ADHD and Alternative Treatments : Do They Work?

Douglas Cowan Psy.D., Counseling TehachapiADHD, Teenagers, Tehachapi

When Laura’s son was diagnosed by their pediatrician with ADHD, she didn’t know what to do.  As a nurse she was aware of both the benefits and the potential problems with medications – any medications – and she didn’t want her 8 year old son to have to take a stimulant medication like Ritalin for the next several years.  So she called and asked for some advice.

Nearly 10% of children and teenagers in the United States meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD – a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty paying attention, lack of focus or concentration, “working memory” deficits, and often poor self-control, poor impulse control, or even hyperactivity.  Often the problem becomes most apparent by 3rd grade as the demands of the classroom increase, but some particularly bright kids may go as far as junior high before they are diagnosed and receive any help.

The typical treatment plan involves the family doctor prescribing a stimulant medication such as Ritalin or Adderall.  And, frankly, they are often prescribed because they usually work.  Stimulant medications can be very helpful with up to 90% of the children and teens who are “hyper-active” and “impulsive,” but are far less helpful for those who are “hypo-active” or in a “brain fog,” providing only 20% with “very good” responses to the medication.

But getting the prescription for the medication brings up questions in most parent’s minds, such as, “How long will my child need to take the medication?” and “Does this medication have any side-effects that may hurt my child?”  These are appropriate questions, and there are about 50 more good questions that should be discussed as well.  The answers to the questions above are, “We don’t know how long,” and “Yes, maybe.”

So, even though medications can be very helpful, are there other options for the treatment of ADHD that might actually help a child, teen, or even adult with ADHD.

Yes.  There are some very good “alternative treatments” available. Here are a few of my favorites:

I start all of my ADHD clients with our ADHD Diet program as found at  It is an eating program to initially find if there are any food sensitivities that might be causing the symptoms, and then provides strategies to optimize brain performance with the foods that you eat.  I sell this program online, but if you would like a free copy I would be happy to email one to you.

The nutraceutical “Attend” by VAXA International is an outstanding over the counter product for the symptoms of ADHD.  It is not as good as Ritalin in addressing the core symptoms, but it is better than most other medications.  When paired with the product “Extress” it is a very good option to address symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity, and even temper outbursts.  Back in 1996 I performed the R&D studies on the effectiveness of the product for the manufacturer, and I’ve written a great deal about it over the years at the ADHD Information Library at for parents.  It is available at our office in BVS, or online at from a variety of sources.

EEG Biofeedback training is another effective treatment option.  Like the Attend, it is not quite as good as Ritalin, but is better than the other medications at treating the core symptoms.  The biggest drawback for EEG Biofeedback training is the investment of time and money to be successful.  Forty training sessions are not uncommon to achieve the target goals, at a cost of $4000-5000 for a course of treatment.  Although I was the first professional to bring EEG Biofeedback to Kern County several years ago, I no longer provide the service.  I like it, but when I went full time into ministry I had no reason to keep the expensive treatment units.  However, there are two providers in nearby Bakersfield.  The best source of information on this treatment modality is from Sigfried and Susan Othmer  at

These have become my favorite “go to” alternative treatment options over the past 30 years of providing therapy and counseling to over 1,000 children, teens, and adults with ADHD.  Laura chose to try the Eating Program, and the Attend nutraceutical product for her son.  She writes, My son has been using ATTEND for five years now, and he couldn’t do school without it. It has made a tremendous difference in his life – and our family.” And Laura, I am glad that it has helped your son to be more successful.

I am sure that there are other good options available that I am unaware of today.  Yet there are also some “alternatives” that are barely more than worthless, so be careful not to invest too much time or energy into some remedy that may not help – or may even hurt.



Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., M.S. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Tehachapi, CA who has helped hundreds of children, teens, and adults overcome ADHD, find relief for depression or anxiety, and solve other problems in life since 1989. He served on the medical advisory board to the company that makes Attend and Extress from 1997 through 2011, and he is the Editor of the ADHD Information Library online. His weekly ADHD Newsletter goes out to 9,500 families, and his weekly radio program “The Living Room” is heard Sunday evenings at 6:00pm on KAXL 88.3 “Life FM.” Visit his website at to learn more, or call (661) 972-5953.


Douglas Cowan Psy.D., Counseling TehachapiADHD and Alternative Treatments : Do They Work?