Wise Mind for the Distracted Mind: DBT for ADHD
Wise Mind for the Distracted Mind: DBT for ADHD
Written by Scott Spradlin, LPC, LMAC

Wise Mind for the Distracted Mind is an evolving project that involves the cultivation of a careful modification of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) principles, structures, and skills to help ADHD diagnosed adults better address significant areas of struggle such as sustained focus, emotion dysregulation, and anger, procrastination and task completion, relationship difficulties and sensitivity to rejection and criticism.

I simply could not adult well.

~Scott Spradlin

As an adult diagnosed with ADHD, who happens to be a professional counselor and meeting adult patients also meeting criteria, I began considering how to apply DBT to Adult ADHD, especially over the last few years. Early in my considerations about how DBT principles and practices may help, I was in fact thinking of myself. Mindfulness had been helpful to me long ago as the what and how skills became tools for self-acceptance and personal integration, empowering me to simply accept that all things being equal, I cannot be hyper-competent, nor pan-competent, nor even be on par with my developmental and age-related peers. I simply could not adult well.

To my detriment, however, I did not deep dive into the world of ADHD, to research its nature, origins, or treatment. I settled at first for medication. The medication was tremendously helpful to me, and I was surprised at the level of focus and increased emotion regulation I experienced. Following a divorce, stalled book deals, professional difficulties, and ensuing financial complications I finally did the deep dive beyond the medications, looking into the works of Russell Barkley to learn about executive functions and giving more consideration to the way in which DBT skills were helpful to me for mitigating attentional deficits and regulating emotions. With great thanks to my wife Mariah, who is an expert ADHD therapist and professional coach, I have more recently become knowledgeable about the nature of executive functions in ADHD and the leading behavioral/action interventions that work for ADHD.

In the meantime, while I was slowly growing into a broader and deeper knowledge about ADHD, and giving more consideration to DBT applications for my problems, as well as the adults who were seeking DBT help for ADHD, a number of researchers and practitioners were adapting DBT for adults, in Europe, and in the US, and published their outcomes data in peer-reviewed journals. I have familiarized myself with their works to gauge my efforts desiring to stay within the bounds of sound scientifically-informed practices as I carefully craft a format for modified DBT for adult ADHD.

All of these life experiences and education and study are resulting in a dynamic ongoing adaptable work to help ADHD adults. At present, our work with Wise Mind for the Distracted Mind is growing from a confluence of the work of Dr. Thomas Brown and Dr. Russell Barkley, DBT, interpersonal neurobiology a la Daniel Siegel, and the polyvagal theory. And as noted above, we have been influenced by the researchers in the US (Fleming, (2014) et. al.) and Europe (Hirvikoski (2011), et. al. ; Prada (2014), Et. al.; Cole (2016), et. al.). What we have to offer at this time is a structured process that we are providing to individuals. We are following a manualized outline, working through the traditional DBT skills while tying these into issues significant to our adult ADHD patients. We are building toward a group offering and other educational options that are not therapy but will address ADHD needs, likely virtual offerings.

It is exciting as our patients light up with “Aha!” moments…

It is exciting as our patients light up with “Aha!” moments as they learn about the neurobiological underpinnings of ADHD (a modified biosocial theory) and open up to a willingness to learn more about mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. And even better, they report tangible improvements in their relationships and work and feeling less prone to emotional suffering.

And so, from here I invite you to continue to visit me/us here for updates on Wise Mind for the Distracted Mind as well as standard DBT, and education and support in cultivating your wise life. More to come! Be mindful out there and baffle the darkness.


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