Is Behavior Therapy or Medication more effective in treating Children with ADHD?

Posted on February 22, 2014

Med­ica­tion treat­ment and behav­ior ther­apy are both con­sid­ered effec­tive treat­ments for ADHD; the com­bi­na­tion of these treat­ments is gen­er­ally regarded as an ideal approach for many chil­dren. How­ever, in the Mul­ti­modal Treat­ment Study of ADHD (MTA Study), the largest ADHD treat­ment study ever con­ducted, the ben­e­fit of com­bined treat­ment rel­a­tive to med­ica­tion treat­ment alone — while sig­nif­i­cant for some out­come mea­sures — was not espe­cially robust. This has led some pro­fes­sion­als to ques­tion whether behav­ior ther­apy is nec­es­sary when a child is being effec­tively treated with med­ica­tion, i.e., will behav­ior ther­apy make a suf­fi­cient dif­fer­ent to be worth­while?

A study recently pub­lished online in the Jour­nal of Abnor­mal Child Psy­chol­ogy [Pel­ham et al., (2014). A dose-ranging study of behav­ioral and phar­ma­co­log­i­cal treat­ment in social set­tings for chil­dren with ADHD, DOI 10,1007/s10802-013‑9843-8 ] takes a care­ful look at this impor­tant issue. Par­tic­i­pants were 48 5–12 year-old chil­dren with ADHD who were par­tic­i­pat­ing in an inten­sive sum­mer treat­ment pro­gram (STP). The STP ran for 9 hours/day and lasted 9 weeks. Chil­dren spent 2 hours each day in aca­d­e­mic activ­i­ties and the rest of each day in group recre­ational activ­i­ties sim­i­lar to a reg­u­lar sum­mer day camp.

The really inter­est­ing find­ings from this study con­cern the com­bi­na­tion of med­ica­tion and behav­ioral treat­ment. On vir­tu­ally all mea­sures, adding high inten­sity behav­ior man­age­ment to the low­est med­ica­tion dose of med­ica­tion yielded com­pa­ra­ble improve­ments to those pro­duced by the high dose med­ica­tion alone.

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Category(s):Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Source material from Sharp Brains