Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD: Research Brief

Applying Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for ADHD to Emerging Adults
Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 2016

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) can continue into emerging adulthood for many individuals, leading to poor academic and occupational functioning, alcohol and substance abuse and more. In this research article, the authors highlight common challenges with this population, summarize outcome studies and clinical literature, and offer recommendations for CBT therapists

The transition to college can be very challenging for individuals with ADHD. Increased task and life demands happen in tandem with deficits in time management, study skills and habits, and delaying rewards to achieve longer-term goals. Cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) holds promise for targeting these and related challenges. 

Emerging adults (EA), who fall within the late teens through twenties age range can experience increased autonomy and lack of structure, which can make them more vulnerable to impaired functioning. Given that executive functioning is weaker among those with ADHD, individuals in this group are at an increased risk of being unable to regulate their emotions, delay gratification, inhibit impulses, direct their attention, organize, plan, and self-monitor to achieve their goals. 

This study shows that CBT-specific interventions and the appropriate support of at-risk emerging adults are crucial for the successful treatment of ADHD. Cognitive-behavioral interventions have been noted as efficacious treatment methods for this population, due to the adverse mental and physical health problems associated with the disorder.

Highlights from the Study

“Emerging adults with ADHD may develop negative beliefs about their ability to function. Psychoeducation and symptom management through skill learning are two cognitive-behavioral interventions. Those who receive this intervention can begin to understand how ADHD impacts their life, why they have a harder time navigating challenges, and why learning and using self-management skills is important.”


“Psychoeducation benefits individuals with ADHD, especially emerging adults who are experiencing more pronounced symptoms for the first time, by giving them a mental framework to understand how their neurobiology leads to the poor acquisition of self-regulatory skills...” 


“This study demonstrates that emerging adults will be more motivated to develop skills for symptom management if they are aligned with personally valued goals. This can be done by emphasizing treatment that improves functionality rather than focusing on decreasing specific ADHD symptoms…”

At Feeling Good Institute, we utilize CBT methods, such as psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, behavioral modification, and mindfulness to achieve positive outcomes and sustained recovery.  

Learn about the essential skills for effective cognitive behavior therapy and how we set therapists up for success.

Research Brief Author: Devorah Bernstein, Psy.D.

Citation: Knouse, L. E., & Fleming, A. P. (2016). Applying cognitive-behavioral therapy for ADHD to emerging adults. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 23(3), 300-315.

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