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Counseling for Child with ADD?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My daughter was diagnosed with ADD and was put on Ritalin. She kept telling me she felt angry but didn't know why. I voiced my concern to her pediatrician and he switched her to Aderol. She seems to be doing somewhat better with the mood swings, but she's still troubled with feelings of anger. She isn't an aggressive child, but she's assertive and has a lot of energy. Her doctor hasn't recommended counseling.

She says I don't like her unless she's taking the medicine and that she doesn't need it to do well in school. Her teacher and I have seen a tremendous improvement in her ability to concentrate and complete her assignments. Her dad and I are divorced and he isn't convinced she has ADD although he gives her the medication.

Can behavioral modification strategies work without seeing a professional, or does she have some feelings that she needs to voice to someone besides her parents?

A: I respectfully disagree with your pediatrician about her not needing counseling. It appears that she was diagnosed with ADHD by your pediatrician and that he is medicating her. Medicating kids with these drugs is a very sophisticated task that should be done by a pediatric specialist who has extensive knowledge and experience with these and other such medications given to youngsters. I wonder if all other explanations for her symptoms were explored thoroughly before she was diagnosed with ADHD and medicated. ADHD should not be the automatic first explanation offered before comprehensively examining all physical, neurological, psychological, nutritional, and behavioral explanations for a child's symptoms. For instance, have her anger and school-based difficulties ever been looked at as manifestations of the breakup of her family through divorce?

Your daughter deserves the opportunity to express her feelings to a compassionate, understanding, objective therapist well versed in family dynamics and ADHD. I recommend that you use behavioral conditioning techniques in conjunction with having discussed them first with a therapist. I'd also recommend that you and your ex-husband seek therapy so that you might learn better how to co-parent your daughter. My guess is that there are more parenting issues than this ADHD diagnosis that you don't see eye to eye on. Please consider the approaches that I mentioned as a way to get your daughter the comprehensive care that her situation merits. Thanks for writing.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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