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10 CEUs Treating Locking In & Blocking Out: ADHD Adults

Section 10
Psychosocial Treatment of Adult ADHD

Question 10 | Test | Table of Contents | ADHD CEU Courses
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed two common Slippery Social Situations an ADHD adult may encounter. The two common Slippery Social Situations an ADHD adult may encounter were Good Manners, and the Fear of the Phone.

On this track, we will discuss three difficulties ADHD adults face in group interfacing. These three difficulties are shifting gears rapidly, running out of gas, and setting the cruise control for mega-speed. We will also discuss five tips for group interfacing. These five tips are Being Prepared, Doing Your Homework, Practicing, Watching and Listening, and Watching Your Watch.

Charlie, age 42, a builder, reacts to social situations in which he’ll see many people with great anxiety. Charlie has always had problems contributing in group conversations, but often feels obligated to go to events in which he’ll have to do so. Charlie stated, "I can’t say no, even though it always goes badly. Last week, I was at a party, standing in a group of about four people. They were all talking, but I wasn’t saying much. I just didn’t know anything about what they were talking about, like software or the president’s latest political scandal."

Charlie tried to pay attention to the conversation, but his mind was racing as he tried to think of something to say before anyone could ask him a question he couldn’t answer. Charlie said that when he heard someone say something about recent activity in the Oval Office, he eagerly jumped into the conversation.

Charlie stated, "I once had to build this circular room for a customer. I was so excited that I could finally contribute to the conversation through the lead-in about an oval office that I started rambling. I was about halfway through my story when I noticed everyone was looking at me funny. I finally realized they had been talking about the Oval Office, in the White House, and had to try to laugh off my mistake. It was embarrassing." Sound like a blunder an ADHD client of yours has made lately?

As you know, successful group interfacing depends on an ability to shift gears rapidly, something most ADHD adults have difficulty doing. The ADHD adult has to follow the flow of discussion as it bounces from one person to another. ADHD adults, like Charlie, have to concentrate enough to understand what each speaker is saying, but not so much that they get locked in. As you can see, Charlie was doing mental gymnastics just trying to keep up with the conversation.

Have you noticed other problems that ADHD adults face in group situations besides shifting gears rapidly? I have found that other common problems for ADHD adults in group encounters include running out of gas and cruise controls set on mega-speed. As you know, being bombarded with sights and sounds from many different directions can push an ADHD adult like Charlie into a mentally overloaded state.

Obviously, this overstimulation can cause mental fatigue, and the ADHD adult might then run out of gas. For ADHDers who set the cruise control for mega-speed, as you are aware, impulsivity and lack of inhibition are often attempts to fend off the mental fatigue of running out of gas. They often end up saying inappropriate, silly, or rude comments because they have a tendency to talk first and think later.

5 Tips for Success with Group Interfacing
To help Charlie feel more at ease in group situations, I offered five tips. Listen as I explain these five tips and see if any are tips that you may want to share with a current client.

Tip # 1 - Be Prepared
First, I suggested to Charlie that he Be Prepared. I stated, "See if you can find out before you go to the next social occasion who will be there. Write down their names. If you can find out their occupations or interests, write those down too." I also suggested finding out about the dress code. I then added, "Finally, write down the date and time of the gathering, to make sure you don’t forget or show up an hour late."

Tip # 2 - Do Your Homework
Second, I explained to Charlie that he might want to Do His Homework. I stated, "This is as simple as keeping up with current events, at least superficially." As you know, to keep up with current events, ADHD adults don’t  have to read every bit of the newspaper every day. I explained this to Charlie, stating, "However, skimming headlines could give you a vague awareness of names, places and events in the news that provide a file of information on which you can draw."

Tip # 3 - Practice
In addition to Being Prepared by writing down names and Doing His Homework about current events, the third tip I suggested to Charlie was Practice. I stated, "Try writing or visualizing a script. Figure out what you will say to the host when you arrive, as well as how you might join a conversation." I explained that a standard script he could practice in front of a mirror or with a friend could be beneficial. I also suggested he develop a standard set of questions as well. As you know, questions are excellent because they keep a conversation going and draw the attention away from the ADHD adult.

Tip # 4 - Watch & Listen
I then suggested the fourth tip for use in groups with which Charlie had less familiarity, Watch and Listen. Charlie looked slightly confused by the phrase, so I explained, "Basically, try to keep a low profile. Watch how others behave, and listen to what they say. There may be a hidden code that you don’t know about, but the behavior of others in the group will often indicate what that hidden code is."

I also explained to Charlie that although he may not want to continue association with the group, he would probably still want to make an attempt to be respectful of the group’s rules for one evening.

Tip # 5 - Watch your Watch
Finally, I suggested to Charlie that he Watch His Watch. As you know, ADHD adults sometimes have a tendency to monopolize conversations. I explained this to Charlie, and stated, "Focus on the speaker and force yourself to make eye contact. However, if you wear a watch with a second hand, you can discreetly note how long the person is speaking. Do this for each speaker. When it’s your turn to contribute to the conversation, try to keep an eye on how much time you’re speaking." I explained to Charlie that if he exceeded the amount of time others have spent speaking, he could then turn himself off.

Do you have an ADHD client like Charlie who gets anxious at the thought of participating in group events and group interfacing? Would your Charlie benefit from any of the five tips of Being Prepared, Doing Your Homework, Practicing, Watching and Listening, or Watching Your Watch discussed on this track?

On this track, we have discussed three difficulties ADHD adults face in group interfacing. These three difficulties are shifting gears rapidly, running out of gas, and setting the cruise control for mega-speed. We also discussed five tips for dealing with group interfacing. These five tips were Being Prepared, Doing Your Homework, Practicing, Watching and Listening, and Watching Your Watch.

On the next track, we will discuss two difficulties ADHD adults face in one-on-one interfacing. The two difficulties we will discuss are working too hard, and having too much intensity. We will also discuss five tips for dealing with one-on-one interfacing. These five tips are Relaxing and Listening, Clarifying the Message, Avoiding Fighting Words, Watching the Intensity Level, and Slowing Down.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article Reference:
Acuff, S. F., Soltis, K. E., Dennhardt, A. A., Borsari, B., Martens, M. P., Witkiewitz, K., & Murphy, J. G. (2019). Temporal precedence of self-regulation over depression and alcohol problems: Support for a model of self-regulatory failure. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 33(7), 603–615.

Atherton, O. E., Lawson, K. M., Ferrer, E., & Robins, R. W. (2020). The role of effortful control in the development of ADHD, ODD, and CD symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 118(6), 1226–1246.

Becker, S. P., Mossing, K. W., Zoromski, A. K., Vaughn, A. J., Epstein, J. N., Tamm, L., & Burns, G. L. (2020). Assessing sluggish cognitive tempo and ADHD inattention in elementary students: Empirical differentiation, invariance across sex and grade, and measurement precision. Psychological Assessment. Advance online publication.

Ramsay, J. R. (2017). The relevance of cognitive distortions in the psychosocial treatment of adult ADHD. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 48(1), 62–69.

Ramsay, J. R., & Rostain, A. L. (2016). Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as an implementation problem: Clinical significance, underlying mechanisms, and psychosocial treatment. Practice Innovations, 1(1), 36–52.

Schultz, B. K., Evans, S. W., Langberg, J. M., & Schoemann, A. M. (2017). Outcomes for adolescents who comply with long-term psychosocial treatment for ADHD. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 85(3), 250–261. 

What are three difficulties ADHD adults face in group interfacing? To select and enter your answer go to Test


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