On the last track, we discussed three types of counseling that may be
beneficial for children with ADD. The three types of counseling were
individual counseling, self-control training, and social skills training.
On this track... we will be discussing marital therapy for parents of
children with ADD.
As you are aware, the divorce rate is higher in families with ADD children.
This higher divorce rate can be attributed to the stress of having an
ADD child. However, the high divorce rate can also be partly attributed
to the problems, like depression, alcoholism, and anxiety disorders,
that parents of ADD children are more vulnerable to.
For the parents of Jake, age 9 diagnosed with ADD, marital therapy seemed
to be the best option. Jake had problems with disruptive classroom behavior.
He would hit other children, jump off chairs, and talk out. Even in Jake’s
more “quiet moments,” he cracked his knuckles, played with
the buttons on his clothes, and couldn’t sit still.
When Jake was
diagnosed, his mom, Sheryl, accepted it, stating, “Jake is always
into things and on the go, and he has no attention span.” Jake’s
father, Richard, reacted to the diagnosis with hostility, stating, “I
was like that as a boy, too, and I did pretty well!” They could
not agree on how to parent their son anymore.
Four Steps of Marital Therapy
Step #1 - Evaluation
Marital therapy, like the therapy Richard and Sheryl participated in,
can occur in four steps. As you know, the first step of marital therapy
is evaluation. I met with Richard and Sheryl to get an idea of the state
of their marriage. After meeting with them together, I met with each
Richard and Sheryl individually to explore issues more in depth and talk
about topics that they may not have been comfortable discussing with
their spouse present.
Together, we evaluated which issues were causing
the most trouble. Topping the list was “Communication”. Sheryl
complained of Richard’s habit to contradict everything she said,
especially issues related to Jake’s ADD. She stated, “Saying
Richard was like Jake as a boy and turned out fine is like denying Jake’s
ADD exists, if you ask me!” Richard was annoyed because he thought
Sheryl didn’t listen to him. He stated, “Every time I try
to talk to Jake, she defends him because of his ADD. She doesn’t
even listen to what I’m trying to say!”
Step #2 - Introduction to Cognitive Therapy
The second step I use in marital therapy is an introduction to cognitive
therapy. Like in the individual counseling we discussed earlier in this
track, in this step, Sheryl and Richard were both trained how to think
about themselves and their spouses more realistically. As you know, realistic
thinking includes learning how to stop blaming each other and how to
take responsibility for one’s own anger or depression.
step, Richard came to accept that some of his frustrations from work
were being taken out on Jake because of Jake’s ADD. Sheryl admitted
that her depression may have worsened after Jake’s diagnosis, causing
her to be oversensitive to Richard’s criticism.
Step # 3 - Straightforward Negotiation
Following the first two steps of evaluation and cognitive therapy, the
third step in marital therapy is negotiation training. As you know, many
couples with an ADD child are not good at talking things over in a productive
way. I have found that some attention to and assistance with basic negotiating procedures is often necessary for couples with an ADD child. I ask clients
who have difficulty negotiating to do an exercise I call “Straightforward
Negotiation.” In the “Straightforward Negotiation” exercise,
clients use six steps to straightforward negotiation methods.
steps to straightforward negotiation are
--1. Agreeing on a time and place
--2. Defining clearly one problem to be discussed,
--3. Letting each person express their opinion without being interrupted,
--4. Sympathetically listening, rather than simply preparing a rebuttal,
--5. Generating possible
--6. Agreeing on something to try out.
I asked Sheryl and
Richard to do the “Straightforward Negotiation” exercise
and practice these six steps of straightforward negotiation methods.
They first agreed on a time and place to talk. Sheryl and Richard then
decided to talk about just one problem, disciplining Jake for his bad
behavior in school. Third, each Sheryl and Richard had an opportunity
to express their opinion.
While Sheryl spoke about taking into consideration
Jake’s ADD, Richard listened patiently. Sheryl did the same, listening
to Richard while he spoke about the necessity of punishment. In the fifth
step, they brainstormed some possible punishments together. Finally,
Sheryl and Richard agreed to an arrangement. In their arrangement, Jake
may be grounded for bad behavior, but they would take his ADD into consideration
to keep from being too severe.
Step #4 - Getting it Together
Finally, the fourth step of marital therapy I find is getting it together.
In getting it together, the parents can take the skills they learned
from therapy and apply them to situations outside the therapist’s
I explained getting it together to Richard and Sheryl as two
--1. The first step of getting it together is straightening out one’s
own thinking about the problem at hand.
--2. I then explained that the second
step was applying the negotiation methods to the chosen problem in order
to come up with a solution.
In summary, the four steps of marital therapy for the parent’s
of a child with ADD are: evaluation, an introduction to cognitive therapy,
negotiation training, and getting it together. Can you think of a client with ADD whose parents might benefit from
the six steps of straightforward negotiation method?
On this track... we have discussed marital therapy for the parents of
a child with ADD. The four steps of marital therapy are evaluation, cognitive
therapy, negotiation training, and getting it together.
On the next track, we will talk about the Five Tactics for Start Behavior.
The Five Tactics for Start Behavior are Sloppy Positive Verbal Feedback,
Kitchen Timers, the Docking System, Natural Consequences, and Charting.
What are two types of counseling for parents of ADD children? To select and enter your
answer go to