Psychological treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: a systematic review

Actas Esp Psiquiatr. May-Jun 2012;40(3):147-54. Epub 2012 May 1.


Introduction: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder of childhood onset. The disorder persists into adulthood in most cases, significantly affecting patient function. Although the firstline choice of treatment for ADHD is pharmacological, drug treatments are not always sufficient. All the published studies on the psychological treatment of ADHD were systematically reviewed for the present article.

Method: The MEDLINE and PsychINFO electronic databases were searched using the terms psychological treatment OR psychotherapy OR psychosocial treatment AND ADHD. Patient age was restricted to adults (all adult:19+ years).

Results: Eighteen published studies met inclusion criteria for the review. Fifteen efficacy studies of psychological treatment were selected (cognitive behavioral therapy, metacognitive therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, coaching, cognitive remediation) and three previous reviews.

Conclusions: The results indicate that cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective psychological treatment for ADHD symptoms in adults and the comorbid symptoms of anxiety and depression, which have an important functional impact on the daily life of patients. However, more research is needed to know the differential effects of each psychological approach in relation to improved ADHD symptoms in adults. Finally, future directions for the psychosocial treatment of ADHD problems of adults are suggested.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / rehabilitation
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Humans