"Medications are very effective in 'turning down the volume' on ADHD symptoms, but they do not teach people skills," explains Steven Safren, PhD, ABPP, director of Behavioral Medicine in the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Psychiatry, who led the study.
"This study shows that a skills-based approach can help patients learn how to cope with their attention problems and better manage this significant and impairing disorder."
More than 4 percent of adults in the U.S. have ADHD, and while stimulants and other psychiatric medications are the primary first-line treatment, the study authors note that a significant number of patients who take and respond to these medication are still troubled by continuing symptoms.
The study enrolled adults diagnosed with ADHD who reported reduced but still significant symptoms while taking an ADHD medication. Randomly assigned to one of two therapeutic approaches, participants attended 12 weekly one-on-one counseling sessions with a psychologist or psychology fellow.
The control group received training in muscle relaxation and other relaxation techniques, education on how to apply relaxation to ADHD symptoms, and supportive psychotherapy.
The cognitive behavioral therapy sessions included skills training in areas such as organization and planning, setting priorities and problem solving, coping with distractions, and developing adaptive thought responses to stressful situations.
Symptom assessments conducted at the end of the 12-week treatment period revealed that participants receiving cognitive behavioral therapy had significantly better symptom control than did those receiving relaxation training, benefits that were maintained three and nine months later.
A standard rating scale for ADHD symptoms showed a 30 percent reduction in symptoms in more than two thirds of the cognitive behavioral therapy group but in only one third of the relaxation group.
The report has been published in the August 25 Journal of the American Medical Association. (ANI)