Recently the New York Times featured an article titled “Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits” by Daniel Goleman which highlighted the usefulness of mindfulness training for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD). It is exciting to see a publication like NYT and the conventional ADHD researchers starting to see value of mindfulness for ADHD. I hope this will further our public and clinicians’ appreciation of mindfulness as a way to strengthen attention and emotion self-regulation skills in ADHD. My only wish is that the article did better job describing the resources that already exist for those interested in this approach, namely the Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD program we developed at UCLA (1) and the Mindful Parenting/MYmind program developed by Dr Susan Bogel’s at U of Netherlands (5). Such programs can help those struggling with ADHD (or clinicians that work with them) start incorporating mindfulness for ADHD management.
As an integrative psychiatrist specializing in ADHD, I have been working with ADHD since 2003. As a researcher at UCLA, I designed a feasibility study of mindfulness training in adults and teens with ADHD. The study was one of the first efforts to adapt mindfulness trainings to ADHD and my research collaborators and I set out to put together a program that was relevant to ADHD and overall taught in an ADHD-friendly way. Using MBSR and MBCT as models of mindfulness, we developed an 8-week training—Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD--that was taught in gradual, ‘chunking way’ often helpful in ADHD. The program introduces new ‘objects of attention’ sequentially, starting with attention itself, then senses, breath, sounds, body, thoughts, feelings and interactions. We weaved ADHD education throughout the training. The formal practice was phased in gradually, starting with 5 min and up to 15-20 min, we emphasized informal practiced in daily life, and included self-compassion training. We anticipated that formal practice may be challenging for those with ADHD and wanted the training to be both flexible and encouraging. We also knew that self-doubt and negative feelings are common in ADHD and that self-compassion was much needed. The approach was well-accepted by teens and adults with ADHD in our study, who also showed reduction in ADHD symptoms, anxiety and depression and improvements on measures of attention and executive functions (1). Follow up studies further support the use of our program with ADHD adults (2) and children (3, 4) while Dr. Bogel’s group has shown that similar mindfulness-based approach can be helpful with families with ADHD children and teens (5-7).
The NYT article shows that combination of ADHD and mindfulness no longer raises eyebrows as it did back when I first started my research work. Then, I often had to respond to a question like this: ‘So you want to have people who have trouble sitting and paying attention sit quietly in meditation and pay attention?’ Now, there is a growing understanding that mindfulness is just the approach for ADHD, especially if taught in a gradual, ADHD-friendly way. So I am excited to say that UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute is now launching our course Mindfulness for ADHD: Training for Adults, Parents and Professionals, August 7-10, 2014 at Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. The training is a retreat-version of the 8-week MAPs for ADHD, a great introduction for those wanting to learn how to use mindfulness for ADHD. I am joined by Gloria Kamler, a long-time meditation teacher and faculty at UCLA Midful Awareness Center. For this training, we decided to bring general public and clinicians together to create an accepting, non-judgmental learning environment in which both the unique struggles of ADHD and the struggles of ‘human condition’ can be seen on a spectrum. We hope to empower those with and without ADHD to incorporate a mindful and compassionate perspective into their lives.
I hope that if you or someone you know cares about ADHD, you will consider joining us for this training. The retreat setting will offer a respite and you get a concentrated dose of mindfulness. Why not hyperfocus on mindfulness for a weekend!
- Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, T. S., . . . Smalley, S. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: A feasibility study. J Atten Disord, 11(6), 737-746. doi: 10.1177/1087054707308502
- Mitchell, J. T., McIntyre, E. M., English, J. S., Dennis, M. F., Beckham, J. C., & Kollins, S. H. (in press). A pilot trial of mindfulness meditation training for ADHD in adulthood: Impact on core symptoms, executive functioning, and emotion dysregulation. J Atten Disord. doi: 10.1177/1087054713513328
- Uliando, A. (2010). Mindfulness training for the management of children with ADHD. Deakin University, http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30033065.
- Worth, D (2013) Mindfulness Meditation and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptom Reduction in Middle School Students. Walden University, http://gradworks.umi.com/35/99/3599854.html
- Bögels, S., & Restifo, K. (2014). Mindful parenting: A guide for mental health practitioners. New York: Springer.
- van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A. R., de Bruin, E. I., & Bogels, S. M. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(5), 775-787.
- van der Oord, S., Bogels, S. M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(1), 139-147.