Research: The efficacy of family-based therapies for children with ADHD

The number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Common treatments include medications that regulate dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, but new research from the University of Arizona indicates that a family-centered therapeutic approach is highly effective for reducing ADHD symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. 

In the experiment, the researchers recruited children between the ages of 6 and 8 that had been diagnosed with or were suspected of having ADHD. The researchers worked with the parents of the children to adopt the “nurtured heart approach” to ADHD treatment in which parents, rather than children, are the focus of the therapeutic approach. 

At first, the researchers only conducted the new approach with half of the parents involved and after six weeks, they found that of the children who originally scored high in inattention, 31 percent showed significant improvements and of the children who originally scored high in hyperactivity, 11 percent showed significant improvements. 

The “nurtured heart approach” was originally developed by family therapist Howard Glasser as a medicine-free alternative to ADHD therapy. The approach focuses on training parents to foster a sense of connection between themselves and their children to promote improved confidence and self-worth. Parents are taught specific strategies to connect with their children when they are exhibiting symptoms of ADHD and engage them in activities and discussions that help them refocus. 

In addition to statistically promising results from the experiment, the researchers also received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the parents who participated. This study offers a potential solution for treating children with ADHD with a reduced amount or even no medical stimulants.

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