Free Service is Carefully Taught

It took me about a year after my diagnosis to finally seek out my first support group. CHADD material was distributed. New people came from miles around, sometimes even from hours away. There were usually tears from someone, loving support from the rest and a good time was had by all. Afterwards, we might stand in the rain to share our stories and give hugs. It was warm and fuzzy. But did it make a difference? Not really.

Support groups  are sometimes the loss leader for coaches looking for new clients (I do think that’s more rare than usual). However, I have come to believe that people who show up—or not according to the weather or a whim—may take advantage of the leader and do not make real changes, real progress.

I held a nine month free coaching support group. The members were not focused and did not make any discernible progress while asking for more from me and less of themselves. It waned into the wind. I began to believe that without a financial commitment, members held themselves to a lower standard of expectation than my paying clients. And I believe the experience held them back, frustrated them and fostered an oh-poor-me attitude.

I don’t think it was just me. I’ve seen the same thing in free support groups run by other well-meaning professionals.

Stop Fostering Free Service?

What would happen if non-CHADD ADHD support groups required a donation at the least? Would members develop a sense of self-esteem and progress more quickly?

Once upon a time, I believe there was extraordinary value in free ADHD support groups, in part because of the social silence around the disorder.  But no more. ADHD is regularly discussed on TV, the internet and even in Facebook communities. Fine information is presented more regularly than ever before by credible leaders in the ADHD community. ADHD conversations are held more openly. ADHD has come out of the closet and will not go back there.

As the ADHD Coaching profession is maturing, let’s take a look at the professional value of offering free support group service. Do you know of a therapist who offers a free support group? What kind is it? Why do they do it?

Is free support information a disservice, that loss-leader that keeps people away from appropriate, valuable coaching which research has shown—and we know—makes  a difference? Our ACO membership has an opportunity to take a look at why we are willing to perhaps impede the health and development of our brothers and sisters living with ADHD by offering a free service that may also undermine the value of our paid coaching services.

What do you think?  What’s your experience? Let’s start a dialogue.