The Importance of Executive Function Coaching in College
Recently, Dr. Russell Barkley and Associates reported about ADHD and executive function coaching for college students. While similar to life coaching, executive function coaching for the college student includes elements that help the student to develop better methods to help address self-regulation impairments as well as study skills and general executive functioning deficits.
College students with ADHD are often coming from an environment where routines are established and enforced by parents or community. Oftentimes the parents are providing the “frontal lobe” functions of time management, scheduling, and organization. However, once a student goes to college, they are expected to know how to do this for themselves. This is where EF coaching can support the student.
Students with ADHD might experience a variety of reasons why they are not successful in the beginning semesters of college, while their frontal lobes are still developing:
*College environment taxes the EF skills
*Less structure in the day –-need for more internal structure
*Difficulty activating and sustaining effort across time
*Difficulty developing realistic plans
*Regulating emotional reactions to daily frustrations
The introduction of a coach can provide the scaffolding and support many college students need while allowing them to continue to be independent. When working with a coach, college students can learn important skills such as:
*Improvements in study skills and learning strategies
*Increased study time
*Achievement of personal course related goals
*Increased positive thoughts and behaviors
*Utilizing goal attainment skills
*Increased positive expectations for performance
Coaching can happen in a variety of ways. Appointments can either be face to face or through interactive video. Often times, depending on what the current focus is in session, there may be midweek check-in via text or email.
The research indicates that students who participate in coaching are more likely to persist in their academic programs and still attend university or college one year after coaching ended. Aside from coaching, therapy may be needed to help with existing mental health issues that can often block the progress of coaching. When therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy was accessed, the combination of CBT and coaching demonstrated significant improvement in students who participated in a modified coaching program.
Many college student support centers offer a type of coaching support. It is important to make sure that the professional working with the student is properly trained in the area of ADHD and executive functions. Not all students are ready to be coached either. They may not be emotionally ready for the frequent interactions and accountability that coaching requires. But when the student is ready, knowing the benefits of coaching is the first step in helping to reach the goal of graduation.