By Elizabeth Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC, Research Committee
Mindfulness was a hot topic at the CHADD Conference as well as at Learning and the Brain’s conference this year. And it’s no wonder! Two recent research studies have examined mindfulness training related to ADHD, both showing benefits – adding to the growing evidence base for this non-pharmacological intervention.
Here’s a quick summary of the findings:
Each study had a somewhat different mindfulness training intervention:
- One study (Mitchell, et al., 2013) used Zylowska’s (2008) mindfulness training program (MAPS), similar to the material in her 2012 book The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD.
- The other study (Edel, et al., 2014) used a combination of mindfulness techniques derived from both John Kabat Zinn’s well-known Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program and from a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treatment approach, modified for use with ADHD, a therapeutic approach apparently gaining recognition in parts of Europe.
(The full articles were both published in the Journal of Attention Disorders; access to this journal is an ADHD Coaches Organization member benefit.)
Both studies used comparison groups:
- The Mitchell (2013) study used a comparison group of individuals on a wait-list for the ADHD mindfulness training.
- The Edel (2014) study compared outcomes of mindfulness training with outcomes of a DBT skills group training including mindfulness and other strategies.
Both studies demonstrated a reduction in ADHD symptoms with mindfulness training in at least some study participants.
- The Mitchell (2103) study found a strong effect of mindfulness training on ADHD symptom reduction in a majority of mindfulness training participants as well as improvement in functional impairment in a majority of mindfulness training participants. This study also examined and found improvements in self and clinician reported EF (executive functioning) symptoms and self-reported emotional regulation. Improvements were found in the mindfulness group as compared with those not trained in mindfulness; no improvement in laboratory measurements of EF tasks was observed (apparently a controversial measurement anyway).
- The Edel (2014) study found benefits for approximately 30% of mindfulness trainees; in comparison, training in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) led to benefits for some (11%) but not as many in the comparison group. As an interesting side-note, the Edel (2014) study found that greater improvement in symptoms occurred in both groups for individuals treated with methylphenidate (stimulant).
Taken together, and in conjunction with Zylowska’s (2008) study demonstrating numerous benefits of mindfulness training for ADHD, empirical evidence is strengthening for the use of mindfulness training as a beneficial intervention for management of ADHD symptoms.
How might you apply these findings in your coaching practice?
Some options to consider:
- At least one prior study has suggested that therapists are more effective when they practice mindfulness, including meditating before client sessions. Presumably, this would be true for coaches as well!
- Discussing the research on benefits of mindfulness practice with clients is a straightforward psycho-educational intervention.
- Starting coaching sessions with a brief meditation, such as focusing on the breath, is one way to integrate mindfulness practice into the coaching session itself.
- To explore further, Lydia Zylowska’s (2012) book The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD includes descriptions of a range of mindfulness practices targeting varied ADHD symptoms, practices that could be explained to or shared experientially with clients during a coaching session.
- Additionally, Zylowska’s book and other mindfulness-related resources, including apps such as Mindfulness Coach, could be shared with interested clients to further their growth in developing mindfulness practices of their own.
Edel, M-A., Holter, T., Wassink, K, & Juckel, G. (10/9/14). A comparison of mindfulness-based group training and skills group training in adults with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders (published online before print).
Mitchell, J.T., McIntyre, E.M. English, J.S. et al. (12/4/13). A pilot trial of mindfulness meditation training for ADHD in adulthood: Impact on core symptoms, executive functioning, and emotional dysregulation. Journal of Attention Disorders (published online before print).
Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D.L., Yang, M. H., at al. (2008) Mindfulness meditation in Adults and adolescents with ADHD: A feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 237-246.
Zylowska, L. (2012). The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD. Boston: Trumpeter.
(Access to the Journal of Attention Disorders online is an ADHD Coaches Organization member benefit.)
This 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 LizAhmann.com