By Cynthia Hammer, MSW
The Truth About ADHD Directories
The first thing to know about online ADHD Directories, except for one I discuss later, is service providers pay a fee to be listed. The second thing to know is that even websites with creditable ADHD information (ADDitude, CHADD, and ADDA) have no criteria for listing service providers. Thus, neurofeedback providers are in ADDitude’s directory while articles on their website say, “The bottom line is that research support for both stimulant medication therapy and behavior therapy is stronger than it is for neurofeedback at the moment.” and “ Delaying medication, for example, in order to try neurofeedback could allow academic, behavioral, and social problems to spiral out of control.”
You can find other questionable listings in ADDitude’s directory such as AskDrLask.com, a chiropractor treating ADHD. Then there is the Doctor of Optometry who claims convergence insufficiency is three times more common in people with ADHD. What, you may ask, is convergence insufficiency, but there she is, promoting her services on the CHADD website. The CHADD directory also includes neurofeedback providers. I found only one website that reserved the right to remove a listing, but they tempered their language, by adding, “but we have never done that.”
All directories start with a disclaimer, such as, “ The ADHD doctor and therapist information provided is only to help you begin your search. We are not endorsing or screening the service providers listed in our database. This information should be just the beginning of your evaluation process in finding ADHD treatment.” Other times the disclaimer is lengthy and requires you to verify that you read it before you are able to see the listings.
There are a few directories that proudly claim they vet the service providers (ACO and Psychology Today) but, read the hidden print. There you learn that vetted means those listed have a professional license that is not expired or they have signed a statement that they have the required education and experience. A few organizations, (CHADD, ADDA and ACO) require service providers to become professional members to have a directory listing, but professional membership has no requirements beyond paying the higher fee to join the organizations.
Understanding the Problem
The preceding information is to remind you that finding an ADHD service provider in a directory is only step one in your search.
Although it is a concern that anyone can list in most directories, I don’t see a way around it. If you are considering using a service provider you found in a directory, explore further. Do a google search for the provider’s name with the word “reviews.” Read comments made by others. Call your prospects to learn their experience in diagnosing and/or treating ADHD. Learn about costs and insurance coverage.
While I am concerned about online ADHD Directories in general, my bigger concern is with websites with out-of-date and inaccurate ADHD information that also have directories. (addreferral.com and Help-With-ADHD.com) The treatment article at addreferral.com was written by a physician who died in 2003. Learning about treatment at this sight means you are reading something information at least 19 years old! Incorrect information is a concern where ever it appear, but addreferrals.com gets 17,000 hits a month. The editorial board it brags about, many of whom were affiliated with Harvard University, are retired or deceased. Addreferrals.com has an extensive list of service providers, but if they haven’t updated their articles about ADHD, (the most recent was written in 2013) I can’t trust their 1700 free listings.
Another website that seems to rest on its laurels is Help-With-ADHD.com They refer to the DSM-IV, instead of the DSM-V which was released in 2013! If you click on various links, you are told, “Coming soon. Under construction.” I wonder how many years those words have been there. Yet they still attract service providers to their directory, paying $99/year. A majority of their directory listings are for neurofeedback providers. Perhaps this is because the page that explains neurofeedback gives a glowing report on its effectiveness in treating ADHD. See below.
“Neurofeedback – also known as EEG Biofeedback or Neurotherapy – is an approach for treating childhood and adult ADHD. This technique challenges the brain to better function. This brain-based technique has been successfully helping clients around the world for over 30 years. It is a non-invasive procedure with dramatic results for treating ADHD.”
Later, the same article states “ According to the American Academy of Pediatrics in an article entitled “Computer Feedback Can Help Students With ADHD Train Their Brains,” published in March 2014, VOLUME 133 / ISSUE 3…. “Neurofeedback can contribute to lasting improvements for these children, according to this study”.
This sounds good, but don’t believe it. The research doesn’t have the title they said, and the results don’t say what they claimed. Again, proceed with caution. The providers who claim the loudest that research shows such and such are exactly the websites to steer clear of.
There are many other grave information errors on the Help-with-ADHD website. Here are some examples:
“While the childhood incidence is treated by several methods, the adult manifestation of this disorder is rarely treated.”
“ADHD medications come in two varieties: stimulants and antidepressants.”
“The side effects of stimulant-type ADHD medications can include increased heart rate and blood pressure, tremors, changes in mood, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions and irregular breathing.”
I wish that ADHD service providers would stop supporting websites that promote faulty information as they perpetuates misunderstandings and stigma about ADHD and delay people getting the help they need.
What Can We Do?
To help consumers make informed choices, ADHD directories should educate consumers about finding good service providers. They can do this by providing information for consumers to read before accessing their directories. This information should include the following:
1. The need to evaluate if the provider’s website make claims that sound too good to be true.
2. The importance of evaluating if the information at the provider’s website is up-to-date and based on scientific research.
3. Studying how a provider’s website describes medication for ADHD treatment—as effective or as harmful?
4. Research the provider online, specifically looking for reviews of the provider.
5. Call and obtain specifics about the providers, ask about their experience treating ADHD—number of years, number of patients, how many ADHD patients are they currently helping?
6. Find out how they make an ADHD diagnosis. Ask what are their common treatment plans and goals for patients with ADHD? How often will a patient be seen in follow-up visits? Ask about insurance coverage and if they provide online visits.
7. Ask how they address coexisting conditions that frequently occur with ADHD.
Being an informed consumer is being a wise consumer. I hope this article gave you a few things to think about. Best wishes in your ADHD journey.
Cynthia Hammer is the Executive Director of the Inattentive ADHD Coalition – www.iadhd.org.
She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1972. For many years she was a stay-at-home mom raising three sons while her husband spent long days at work as a general surgeon. She started a non-profit organization in 1993 to help adults with ADHD, and she recently started a different non-profit, the Inattentive ADHd Coalition to create more awareness of Inattentive ADHD. Visit it here: www.iadhd.org