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ADHD Coach Training Path: Understanding Their History and Schema

February 2, 2022
Confused couple selecting ADHD coach training courses

I’ve been receiving many messages regarding this: where to find a good or the best ADHD Coach Training course. And you guys have put me in a difficult position here, because my ADHD brain was not interested at all in writing this; in fact, I believe I have developed some sort of allergies to this whole “ADHD Coach Training Courses” thing.

At the “Simply ADHD” course given by ADDCA, I felt I had been scammed; then, while seeking other places and asking for information, I felt I was about to be scammed; and also, I felt they thought I would be stupid enough to fall for the “click now and save.” 

Another example? Laurie Dupar and her inspiring and compelling “Julien Mussi Scholarship”, made feel she was profiting from my feelings, my calling and the death of a neurodivergent.[1]

But hey, there are good ADHD coaches out there helping neurodivergents to thrive.

So, here is what I’ve got for you today: how this business came to be, how it works, and where you can find some of the institutions that provide credentials so you can find ADHD training courses.

It goes without saying that I do not encourage you to take any, and I do encourage you to get as much information as you can before choosing where or how to study.

How to Become an ADHD Coach

Grab some (many) books and research, and learn about ADHD, neuroscience, psychology, pedagogy; then, set up a website or an Instagram account, and just start working.

You need knowledge and a true calling to start this journey; if you do well, your clients will support you and you’ll grow your business.

“But Laly, Can I just go for it? Without having taken a course? Without having a credential?” Yes, you can.

Why? How? Allow me to explain…

The History of the ADHD Coaches

“ADHD coaches” became a thing when Edward Hallowell, M.D. published “Driven to Distraction” in 1994. Hallowell is a board-certified child and adult psychiatrist, graduated of Harvard College and Tulane Medical School.[i]

Over the following years, a few training academies were founded and since they wouldn’t agree on what an ADHD coach should be, in 2005 ACO (a worldwide organization) and IAAC (a training institute) were founded defining the ADHD coaching profession: “life coaches” who then specialize on ADHD. [i]

So, first appeared a book with the phrase “ADHD Coach;” then some people said, “hey, let’s make training academies;” and then some other people (some of which were part of those academies) said, “hey, let’s control those academies; let’s make people seek for credentials too.” Money-money-money.

The ADHD Coach Training Schema: Overview

We’ve got “training places” that offer courses and “organizations” that issue certificates; “organizations”, for the purpose of this post, are “associations, federations, centers” and etc. And, read this carefully:

  • some organizations endorse certain training places. For example, the ICF endorses ADDCA among others;
  • one (as far as I know) doesn’t endorse any, nor asks for you to have taken courses.

It is important to bear in mind that this whole schema, is out of the education system.

As I will explain in detail later on, for you to become a “certified” coach, you’ll need:

  1. to prove your knowledge on ADHD
    • with courses (aka, “training hours”) OR
    • with tests
  2. to prove you are already a good coach (aka “coaching hours”)

Ergo:

  • you don’t need a credential to work as an ADHD coach; 
  • furthermore, you don’t even need those courses to prove your knowledge nor to work as an ADHD coach (at some places)

How to Become a “Certified” ADHD Coach, in Detail

First, you look up for an organization that provides certification; then, you study: on your own or at one of the training places recommended by the organization you’ve chosen.

Here is an example with four:

Organizations that Provides CertificationOffers Courses / Programs?Where to Study?
PAAC. Professional Association of ADHD Coaches (Est. 2009) [2]No (Nor it doesn’t refer to training academies)On your own, take courses; simply, “learn about ADHD”
ICF. International Coaching Federation(Est. 1995) [3]Refers to a list of training academies (a)At one of the referred academies
IAC. iACTcenter Associate Coach [4]YesPlease don’t…(b)
CCE. Center for Credentialing & Education [5]Refers to a list of training academiesAt one of the referred academies
Notes: (a) ADDCA is one the academies the ICF recommends; (b) IAC is the one by Laurie Dupar…
Source: Based on personal research

All the links are in the footnotes; stay with me.

Why Did I Choose Those Four Organizations? ACO

There’s an organization named ACO (ADHD Coaches Organization; est. 2005) that presents itself as “the” worldwide professional membership organization for ADHD coaches; they state that they are “committed to serving as a resource” for ADHD coaches, its members and the public.[ii] 

ACO endorses and supports certification for coaches that have been already certified by the organizations I mentioned in the table.

Out of its board of directors, Joyce Kubik caught my attention; her introduction mentions her having published “the award-winning and first ADHD Coach study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.” But the study, “Efficacy of ADHD Coaching for Adults With ADHD” comes to the conclusion that “ADHD coaching had a positive impact on the lives of people with ADHD”[iii] after having studied forty-five adults.

It seems like there’s a hierarchy, but there isn’t. Supposedly:

  • ACO guarantee us that the ICF certifies those who come from good academies (like ADDCA);
  • but ICF – who certifies those coming from ADDCA – should be making sure that is giving us proper education

… and it’s not happening…

Getting Certified Without Taking Courses: PAAC

Basically, here’s how it goes with them:

  • Step 1: Learn on your own all things ADHD (they provide a list of recommended resources) [6]
  • Step 2: Start working as an ADHD coach
  • Step 3: Got to them, apply and:
    1. Take a couple of tests
    2. Get observed as you work
    3. Observe coaching sessions
  • Step 4: Get certified

The cost is $300 US and you have 6 months to complete the process from the date of your acceptance. Upon successful completion, this fee also includes one year as a member of PAAC (a $100 value)

Become a certified coach | PAAC

Getting Certified After Having Taken Courses / Followed Programs

Put a mortgage on your house!

Seriously, though… The courses cost thousands of dollars, and we are not even sure that we’ll be properly educated! Back when I was pursuing this path, I chose ADDCA because all the websites were saying it was the best, and it had become painful to search how to follow a program, where to study and etc.

Basically, here is how it goes:

  • Step 1: Select where you want to get certified and which “masters of the universe’s” credential you wish to pay for.
  • Step 2: Gain “hours of training”. You can do so by taking courses or by following a program at one place (You can a follow a full program at one academy, or you can take one course here and another course there)
  • Step 3: Gain “coaching hours” (working hours as an ADHD coach)  
  • Step 4: Go through a process to get certified

Here is an example. The ICF offers three credentials:

Credential / RequirementsTraining HoursCoaching Hours
Associate Certified Coach60+100+
Professional Certified Coach125+500+
Master (OMG) Certified Coach200+2,500+
Based on “Credentials and Standards”, by ICF https://coachingfederation.org/credentials-and-standards

“Laly, For the Love of 80’s Pop Music Help Me Decide”

Check your dopamine status. (Seriously)

Now, check your focus.

All checked? Awesome. I bet your interest is off the charts; so, here we go!

Reflect upon the following:

  1. The “teachers” 🤦🏻‍♀️ of those courses, where do you think they have learned about ADHD? From books, and research.
  2. But hey, they say that they also offer knowledge that comes from their experience in coaching. THERE ARE BOOKS ABOUT THAT TOO.

Wrapping It Up

Can I recommend an ADHD Coach training place? No.

How do I learn about all things ADHD? From books and research. I used to work as ghost writer writing thesis for professionals, including psychiatrists, so I’m familiar with this path.

How did I start learning? “Googling”. Then, when I realized it was insane to do so, I asked Dr. K to guide me. He has given me lessons to understand how the brain works; then I read books on ADHD (some of which you’ll find in the Toolkit) and I continued (and continue) doing so every day.

I am not looking forward to become a “certified ADHD coach” anymore; but if I were, I would read all the recommended books by PAAC [6], and then take the tests and else with them.

I am looking forward to become an “ADHD professional”… And there are great courses, by true renown specialists, that even give you a credential after completion. Huh? Stay tuned. 😉

And listen, at the end of the day, a good ADHD coach – from my point of view, today – must have four things: great knowledge, cool tools, charisma and a true calling. If you’ve got that covered, “go for it.”

Laly York. B.Ed. Lawyer. Writer / Researcher. ADHD advocate
Developer and author of the blogs "Neurodivergent", "NKOTB" and "Laly's."

Follow Neurodivergent on WordPress.com

11 comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this, Laly, really helped crystalise a few thoughts in my mind too. Given our natural penchant for learning and researching, it makes total sense to do our own ‘coach training’ Love it. Thank you.

    1. Sarah, I’m so glad it helped you!
      Thank you so much for taking a moment to give me your opinion on this.
      I have more posts scheduled, as I mentioned in the newsletter 😉
      Have a great day!

  2. Thanks so much you just saved me “thousands of dollars and mortgaging my house” haha. Top work, love your style, will be coming back for more.

    1. 🤣🤣🤣🤣 well I’m glad I helped protecting your wallet!
      And “Top work”? Woman! You really know how to boost one’s dopamine (Thank you so much, seriously)
      Welcome to the blog!

  3. Ive been procrastinating for months about doing the ADDCA certification. Heres one time when my ADHD has prevented me from making a huge mistake. Im in Australia and no-one knows who they are here anyway. We are only just starting to recognise ADHD coaching at all! Im going to take your advice and move forward on my own. But I’ll definitely be following you here. Thanks so much.

    1. No one knows them? 😂😂😂
      Welcome Diana!
      I’m glad this post helped you! (and congrats on mastering your brain to wait and seek patiently for the right choice 😉)
      I am developing something very cool for those who want to take this road on their own.
      You’ll love it!
      So, it makes me very happy you’ve already decided to join the blog
      xo
      (and of course, you’re welcome 💞♾)

  4. Hey Laly,

    I just stumbled upon your blog by accident (you know how it goes..), and damn you got my attention. I just got diagnosed with ADHD (aged 32) and while obviously I’m shaken to my very core, I also feel a very strong drive to get involved, to do something.

    You mention here in the comments you’re ‘developing something very cool for those who want to take this road on their own’. Can you elaborate?

    Meanwhile I’ll probably read your entire blog in one sitting, feels like I’ve come to the right place 🙂

    1. Tim, welcome!
      Gosh, you made me weep (happy tears 🤗)
      The diagnosis as an adult, yeah… You’ll probably feel you’re in a roller coaster for a while
      Here’s what I felt (ICYMI) “How Having ADHD Saved Me From a Lifetime of Traumas

      To answer to your question: I am developing courses, in our own neurodiverse way; meaning, they are not courses “per se”, and they are going to be affordable
      I was hoping to launch them this month; I am doing my best (you know how it goes 😂)
      I’ve got two more blogs: one about pop music, the other one about web development;
      so to switch to neuroscience in the middle of the morning … “not easy”

      Tim,
      I cannot thank you enough for your kind words.
      You boosted my dopamine, and this is one of those days when I really needed it.
      Thank you, and once again, welcome!!!

      PS: Regarding wanting to get involved, find me on LinkedIn. We can chat over there if you want

  5. Thank you for sharing. I am a therapist with ADHD looking to become a “coach,” but I could not justify paying for a certification after obtaining my masters to become a therapist. I am taking your advice and doing my own research on the brain vs ADHD brain, the struggles and strategies and will go from there. So far Peg Dawson and Russell Barkley have given me a lot of what you suggested.

    1. Hello Kim, welcome!
      And thank you for taking the time to leave your opinion.
      With a masters… c’mon! Of course those private certificates won’t matter!
      This is exactly why I wrote this series of posts.
      You said it all, and I guess I did too.
      I need to read Dawson… I like Barkley a lot; his books have tons of sources to continue studying, and he writes and explains everything so well…
      I hope you stick around!
      Best of luck with your new journey!
      xo, Laly

  6. Another sleepless night here and I’m up googling about ADHD coach programs…one I found is interesting but you have to pay for the program (which isn’t as involved as ADDCA or iACT, etc.)
    but then you pay money every year to renew the license to use the materials for this company. What happens when they decide to pursue another path -you have paid money for training and yearly for the use of their materials?
    I have to say that I have called around and personally talked to several of the big outfits out there that provide the ICF “approved” programs and it almost felt like I was talking to a robot. This happened even in an area that was not for ADHD -every single person had their talking points and could not seem to get off of the track of what they talk about.
    For me the bigger concern lies with ICF and how they are recommending places -as well as the fact that at any moment, regulation could occur and none of these programs could be valid.
    Passionate about serving in a capacity to help those with ADHD but it is a real challenge trying to find the right answer.
    A lot of time and money is involved and a ton of risk…there are master degree programs that you can take classes for less.

So what do you think?