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JAMA. 2010 Aug 25;304(8):875-80. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.1192.

Cognitive behavioral therapy vs relaxation with educational support for medication-treated adults with ADHD and persistent symptoms: a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adulthood is a prevalent, distressing, and impairing condition that is not fully treated by pharmacotherapy alone and lacks evidence-based psychosocial treatments.


To test cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD in adults treated with medication but who still have clinically significant symptoms.


Randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy for 86 symptomatic adults with ADHD who were already being treated with medication. The study was conducted at a US hospital between November 2004 and June 2008 (follow-up was conducted through July 2009). Of the 86 patients randomized, 79 completed treatment and 70 completed the follow-up assessments.


Patients were randomized to 12 individual sessions of either cognitive behavioral therapy or relaxation with educational support (which is an attention-matched comparison).


The primary measures were ADHD symptoms rated by an assessor (ADHD rating scale and Clinical Global Impression scale) at baseline, posttreatment, and at 6- and 12-month follow-up. The assessor was blinded to treatment condition assignment. The secondary outcome measure was self-report of ADHD symptoms.


Cognitive behavioral therapy achieved lower posttreatment scores on both the Clinical Global Impression scale (magnitude -0.0531; 95% confidence interval [CI], -1.01 to -0.05; P = .03) and the ADHD rating scale (magnitude -4.631; 95% CI, -8.30 to -0.963; P = .02) compared with relaxation with educational support. Throughout treatment, self-reported symptoms were also significantly more improved for cognitive behavioral therapy (beta = -0.41; 95% CI, -0.64 to -0.17; P <001), and there were more treatment responders in cognitive behavioral therapy for both the Clinical Global Impression scale (53% vs 23%; odds ratio [OR], 3.80; 95% CI, 1.50 to 9.59; P = .01) and the ADHD rating scale (67% vs 33%; OR, 4.29; 95% CI, 1.74 to 10.58; P = .002). Responders and partial responders in the cognitive behavioral therapy condition maintained their gains over 6 and 12 months.


Among adults with persistent ADHD symptoms treated with medication, the use of cognitive behavioral therapy compared with relaxation with educational support resulted in improved ADHD symptoms, which were maintained at 12 months.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT00118911.

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