Behind the Scenes at Elevate Health and Wellness with Dr. Carolyn Dennett, Psy.D.
Updated: Nov 16
Dr. Dennett serves as Elevate's lead Clinical Psychologist working with an array of adolescents and families. She is known to many here at our practice due to her unparalleled compassion for the clients she works with, coupled with her unmatched clinical expertise in a broad range of mental health conditions, most notably ADHD. We recently sat down with Dr. Dennett to take a closer look at her day-to-day work here at Elevate Health and Wellness.
Why did you start working with individuals with ADHD?
ADHD is often a misunderstood diagnosis. One of the common myths preventing individuals from seeking evaluation and treatment is that ADHD only affects young boys who struggle to sit in their classroom seats. Although that may be true for some, I realized early in my career while working in University Mental Health that many young adults feel paralyzed and stuck in their development without knowing why. Through evaluation and assessment a pattern of symptoms often emerged, dating back to childhood and carried throughout the lifespan, which established a cluster of symptoms categorized as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For many, this process of evaluation felt like turning the lights on for the first time in a dark room so they could finally see. For others, grief and sadness emerged as they recognized their struggle and pain could have been comforted. Regardless, the emotional impact of understanding their “ADHD brain” allowed them a path forward to accept strengths and build strategies to manage their deficits. I have found that ADHD diagnosis provides adolescents and adults empowerment to restructure their life in a way that matches them best. I am committed to helping every person self-actualize to become their best self.
What is the difference between Executive Functioning Skills and ADHD?
Executive functioning skills are cognitive processes that allow one to plan and carry out goals; including attention, working memory, inhibition (opposite of impulsivity), and problem-solving.
ADHD is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that interferes and impairs functioning and/or development in the home, work, school, and/or social settings.
In other words, everyone has executive functioning strengths and weaknesses, though when there is a profound impairment in these skills then individuals are often assessed for the diagnosis of ADHD. One can struggle with executive functioning skills and not have ADHD. Many individuals who struggle with anxiety, depression, and/or substance abuse also struggle with executive functioning deficits while they are symptomatic for those conditions.
What is the importance of differential diagnosis?
Many individuals who struggle with anxiety, sleep disturbance, depression, and substance abuse also struggle with attention, concentration, impulsivity, and distractibility. It is important to distinguish between developmental lifespan executive functioning deficits and those impairments that come and go in the presence of another condition to establish an effective treatment plan.
Can one be “cured” from ADHD and is it genetic?
ADHD cannot be cured, though through evaluation and treatment ADHD can be managed to minimize impairment in development and functioning. ADHD is considered to have a genetic loading meaning there is an increased likelihood that someone in your genetic line also carries ADHD. ADHD can also result from traumatic brain injuries and head traumas.
What treatments are available for individuals with ADHD?
Many individuals diagnosed with ADHD will pursue medication evaluation and management to relieve symptoms. At Elevate Health and Wellness, we believe in a multimodal approach of evaluation and assessment, medication evaluation, and skills-based training individually or in a group setting to learn about strategies to better regulate and manage symptoms to improve daily living.
What are challenges for parents whose children/adolescents have ADHD?
Individuals with ADHD, regardless of age, often struggle with regulation of emotions, arousal, and behaviors. Parents may struggle with ADHD themselves while also trying to teach and guide their child who has ADHD. Parents may feel as though their child does not listen, they may feel frustrated with the developmental delays, they may be angry due to their forgetfulness, and/or feel as though their child is not even trying. Learning how to recognize ADHD symptoms in your or your child’s daily life can allow the creation of interventions. These interventions, often referred to as strategies, can be practiced and internalized to create automatic processes that then reduce distress.
Why is therapy and skill building so important in the treatment of ADHD versus solely medication?
Regardless of one’s use of medication for ADHD management, skills and strategies are key to gaining control and learning to regulate your symptoms. Some of these skills focus on how to develop effective routines, reduce distractions, simplify communication, think and plan ahead, and regulate sleep, eating, and exercise.
What ADHD services are offered by Elevate Health and Wellness?
Elevate Health and Wellness provides the following services specific to ADHD:
Integrative ADHD Evaluation and Assessment
Elevate Health and Wellness has launched an Integrative ADHD Assessment and Evaluation that seeks to understand the impact of one’s executive functioning deficits throughout the lifespan to clarify a diagnosis and tailor a treatment plan for each individual. Our highly skilled practitioners will walk you through the process of gaining critical information while utilizing up-to-date technology to assess impulsivity, attention, and distractibility. We conclude by personally reviewing your unique profile and offer recommendations on how to manage your symptoms to optimize your life. Additionally, our medical staff can offer medication based interventions to help you reach your goals.
Step 1: First appointment (50-60 mins): Introduction to the evaluation & general assessment
Step 2: Second appointment (60-90 mins): Developmental assessment, an in-depth review of symptoms and completion of assessment questionnaires.
Step 3: Third Appointment (30-45 mins): Completion of the QbTest, computer-based evaluation of activity, attention, and impulse control utilizing objective data comparing the results to a group of people the same age and gender who do not have ADHD
Step 4: Fourth Appointment (60 mins): Results and feedback consisting of treatment planning, recommendations, and psychoeducation.
ADHD and Executive Functioning Skills Group
Our providers will lead you through a series of workshops in a group setting focused on building your knowledge, restructuring your thoughts, and defining strategies that help you to function with greater ease in your daily life.
Medication Evaluation and Management
Meet with one of our psychiatric providers to learn about possible medication interventions to help you reach your goals.