Career Services are Valuable to Clients with ADHD

Career services valuable to ADHD clients

Let me share a memorable and moving story about why career services are valuable to clients with ADHD.

He walked into my office wearing a kilt with matching tartan knee socks. “What part of Scotland are you from?” I asked.

“I’m not from Scotland,” he replied. “I’ve always wanted a kilt. I also wear re-enactment costumes from various wars.”

“Why do you do that?” I asked.

“Because I have a fear of being forgotten,” he replied. “I don’t want to walk around unnoticed through life.”

I understood.

Isn’t that why most clients seek career services?

Career development refers to the lifelong process of developing beliefs and values, skills and aptitudes, interests, personality characteristics, and knowledge of the world of work (Tolbert, 1974). This process results in fulfillment of purpose.

But what has happened to the sense of purpose of this young adult in the kilt, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), lacks focus, reports he is unable to concentrate for any length of time, has lost interest in school, procrastinates on the job, and is unable to retain employment?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a highly publicized behavioural disorder that affects approximately 3-7 percent of all children. What is much less known is the probability that many of these same children will still have ADHD as adults. A rating scale using four factors has been developed that may prove to be useful in identifying adults with ADHD.

  1. Inattention and memory problems (being absent-minded, not completing tasks, having trouble getting motivated, changing jobs often)
  2. Hyperactivity and restlessness (always being in motion, easily bored, risk- taking, attracted to fast-paced jobs and activities)
  3. Impulsiveness and emotional instability (easily frustrated, easily angered, unpredictable, saying things without thinking first, interrupting others)
  4. Problems with self-worth (may appear confident to others, but not themselves, may avoid new challenges out of fear of failure)

(Adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition – DSM-IV)

Typically, adults with ADHD are unaware that they have this disorder – they often feel that it is impossible to get organized, to stick to a job, to keep an appointment. The everyday tasks of getting up and getting ready for the day’s work, getting to work on time, and being productive on the job can be major challenges for the ADHD adult.

Roessler and Bolton (1978) contended that people with disabilities have the potential for creating a poor self-concept. They tend to report lower self-esteem. A life associated with constant rejection or failure and being labelled as “different” can potentially create a poor self-image.

The goal of career services is to assist with accurate assessment of strengths and weaknesses in order to help the client to modify their self-perception. The establishment of a positive self-image is critical to the needs of this client.

And so the conversation begins. He is encouraged to hear that our process intends to “take the best of who he is, and apply it to the workplace.” He says he has never heard of this approach before, but is certainly willing to give it a try.

What is the value of career services? It is to ensure that our clients find their place in the world; that they are not forgotten.

Tolbert, E.L. (1974). Counselling for Career Development. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Roessler, R., & Bolton, B. (1978). Psychological Adjustment to Disability. Baltimore: University Park Press.

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition. Washington. DC, American Psychiatric Association (1994)

Article by Julie Fulford

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Great article.