Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.
For most people, a diagnosis of ADHD opens a door into an unfamiliar world. There is an incredible amount of new information that children and their caregivers must learn. This is where psychoeducation comes into play. Psychoeducation provides patients and their families essential information about a mental health condition affecting them. Its goal is to empower them to cope with their condition in an optimal manner.
Life with an ADHD child can be quite challenging. It is easy to get discouraged and lose hope. Psychoeducation serves to remind caregivers that children with ADHD can and do succeed. Psychoeducation provides caregivers the tools they need to take a leadership role of advocacy for their child. Caregivers are taught the skills they need to promote home and school environments that foster success. Early intervention halts the escalation of school problems and social failures. It also limits other problems from developing. These other problems include underachievement, poor self-esteem, delinquent behaviors, and alcohol or other drug abuse.
Psychoeducation arms family with facts so that they don't waste limited emotional energy on self-blame. Families learn that ADHD is an inherited brain dysfunction that cannot be prevented. Poor parenting; chaotic home environments; and other environmental events do not cause ADHD. An unsettled home environment can make the symptoms of ADHD worse, but it is not the cause of ADHD.
Caregivers should learn all they can about ADHD in order to better understand how to help their child. There is plenty of information about ADHD on the Internet, in magazines, and other easy-to-access locations. However, all information is not created equal. Caregivers have to learn how to distinguish scientific fact from debunked theories, myths, and urban legends. This is not always easy to do but psychoeducation can help. In general, be wary about ads claiming to cure ADHD. There is currently no cure for ADHD. Nonetheless, caregivers can take positive steps to support their children, and to maximize their success. Becoming better educated about this disorder is one such step.
Psychoeducation also helps parents to understand the reasons behind their child's unpleasant behavior and how to cope with these behaviors in a helpful way. They also learn what ADHD is not. For instance, some caregivers mistake ADHD for laziness and irresponsibility. This erroneous conclusion causes harm to kids because it implies they could be different if they wanted to. This type of thinking contributes to an antagonistic relationship between caregivers and children. In contrast, understanding that a child's problematic behavior stems from biological causes, rather than conscious intent, helps caregivers calmly respond to a child's negative behavior in a helpful manner.
ADHD psychoeducation is typically delivered in parent education classes. These groups seek to provide parents with the knowledge, skills, and support they need to help their child succeed. A group format is an efficient way to deliver this information, as well as an excellent source of support. The group approach of a class can reduce the sense of hopelessness and isolation that many caregivers experience. The recognition that other families are struggling with similar (or even more difficult) problems can be reassuring and inspirational. Ask your healthcare provider, the school psychologist, or child's teacher what groups are available in your area.