ADHD Treatment Options: A Primer for Parents

English: Medicine "Strattera" (eg. u...
The non-stimulant Strattera is a type of medication used to treat ADHD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You just found out your teen has ADHD, now what do you do.  If you are like many parents, you go to Google and type in “help for ADHD” and you are immediately presented with a page of links full of contradictory information, widely varying recommendation, and a lot of people touting medication-free alternatives to treatment.  ADHD, more than most other teen mental health conditions, can be overwhelming for parents to deal with simply because of the amount of information available and the controversy that often surrounds what is right or true, and what is not.

It is hard enough for many parents to get their heads around the diagnosis without having to wade through a sea of conflicting opinions and contradictory information to figure out how to get their teenager the help that they need.

To help parents figure out the best next steps for their teens, here are the most widely accepted and commonly used treatments for teenagers with ADHD.  It is important to note that most treatment plans will use a combination of approaches in order to get the most benefit.


Many teenagers with ADHD can benefit from working with a therapist or other mental health practitioner, especially if they focus on helping teens with ADHD.  This avenue helps teenagers understand how their ADHD is impacting their lives and helps them deal with any emotions they are experiencing from their symptoms or diagnosis.  This can include negative messages they have received from parents, teachers, and other caregivers around their intelligence or abilities.  This treatment may also include brainstorming strategies for how best to manage symptoms.


There are two different types of medication used to treat ADHD, stimulants like Adderall and non-stimulants like Strattera.  Medication can help teenagers manage their symptoms and make it easier to learn the skills they need to be highly functional at home and school.  Because of the unique nature of ADHD, not all medications work the same for all people.  In order to find the most effective medication, your child’s psychiatric provider may try different types of medication and different doses to determine the best fit in terms of benefit versus side effects.

Behavioral Training and Skillbuilding

Behavioral training may also be referred to as coaching.  This can be provided by the same mental health practitioner that is providing therapy or it may be provided by an ADHD coach or special education teacher through the school.  This type of treatment helps teens develop the skills they need to overcome any challenges they face and leverage any gifts they have because of their ADHD.

Parenting Education and Support

In addition to the treatment options that focus specifically on the teenager with ADHD, it is also important for some parents to learn more about the condition and receive supportive services in order for them to be able to help their child.  Many children and teens with ADHD do not respond the same way as neurotypical adolescents do to standard parenting strategies like discipline.  For this reason, providing parents with ADHD-specific parenting strategies and information can be very beneficial to improving overall outcomes.


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