By Elizabeth Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC, Research Committee

We know that ADHD coaching works. People pay us for the service, experience success, and are happy with the results. So, what difference does research make to coaching practice? Consider this: Would you see a therapist who used methods with no track record of success? Would you go to a doctor who did not keep up with the latest scientific findings?

As coaches, we want to use approaches that work. We want to offer strategies that are proven. And we want our clients to achieve optimum results. To do this, we want to use the best practices in the field. As is true of best practices in other fields, authors Stober and Grant argue, best coaching practice incorporates three approaches:

“…the intelligent and conscientious use of best current knowledge integrated with practitioner expertise in making decisions about how to deliver coaching to individual coaching clients” (Stober & Grant, 2006, p.6, adapted from Sackett, Haynes, Guyatt & Tugwell, 1996).

ADHD coaches have ready access to resources for developing practitioner expertise, through education, training and mentoring, and applying knowledge and expertise to individual clients, improved by reflection on practice as well as supervision. However, incorporating best current knowledge (theory and findings from the research literature) into practice has received less attention to date.

So, how can an ADHD coach become an “informed practitioner” developing a practice informed by the best research evidence? Two complementary approaches to this are:

  1. learning more about the research process, and
  2. keeping abreast of research in the field.

Accessible approaches to each of these are described below. Additionally, resources for understanding the theoretical and evidence-based underpinnings for the coaching profession are described.

Learning About the Research Process

Learning about the process of research is most commonly accomplished in college or, more typically, graduate school where classes on research methodology are part of the curriculum. If you missed this opportunity during your own university career, rather than going back to school to learn research methodology, you can participate in ACO’s ACCE (ADHD Coach Continuing Education–pronounced “ace”) class titled “You Mean THAT’s What it Says?” which is designed to help members become more familiar with reading research articles. This recurring three-session class is designed to de-mystify reading research with the following aims:

  • Encourage participants to familiarize themselves with the research literature by discussing an article, including some aspect of its research methods, each month.
  • Related to that goal, encourage participants to practice and develop the skills to critically read coaching-related research articles.
  • Promote means and opportunities to incorporate research evidence into coaching practice with individuals having ADHD, and relate research findings to established coaching competencies and easily-implemented strategies.

The spring session of this class will be held on the first, third, and fifth Tuesday in March. The class is offered for 4.5 ICF Core Competency CCEUs. If you are interested, you can sign up here.

Keeping Abreast of Research in the Field

Whether or not reading research articles is intrinsically interesting you, it is still valuable to keep up with research relevant to your practice. A number of resources can help you easily access research findings:

  • ACO’s monthly newsletter CIRCLE typically includes an article by an ACO Research Committee member reviewing either a research study or some other evidence-based resource. Archived copies of CIRCLE can be accessed here.
  • Russell Barkley’s The ADHD Report includes reviews of research related to ADHD. ACO members get free online access as a member benefit. (To access the journal, log in to the ACO website as a member, then select the “publications” link and, finally, select “The ADHD Report” and follow directions on the screen.) Note that ACO members also have access to the Journal of Attention Disorders which publishes original research articles (rather than summaries).
  • The Institute for Coaching Professional Association (a membership organization) has a repository of information and sponsors webinars and a marvelous annual conference addressing evidence-based approaches relevant to coaching.
  • ICF has a number of specialized communities of practice. In addition to the ADHD Community of Practice run by ACO member Chana Klein, you might be interested in the Community of Practice for evidence-based coaching processes, the coaching body of knowledge, and research in the coaching world. The group meets at 3:00 pm ET on the 2nd Thursday of each month. For more information, contact the leaders Leslie Hamilton and Kent Blumberg.
  • Reciprocoach, a community of coaches who coach and mentor other community members, offers ten issues a year of its Coaching Research in Practice. Each newsletter summarizes one coaching-related research study and suggests practice implications. It is free to Reciprocoach members and available for a small fee to non-members. Samples are available here.
  • Attention Research Update, an advertiser-sponsored newsletter published by David Rabiner, PhD, in the Department of Neuroscience and Psychology at Duke University, summarizes one ADHD-related study in each issue.
  • Another rich source of information about research occurring in the fields of ADHD and coaching is to scan through the table of contents of the following journals each month:

    (To access your JAD member benefit, log in to the ACO website as a member, select “Publications” and then “Journal of Attention Disorders.”) If any particular topic in either journal catches your eye, read the abstract for that study to get an overview. If your interest is further piqued, the introduction, literature review, and findings/conclusion will provide more detail and are typically easy to read.

  • Watch for evidence-based offerings at conferences and in webinars. The upcoming ACO conference will likely have some; CHADD often does; Learning and the Brain conference presentations are typically evidence-based; the APSARD conference is research-focused; conference and webinars of The Institute for Coaching Professional Association focus on evidence-based approaches; and ICF has begun holding “Science of Coaching” conferences (to purchase on-demand videos from last year and learn about the 2015 plans, see ).
  • Finally, ACO’s Research Committee plans to develop a repository of relevant articles, summaries, and resources that support evidence-based ADHD Coaching practice. Watch for this in the future!

Understanding Theoretical and Evidence-based Underpinnings of Coaching

If understanding the theoretical underpinnings for coaching practice is of particular interest to you, here are several resources to consider:


Many resources are available to support you in becoming an “informed practitioner,” building an evidence-based practice, and providing coaching services that optimize client outcomes. You can pick and choose among the many options listed above for learning about the research process, keeping abreast of research in the field, and/or understanding the theoretical and evidence-based underpinnings of ADHD coaching. You, your clients, and the field of ADHD coaching will no doubt benefit when you do.


Stober, D.R. & Grant, A.M. (2006). Evidence Based Coaching Handbook. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

LizAhmannThis review was written as a service to ACO members by Elizabeth Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC, of the ACO Research Committee. You can contact the author at