sharing in a way that works with executive functioning deficits. Sharing offers a way out of the shame of having a neurodivergent brain and creates a space for growth in ourselves, our clients and in society. Together, you and your clinical supervisor can move to a more integrated place of acceptance.
I myself have recently shared my experiences with having ADHD. As more therapists lift the veil of shame in self-disclosure, new advantages evolve. Supervisees can search for clinical supervisors that share common struggles, and in that commonality comes empowerment and freedom for you as a growing and developing therapist.
How can we help
If you are a therapist with ADHD or ADHD symptoms, check out our Clinical Consultation Group for Neurodiverse Therapists. If you’re interested in joining, contact us for a Free 20-minute Phone Consultation!
Kristen Dammer is a clinical supervisor, therapist, and blogger with Firelight Supervision and Catalyss Counseling. Kristen specializes in trauma, ADHD, and perinatal counseling with adults and is trained in EMDR. Kristen enjoys providing clinical supervision and consultation to beginning to advanced clinicians in private practice, hospital, and agency settings.