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Multimodal ADHD Treatment Approach

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

The most effective ADHD treatment: A multimodal approach

A multimodal treatment approach is considered the most effective approach for children and adolescents with ADHD. Multimodal treatment simply means utilizing multiple methods and interventions. The goal is to arrive at the best mix of treatment 'ingredients' for each individual person. Working together in a synergistic fashion, each treatment component enhances the effectiveness of the other components. This is very similar to baking a cake. An egg, some flour and sugar, along with flavoring and a leavening agent, form a cake. By themselves, the elements are nothing special. When combined together, they form a delicious cake. The key elements of the multimodal treatment approach include:

The primary message of this approach is that no single intervention, by itself, is sufficient. In most cases, both child and caregiver will receive help, but concerning different things. For instance, a child will need skills training to learn to control certain disruptive behaviors. Caregivers will need skills training to learn the best parenting strategies. The 1999 Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA Study) remains the largest ADHD treatment study (MTA Study, 2009)The study examined various ADHD treatment options. It found the combination of medication with psychosocial interventions was the best treatment strategy. Specifically, an individualized plan, combining medication and various psychosocial interventions, is more effective than either one by itself.

The exact combination of treatment components will naturally vary because each child is unique. The most effective treatment is the one tailored to meet the individual needs of each child and their family. However, treatment plans will change over time. As children grow and mature, their treatment must adapt to these changes. Therefore, caregivers should expect that the treatment process is an ongoing and dynamic one.