A randomized controlled trial of cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD in medication-treated adolescents

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Nov;57(11):1218-1226. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12549. Epub 2016 Mar 17.


Objective: To test cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for persistent attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in a sample of medication-treated adolescents.

Methods: Forty-six adolescents (ages 14-18), with clinically significant ADHD symptoms despite stable medication treatment were randomly assigned to receive CBT for ADHD or wait list control in a cross-over design. Twenty-four were randomized to CBT, 22 to wait list, and 15 crossed-over from wait list to CBT. A blind independent evaluator (IE) rated symptom severity on the ADHD Current Symptom Scale, by adolescent and parent report, and rated each subject using the Clinical Global Impression Severity Scale (CGI), a global measure of distress and impairment. These assessments were performed at baseline, 4-months (post-CBT or post wait list), and 8-months (post-treatment for those originally assigned to the wait list condition and 4-month follow-up for those originally assigned to CBT).

Trial registration: http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01019252.

Results: Using all available data, mixed effects modeling, and pooling for the wait list cross-over, participants who received CBT received a mean score 10.93 lower on the IE-rated parent assessment of symptom severity (95% CI: -12.93, -8.93; p < .0001), 5.24 lower on the IE-rated adolescent assessment of symptom severity (95% CI: -7.21, -3.28; p < .0001), and 1.17 lower IE-rated CGI (95% CI: -1.39, -.94; p < .0001). Results were consistent across 100 multiple imputations (all p < .0001). There was a greater proportion of responders after CBT by parent (50% vs. 18%, p = .00) and adolescent (58% vs. 18% p = .02) report.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates initial efficacy of CBT for adolescents with ADHD who continued to exhibit persistent symptoms despite medications.

Keywords: ADHD; adolescence; behavior therapy; cognitive therapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Severity of Illness Index

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01019252