AD/HD Coaching and the Four Ss

"I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do I understand."


How ADD Coaches Use the Four S's


Structure provides a safety net. Without it, we often struggle before the winds of our confusion, blown rudderless across the sea of our lives. There are several types of structure we use with an ADD client to help keep him or her grounded. Among these are:

A Systems Checklist. For example, "Do I have a system for handling my mail? Do I have a system for periodic de-cluttering? Do I have a system for assuring I eat nutritious foods? Do I have a system for monitoring at various times if I am on task ? Do I want a systems checklist?" Some don't, so there is more than one option.
Planning and Organising Tools. These tools may include a day planner, post-it notes, a pocket computer organiser, daily check-ins with the coach, to-do lists, a hand held recorder of notes dictated to yourself, and a beeper-watch asking the client to check if they are doing what was planned at a particular time. ADD-ers do well when they fill the environment with cues that help keep them on-track. When they succeed and are better organised, their confidence grows. This provides them with more time for fun and recreation, and adds needed balance to the ADD-ers focused, hard work. How helpful are the tools you use?
Clarifying Goals and Values; Goals based on inner values are vibrant and compelling. A coach asks questions to guide a client in uncovering at least five key qualities they value. Making decisions based on these values improves one's life at work, home, spiritually, and socially.
To get you thinking, here is a small sample:
 honesty  directness  community  nature
 joy  beauty  intimacy  partnership
 harmony  recognition  humour
Time spent clarifying values and goals pays off when one meets short term obligations and progresses further toward long term objectives. What do you want? If you got it, what would you have? What would it look like?
Outcome Profile. A coach is trained to ask questions forcing a client to think ahead and anticipate possible outcomes. This helps to channel intuition and creativity and offers a remedy to impulsiveness so common among ADD-ers. When Plan A doesn't work, have a Plan B. What other resources, possibilities and options are available?
Regularly scheduled calls. A set time for contact provides additional structure and a time to report in. The alliance is like a container which is designed jointly by coach and client. The purpose is to provide a sense of balance and fulfilment which helps in the confidence building. Inquiries promote inner self-reflection between coaching calls. Some inquiries might be: "What makes you feel good?", "If we could wipe the slate clean, what would you do?" or "What impact will that have on your values?"


Everyone can benefit from support, not only at falling-apart times, but also during times when we are evolving and we are uncertain. Encouragement and appreciation of one's efforts reduce fear and lessen the possibility of being overwhelmed. ADD coaches know that their clients generally run on a near-empty emotional gas tank and require regular refuelling until they slowly learn from self-awareness and their experiences to refuel themselves.

Confidential, Safe, Trusting Relationship. In this relationship an ADD person may have the first opportunity to tell his or her story to a listener who is trained to hear them without critical judgements. The coach offers undivided attention to witnesses a client's frustrations and disappointments. The coach listens with empathy and is not trying to "fix" or change a client. To draw out the client's story, the coach might ask, "What led up to ...", or "What have you tried so far?"
Objective Feedback and Monitoring Progress. Part of support is to reflect back to the client what the coach sees him or her saying and doing. For example, a coach might say, "It seems as though you're making extra work for yourself. Can you think of ways that you can have it be easier?" Though a coach is supportive, sometimes being supportive calls for "the hard truth"; he or she will ask pointed and direct questions. The coach might ask, "On a scale of 0 -10, how well is your approach working?" or "How realistic is your time table?" or "What was your part in this?" The client may feel uncomfortable, hurt, or even angry for a while, but from this gentle confrontation, a new wisdom may by born about "surrendering to win." A coach might ask, "What have you learned about yourself from this?"
Acknowledge Success and Celebrate Accomplishments. Basking in the glow of a small or great personal victory can be very satisfying for both client and coach. Sometimes, however, an ADD-er has difficulty letting the acknowledgement in and will minimise or brush it off. The coach holds the achievement in mind and may offer it again later. At a time when the client feels discouraged, the coach will put out reminders of victories. What acknowledgement can you give yourself today?
Championing the Client. A coach is someone who knows the client's goals and values and will repeat them during times of disillusionment and discouragement. Your coach sees you as you really are -- a magnificent human being who is striving to find your personal destiny and live up to your deepest values. A coach may even ask, "What will free you up, to see yourself as I see you?" or "What are the blocks that hold you back from your greatness?"
Clearing. As they begin their coaching call, the coach will recognise if the client is preoccupied. The coach becomes an active listener to any and all complaints for perhaps 10 minutes. A coach may encourage a client to "get it all out," and hold nothing back until the client feels emptied of complaints and resentments. Once the client is "clear" and fully present in the conversation, a coach may ask that the client to turn one or two of the complaints into a "request." Instead of feeling like a victim, for example, the client is encouraged to be "proactive." What do you need to get off your chest so you can move forward?
Being with what is. Sometimes there is a moment of sadness or anger. Your coach will give you the opportunity to stay with the feelings to see what happens. Often an image emerges, about which the coach asks questions as to size, shape, texture, etc. A story unfolds that in the end brings relief in the telling and a surge in movement. Fear often holds us back, so it is important to go slowly.


While working with a coach, Adders develop skills which help make their world and their lives more consistent. These skills help them translate great ideas into concrete steps which move them in a desired direction. New habits, however, take time and many months (or longer) of patient practice and reinforcement. Areas the coach and client might focus on include:

Time Management. Learning to estimate how long something will take and planning backwards to when one will need to start is a skill often born of severe disappointments. Things generally take twice as long as we anticipate. Managing time is a three-step process, so your coach may suggest
  • learn about and select the tools (watches, beepers, calendars, day planner, etc.)
  • put them in place (buy the tools and put them in place)
  • use them
Which of the three steps is the hardest for you? What are the priorities you want to manage better? How can it be easy?
Setting Boundaries. The idea is to recognise that you have time limits. Clients learn that they have full permission to say "no" when appropriate. When someone requests that we do something, we have at least four options: 1) say "yes" if you want to do it and have time; 2) say "no" if you don't want to do it (your time commitments are full or the request is not aligned with your values), 3) offer a qualified "yes," spell out the changes you want; 4) say "I'll got back to you by (specific day and time). Neglecting to respond is discouraged as an option.
Handling Transitions. An early challenge for the ADD person is handing the ADD diagnosis. The transition from thinking you're "lazy, crazy, or stupid" to realising you are not alone in how you perceive the world is thrilling and depressing at the same time. These mixed feelings accompany other transitions: student to worker, married to divorced, single to married, moving from one task to another. What will you tell your coach or "inner coach" about how you handle change? The most intense fears can arise before the point of transition. How can you reassure and pamper yourself today?
Taming the Inner Critics. At one time or another everyone hears an inner critic, that negative, belittling, sarcastic voice that says "You don't deserve," "You should, ought, and must...," "You'll never succeed," "You're too afraid," and worse.
The first step is being aware of the negative voice and identify the messages.The second step, the point of change, is differentiating one's self from this bothersome gremlin so that you can recognise your option. The third step is to continue detaching from the gremlin by deliberately substituting an affirmation based on your values. For instance, a client came up with " I am a good person and deserve good in my life. I live in harmony." What's an affirmation you can reach for when the gremlin sneaks in?
You may also substitute the word "could" for the gremlin's "should"; this simple replacement can be quite freeing.
Goal Setting. Here the New Oceans POWEERR well-formed outcome model and the reporter's 5W's come in handy. The coach may ask, Who's setting the goal? What specifically will you do? When will you do it? Why is this approach better than that? How will I know when it's done? What are the consequences if you do not take steps toward that goal? Pretty soon you will have an "inner coach" asking you these questions. Make sure it isn't the gremlin asking.
Holding the image steady. This is a technique developed from neuro-linguistic programming. You may feel you are bouncing around from project to project, all unfinished, and everything seems to jump out at you at once. The coach may suggest a way to steady one image at a time and keep it still. Internal representations can be slowed down and focused on as you choose using this method of mental discipline. The idea is to select a positive image (such as your favourite food), really inspect it as to size, shape colour, texture, aroma, and make just one change at a time. Bring it closer, farther away, in black and white, a blurry image. The food will probably lose its appeal because you have done such a good job changing the way you represent it. Refine this skill by practising on easy images, and you will have another tool to find direction and plan your future. What image of your success do you want to hold steady? Will you grant the coach permission to remind you of your image when you have forgotten?


Strategies are the artful means we use to move from current reality to implementing your goal, vision, or mission statement. Generals use strategies to plan and direct their operations and manoeuvre their forces into the most advantageous position prior to actual engagement with the enemy. Your coach will guide you in thinking strategically with these suggestions:

Set Up a Reward System. This popular strategy seems to come naturally to non-ADD people. Here the idea is to set a time limit on a task and reward yourself for working until the time is up. Or commit to finish one more page of a long report and then take a lunch break. This pacing of work and play may seem unnatural and weird at first, but will ultimately put you in an advantageous position to accomplish long range goals. What will recharge your batteries?
Break It Down. Break large jobs into smaller, more manageable pieces. This may be a new perspective for all-or-nothing people, but with step-by-step persistence and courage, the task will get done. Instead of tackling the whole kitchen, start with one silverware drawer; instead of cleaning out the whole closet, start with just the things on the floor. How can you have it be fun?
Establish Markers of Completion at each Step. Asking a supervisor to check one's work daily or weekly to verify completion of each step can feel intimidating but is helpful in many cases. Another marker might be to leave the coach a message that "Part A is now complete." Later the coach might ask, "What territory have you taken?" or "What keeps you on track?" What will you use to mark progress toward your goals?
Habit Training. The plan here is to attach a new pattern or habit you wish to include in your daily living to a habit that is already established. You may decide, for instance, to link washing your face in the morning (an old pattern) with taking your medications (a new pattern) right after. What new pattern do you want to learn that you can tack on to one you already know?
Strategic Planning Images. These are visual aids for getting as big a picture as you can as well as noticing the small steps and details you will take along the way.
a. Tic-tac-toe lines. Here you start with the goal in mind. The centre square is the goal desired outcome. The open boxes to the sides represent the steps that will be taken to reach the goal (with estimated completion times). If the goal has several phases, each open box can become the centre of anew tic-tac-toe design.
b. Look Ahead Three Steps The figure here is able to see ahead three steps, but then the forecasting becomes hazy and the options less defined. Move ahead the three steps you can see and trust the way will become clearer as you progress.

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