ADHD: A Treatment with No Side Effects? New Study Says Behavioral Therapy is as Effective as Medication

Posted February 15, 2008 by

Photo of drbob

I have long believed that behavioral therapy is the key to helping kids with ADHD. In fact, a new study on ADHD said that comprehensive behavioral therapy works as well as medication over the long haul. Also, earlier studies showed that after 14 months, 30% of the behavioral therapy group did just as well as those with medication. Of course, there are no side effects to behavioral therapy—except, perhaps, much happier parents and kids.

The results of this research show that 3 years from the start of the study, there was no difference in the amount of improvement between four different treatment methods. Three of the methods used medication alone or in combination with behavioral therapy, one used behavior therapy only. All four groups demonstrated significant improvement in symptoms, but the amount of improvement was the same for all of them. The research also showed slight reduction in predicted height and weight for those taking medication. I developed The Total Focus Program, after having worked with kids with ADHD for more than 20 years and parenting my own son with ADHD.

I think it works because it’s a comprehensive behavioral intervention package that helps both parents and kids learn to not only cope with ADHD, but to overcome it. The format makes it easier for parents and kids to work on getting the help they need into their busy schedules.


Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with more than 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program. Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website, which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

Popular on Empowering Parents

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    Dear Hopefulmommy: Thank you for your question. Don’t be too hard on yourself– we know you have done your best in parenting your son. Now that you have a new understanding of his behavior, you can start making some changes. The decision to medicate your child or not is always a personal one. We recommend that you work with your child’s pediatrician or a psychiatrist to discuss your concerns and choose an appropriate treatment for your son. Here is an article to look at for more information about children and medication:
    Out of Control Behavior: Should I Medicate My Child?.

  2. Hopefulmommy (Edit) Report

    As I read all of your stories, I can’t help but cry. My son is a very smart kid, but he is having some of the same problems I am reading on here. I just thought he was a stubborn kid. And his teachers tell me he is very smart, but has problems focusing, not remembering his homework, he talks in class, complains when it’s time to do homework, he has lost most of his friends because he is very direct and opinionated. I feel horrible that I have not found help for him until now. I just thought he was strong willed and therefore I punished him (time out, taking away video games/ tv) for his behavior and for being rude to us. I understand that we will still need to keep a stable invironment for him, but when it comes to what treatment to get for him, I’m lost! Are meds the way to go?!

  3. Kelli Harryman (Edit) Report

    My daughter is 11 and in 6th grade, she was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 5. I just recently took her off her focalin and she is failing 2 subjects in school,being disruptive in class and talking alot. she is bossy and very angry. we have been talking with the teachers and she is getting tutoring 2days aweek. How do I get her motivated to do good in school and pay attention ? she is a very smart Girl and very capable of getting good Grades.

  4. Lolo (Edit) Report

    I’m all for the behaviour modification training; and I think it is helpful, but it’s helpful for behaviour, not for the underlying inattention that they cannot control. Assuming that this alone is the answer is as much as saying that ADHD is really something that is caused by either bad parenting, or a kid who just doesn’t understand how to behave.

  5. M Santalla (Edit) Report

    I have a seven year old first grade boy who was diagnosed this past summer with ADHD. He is currently on Ritalin for it. The medicine
    is helping get him through the school day, but it is ruining his appetite. He is a bag of bones and I am very concerned about this.
    The doctor says the medicine is an appetite suppresent and as long as he is not losing weight as appossed to not gaining but staying the same it’s ok. I would love a healthy way to eat that would alleviate
    the need for meds.
    What’s the best combination of diet and behavior management for this age group?

  6. Dr. Robert Myers Report

    Lainie Ganley » It is not uncommon for ADHD and ODD to coexist. It is what the medical community refers to as “co-morbid conditions.” That’s why medication should not be used alone. All the guidelines call for a combination of medication and behavioral interventions for kids with more severe symptoms and especially in the presence of co-morbidity. Programs that provide a combination of parent education, behavior modification and cognitive behavioral therapy, including anger management, are the tools necessary to turn around the situation you described.

  7. Lainie Ganley (Edit) Report

    How do we know if it is ODD or ADHD? My son has been on medicine for ADHD but when he the medicine has worn off or in the morning before the medicine, he is mean, nasty, and doesn’t stop and nothing bothers him when we yell or punish. He does cry sometimes when we tell him to go to his room, but he is just defiant, mean and horrible most of the time. Help us please.

    Thank you

  8. P Tarlton (Edit) Report

    As Grandparents, we have raised our now 6 year old Grandson with ADHD ODD (diagnosed at 5 years). We have gone through almost every trauma associated with anger, frustration and other ailments associated with ADHD…and throw in ODD. After much prayer we found a Board Certified Ped’s Doctor offering wholistic approaches to this disorder (He specializes in different types of autism.) After a lengthy Lab examine we found he was extremely sensitive to casein, wheat and soy. (Which is not unusual for ADHD kids.) He was put on a gluten free diet, no casien and soy and the change was dramatic! We have all adopted this diet to make it easier on him and we feel better too! Please research this direction of therapy, it could make all the difference. We started out feeling we had to medicate him in order to aleviate the rages and oppositional behavior for his safety and ours. Now he is so much more calm and less hyperactive… the rages are gone. He is a real sweetheart to live with now. I have had to homeschool him for Kindergarten this year because he couldn’t deal with so many things in a group setting. We also see a Psychologist once a week to help him learn how to correctly respond to situations. Losing the stress of food sensitivities within his body has changed him dramaticaly. has two books: “Special Diets For Special Kids” Recommended by his Ped’s Dr. The books have helped us tremendously! We hope this was helpful to someone as another tool to help their wonderful child(ren) develop and grow, more naturally.

  9. Bernice Boothe (Edit) Report

    I personally believe the behavioral theraphy will generate the chemicals that we use the medication to help build. My son is struggling because no help at school and not even in the home from the other half. I bought the total transformation and I need help with him. 13yrs. now I talk with him and teach him strategies to cope daily. Good attitude about him; he is an extravert and not angry. Strong coping skills with his emotions. Very bright child passing difficult test but failing in school. Someone please blob on this uncomprehenable issue.

  10. Renee Parker (Edit) Report

    My nine year old son has ADHD. We are struggling through 4th grade and homework is a battle. He is currently taking Adderall XR each morning. I have a lot of concerns with giving his meds but it seems to get him through the school day. My son is easily frustrated and easily angered. And abusive in his tone of voice to myself and his Dad. We are just beginning James Lehman “The Total Transformation” workbook. Any ideas or suggestions especially on diet and supplements?
    Also, my son is seeing an adolescents therapist.
    Thank you,

  11. Lyn Williams (Edit) Report

    In reference to diet & ADHD, I have seen a huge difference in my daughter since adding a whole food supplement to our daily routine. Diagnosed with ADHD in Kindergarten, we struggled with school and she was nearly failing 3rd grade. Now halfway thru 5th grade, she is on the Honor Roll with a GPA of 3.7!!

  12. Rick (Edit) Report

    Do you ever suggest any learning disability programs like Learning Rx or the Davis Dyslexia system for helping these kids get through their studies better??

  13. Jenny Kozlowski (Edit) Report

    I’m not ready to take my son off his ADHD medication yet, but this was helpful. Is there a way to wean him off gradually, if my husband and I decide to do that?

  14. JoJo34 (Edit) Report

    I’ve had a lot of success with charts: I give my child stickers for good behavior, and it really motivates her. I took her off her meds last year and she is doing better than before, when she was on them.

  15. momof2boys (Edit) Report

    I would love to get my son off medication. One thing I’ve been trying is to modify his diet–something that is helping him a lot. I totally believe that food additives make ADHD 100 times worse.



Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help


Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families