Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My ADHD Story – Part 1 Self-disclosure and Ethics.

First and foremost, I am not a fan of professionals who self-disclose too much. However, this is my blog, and it is for educational purposes. I hope my story helps.

I am a school psychologist with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - SEVERE ADHD. This is something that I very infrequently disclose to my parents or students. If/when I do, it is with much reservation and deliberation on whether the disclosure is to the student’s benefit or my own. Unfortunately, I disclose too freely to my co-workers. They disclose to whomever they want. For some reason, anyone that has met me off of my medication (methylphenidate) figures it out without being told.

Many parents and teachers think that it is great when a professional has a personal issue with the topic at hand, and they readily dismiss anyone that is not in the club. Ask any school psychologist without children how many times they have been told, “You may have the degree, but don’t tell me what it is like to raise a child.” Guess what? None of the research or my advice have changed since I became a parent.

To some folks, all of the credentials and experience mean nothing. They will listen to the folks at the beauty salon over the professional. Then, they find out that I have ADHD, and I get immediate Street Cred. This would seem a good motivator to disclose more often. Why not?

Too many people get attracted to a helping profession because of their own issues. Do an informal survey. Ask every drug counselor you meet about their personal experience with drugs/alcohol. Scary. I know a lot of crazy mental health professionals.

Do I, “know what it is like?” Yes, I do. I know what it is like for me, but that is my point. I know what it is like for me, but it is not about me. Other people don’t have my genetics, parents, support systems, upbringing, etc. In that regard, I am lucky. Most people with ADHD are not like me. When I was assessed and diagnosed, I had about a 5 standard deviation discrepancy between my baseline ability (measured un-medicated) and attention/impulsivity. That is 3-4 times more than necessary to be considered “significant” in the State of California. It is also very rare. In fact, I would love for someone to look up the statistical probability on a 5 standard deviation discrepancy.

It is my job to assess and help the unique individuals that I serve. There are trends, research, and best practices. It always goes back to the individual. My own personal emotions, history, and biases stand to do more harm than good.

I have seen this happen. I have seen a school psychologist (and parent of children with Autism) try to diagnose every kid with a flat affect or social problems with an Autism Spectrum Disorder – even if they were 17 and stoned. I have also seen a rape crisis counselor almost yelling at a client because she stated, “The Christian in me needs to forgive him so that I can move on with my life.” We never saw her again.

This does not mean that having a learning challenge in my profession is all bad. (My employees may disagree on this one.) I have a motivation to help students with learning challenges that few people could rival. I am also a believer, in part, of the “Gift of ADHD” in terms of thinking outside of the box. There are times when personal experience can help… more on that later. It just requires vigilance and checks/balances.

I think that we do a great job of addressing counter-transference and personal bias in most graduate programs and internships. However, once licensed and in the working world, I think we forget to re-visit those extremely important issues - which is why I spent all of my time talking about disclosure and ethics, and little on actually self-disclosing.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere, Eric. I look forward to your posts!

  2. Dr. Beam,

    What are you thoughts on the usage of "alternative therapies" in regards to children that may have ADD/ADHD or just a general hyperactivity? Specifically nutritional interventions.

  3. Thanks for the question.

    So far, the majority of questions that I have received have revolved around medication versus alternative therapies.

    I will make this a future topic.

  4. Very interesting and thanks for writting this. Have you been tested while on the medication?

  5. No. I do have some productivity info that will be in my next post. Now that I give all of these tests for a living, there are some validity issues in me taking them. There would be no benefit from additional testing for me.