Could You Benefit From a Consultation Group for ADHD Therapists?
By Kristen Dammer
I was officially diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder) during COVID. Being diagnosed with ADHD, as a therapist, carries many mixed emotions – grief for “what ifs” from the past, those wonderful accepting “ah ha” moments where all the “crazy things I did in my life made sense,” anger and even some space of understanding.
A formal ADHD diagnosis offers the first step of being able to understand, educate yourself, process all the emotions that come with the diagnosis, and begin to learn how to work with your neurodiversity instead of against it. That being said, knowing my brain is different and accepting that I am not a total fuck up is a continual daily battle.
ADHD and Shame
ADHD is an invisible diagnosis that is saturated with shame. Shame that “I don’t get it” like other people do and I can’t “act” like other people do. Shame that if I told a neurotypical person that I drove 1 and 1⁄2 hours to my doctor’s appointment, and because it was an early appointment, I had to arrange how to get my kids on the bus without me which in itself was overwhelming.
And the continued shame that I checked and double-checked and focused so much on making sure that I had all the paperwork the doctor’s office needed that I forgot to double-check other details of the appointment. Shame when I stood looking into the confused receptionist’s face as she told me my appointment was actually the same time the following week. Shame that even though I try so fucking hard to not be 2 minutes late for my clients, 95% of the time, I am. Shame that on most days, I truly believe I am a fuck up.
Treatment for Adult ADHD for Therapists
As a therapist, I know all about CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). And I can do all the CBT in the world, but that is not going to stop that shame spiral when I experience a moment like last Friday at the doctor’s office. I am a 50-something-year-old woman, an educated therapist. I “should” be able to figure this stuff out by now. If you are someone who has ADHD, you “get it.”
And yes CBT, parts work, EMDR, and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) are all very helpful treatment modalities that offer relief, but not a cure; you can’t recover from ADHD, which is another part of living with ADHD. ADHD does not go away – it permeates every facet of our lives.
What I know to be true for me and my daily navigation with ADHD is that support is the most important piece in my life. Without support, I just swim around in my head and start believing all the self-defeating thoughts. Having support– finding “my tribe”, and finding that place where I can “just be” is paramount in my life.
Shrink the Darkness to Overcome Shame
It’s like I have to imagine that all my shame is a dark bubble that lives in my core that will never entirely disappear. The dark bubble thinks I need to carry it around at all times, it’s always lurking in the distance, wanting to surround me and push me down. I’m continually learning what I can do to keep it “content.” I’ve accepted that it’s there. I’ve accepted that it will engulf me like an adult jumping into a foam pit (but without the fun part). I’ve accepted that a bogged down, drowning, shame spiral is going to happen with the big ADHD mistakes or even several small ones from time to time.
I am learning how to shrink the darkness quicker by using coping skills, by learning to organize my life in working with my ADHD instead of trying to force it to be neurotypical. I’m learning that it’s okay if I “just am me.” So when I ask all you therapists out there living with ADHD if you could benefit from a consultation group for ADHD therapists, I strongly believe the answer is “yes”. This is a blog and you should get some takeaways after reading this far, I will give you 3 reasons why ADHD therapists need a consultation group.
1. ADHD Travels with Shame
Shame grows in silence. So if you have ADHD and are feeling similar experiences that I mentioned above, but are masking and hiding out with everyone in your life, shame will continue to grow. Participating in a consultation group provides you with an opportunity to be with other therapists who REALLY GET YOU.
Think about how good you feel after spending time with that “one friend” or the one friend group, where you can unequivocally be yourself. When I think about those moments, I am reminded about how energizing they are. Knowing that you are not alone in your struggles offers a gateway for more moments of understanding and moments of acceptance. As Dr. Barkly explains, “it’s helpful to move ADHD out of the realm of moral judgment into the realm of medical science.” (I Have ADHD Podcast by Kristen Carder).
2. Gather Your ADHD Tools and Resources
An ADHD consultation group for therapists allows you to talk about tools, podcasts, new ADHD discoveries, and/or helpful ways to work with your ADHD, specifically as a therapist. I am often overwhelmed by all the resources that are now available for ADHDers. I also am very happy to be living in this time period, where more people are talking about their ADHD.
Exploring tools and new discoveries in a consultation group can be a wonderful “filter.” People in the group may have already tried the tool, listened to the podcast, or read that article, so an ADHD Support Group offers an opportunity to focus on only the most “useful” information. Figuring out how to apply this information to your clinical work is another big benefit of an ADHD consultation group.
3. Figure Out What Works For You
How many times have we suggested a tool to a client and never tried it for ourselves? If you believe in the power of group therapy and suggest groups to your client, being part of your own consultation group will give you the opportunity to explain on a personal level how it helps. Maybe your client feels anxious about joining a group. If you yourself are a part of a group, even if it’s just a consultation group, you will be able to offer a deeper understanding of how this experience will feel for a client.
ADHD is one of the most pervasive impairments that travels with a whole host of other disorders and a deep level of shame. Joining a consultation group for therapists with ADHD will help you to develop yourself professionally as a therapist, and a therapist who has ADHD specifically. A place to find acceptance through others’ eyes.
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.