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Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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How to Better Organize Your Thoughts

Dr. Carey Heller: Psychologist in Bethesda, Maryland

While individuals with ADHD often struggle with many issues including trouble sustaining focus, hyperactivity, disorganization, and impulsivity, trouble organizing thoughts or ideas is not something that too many people immediately think of as being connected to ADHD. However, individuals with ADHD frequently struggle to organize their thoughts/ideas in many ways. Those without ADHD may also struggle for other reasons.

For example, some need to tell a whole long story in order to get to the conclusion/point of what they are trying to convey. Others may provide significant elaboration or loosely related ideas when a one sentence answer could have been provided to adequately address the question. Issues with organizing thoughts also become noticed when one is trying to figure out logistics. Specifically, if making plans to go with friends to dinner and a movie, individuals may struggle to adequately plan out timing to get to dinner and then a movie on time. In addition, for some people, they may have trouble filtering out different options (i.e., everyone meets at restaurant, Johnny picks up Sam and Susan picks up Jared).

The issues outlined above often impact one’s ability to organize thoughts that are presented orally as well as in written form. The following are several suggestions to help improve your ability or your child’s/teen’s ability to organize thoughts better:

  • After you have gone through all of the details of what you are trying to convey, summarize what you just said in one to two sentences. Getting in the habit of reviewing what you said and summarizing it over time can help the summary to become more automatic and used naturally when needed.
  • When possible, think for a moment before speaking and walk through your response in your head, keeping the long winded version to yourself. Then, provide the shortened version out loud as your answer.
  • If you have a general sense of what you need to convey before going into a situation, try the following:
    1. Make an outline of what information you need to convey.
    2. Practice producing the information out loud and then summarizing it afterwards.
    3. Audio record what you need to say and then practice summarizing it.
    4. Use text-to-speech program to dictate what you want to convey and then summarize it afterwards.

When you have trouble getting started on writing out ideas, it can be very frustrating, and also lead to avoiding writing tasks in general. Individuals have to write emails, text messages, papers, projects for work, letters to companies to complain, and for many other reasons as well. Thus, the type of writing you are doing may affect the specific tools that would be best. Thus, the following are suggested, but may need to be tailored to the specific type of writing task.

  1. If you feel at a loss as to how to get started, set a timer for five minutes and free write just to get your ideas out. Don’t worry about organization, grammar, etc. After the five minutes, review what you wrote and either start writing to complete the task or make an outline.
  2. Alternatively, talk out loud for five minutes and audio record/use text-to-speech program to write out ideas. Then go back and start writing to complete the task or prepare an outline.
  3. Before you start writing, imagine that you are creating an outline with bullet points of what you want to convey. If you are able to do so, replicate those general bullet points in written form.

I hope that these suggestions are helpful! The more you can practice better organizing your thoughts, the more quickly you will notice positive changes.

Copyright 2017 Carey A. Heller, Psy.D.

*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or careyheller@thehellerpsychologygroup.com. For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at appt@thehellerpsychologygroup.com with your contact information and availability for appointment times.

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