The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adults With ADHD: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

J Atten Disord. 2020 Apr;24(6):875-888. doi: 10.1177/1087054716664413. Epub 2016 Aug 22.


Objective: To systematically review the literature on published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for adult ADHD and to establish the effectiveness of CBT in reducing ADHD symptoms. Method: A systematic review of nine RCTs and two subsequent meta-analyses of eight of the studies were conducted. Results: Just nine studies were identified, of generally good quality but with some limitations. Four trials (total N = 160) compared CBT with waiting list controls, and three trials (total N = 191) compared CBT with appropriate active control groups. Meta-analyses showed that CBT was superior to waiting list with a moderate to large effect size (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.76, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.21, 1.31], p = .006) and superior to active control groups with a small to moderate effect size (SMD = 0.43, 95% CI [0.14, 0.71], p = .004). Conclusion: These results give support to the efficacy of CBT in reducing symptoms of ADHD post-intervention.

Keywords: ADHD; CBT; RCT; meta-analysis; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Waiting Lists