Blog: What is Executive Function Coaching?

Is it like having a personal assistant?

Will my child or teen be more likely to become a CEO after working with a coach?

With the new year and new semester starting up or just getting underway for many students, now seems like a good time to raise awareness of one approach towards helping people thrive not just in school but in life.

“James, you know the material. If only you could keep better track of your assignments, not procrastinate, and turn in assignments, you’d be doing much better academically.”

Does this sound familiar?

Many students know the material. Still, difficulties with executive functioning (EF) impede their ability to follow through with getting started, tracking what assignments need to be completed (even if they are all listed in an online portal such as Canvas), getting them finished, and turned in. Similarly, EF issues can contribute to procrastination, trouble devoting time to studying, and executing practical study tools.

EF are a set of mental processes that are necessary for task completion. Please see for a more detailed explanation of EF.

The EF issues noted above may seem familiar for those of you who have children or teens with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or have this yourself. Without going into too much unnecessary detail, EF issues essentially underlie ADHD, so most people with ADHD by default have deficits in EF skills. However, these weaknesses can be present differently. Furthermore, many people without ADHD can have EF limitations due to a variety of causes, including weak development of skills, anxiety, depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, learning disabilities, and numerous other issues as well.

EF coaching is a way to help children, teens, and adults learn strategies to improve their EF skills and navigate current demands regarding schoolwork, work, and other areas of life that are impacted by EF weaknesses. It is essential to understand that professionals who help people with EF skills can approach this work differently. There are also a variety of professionals in different fields that do this type of work. People with education backgrounds such as tutors, mental health professionals, speech and language therapists, ADHD coaches, and numerous other types of professionals may conduct what is commonly referred to as Executive Function coaching.

As you can imagine, given the variety of professionals available to help your child, teen, or yourself with EF-related issues, it can be hard to know where to start. Given that each person’s situation is different, this article cannot give you individualized guidance on how to seek out the best professional for your needs. Nonetheless, asking yourself (and sometimes the professional as well) some of these questions can help guide you.

  1. What is the likely cause of the EF issues? ADHD, anxiety, depression, lack of knowledge on what to do?
  2. Is the professional that I choose likely able to support and address the EF weaknesses based on the most probable causes for them? What is their background, degree, training, and experience like?
  3. Are other types of supports (i.e., psychotherapy, medication) necessary also, and beneficial to implement before doing EF coaching?
  4. Do I want to bring about long-term changes or simply fix the problem in the moment?
  5. Do I want a professional who has a set system or framework that they use or one with a lot of flexibility?

I hope that this article is useful to you in raising awareness of the existence of Executive Function coaching and gives you a good starting point for seeking it out if you feel that it would be beneficial for you or someone in your family.

Copyright 2022 Carey A. Heller, Psy.D.

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