May We Introduce You To: Dennis Andersen, MA, LP – Central Minnesota Counseling Center, Inc.

by Lee Gehrls R&D Coordinator (Volunteer)

Over the years our organization has worked with a number of ADHD providers in our service area, and we are always glad to be able to let our ADHD community know about their services.

Dennis Andersen, MA, LP of Central Minnesota Counseling Center, Inc. located in St. Cloud, Minnesota, has been a pioneer in testing and treating those who have ADHD for 40 years. He has dedicated many years to educating the community on ADHD and in the interest of full disclosure Dennis was instrumental in guiding our nonprofit as a board member from 1995-2004.

Dennis Andersen, MA, LP

Lee: Dennis, thank you for taking time to visit with me on the many issues of ADHD.  You have been working in this field for 40 years.  What drew you to this specific area of therapy?

Dennis: When I first began working with ADHD it was known by different names such as Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Hyperkinetic Syndrome, and ADD.  Thereafter it was described as ADHD and ADD.  The differentiation between AD and ADHD was helpful for a while however the current description is that all is ADHD with three sub types such as impulsive, inattentive, or combined.  This is both a medical and psychological problem ranging from mild to severe.

Lee: How would you describe ADHD in children?  What do you think is the hardest concept of ADHD for parents to understand?

Dennis: There is no one size fits all description of ADHD.  What is prominent in one child or adult may not be prominent in the next.  The basic pattern is lack of organizational capability.  I think the  most important concept for parents of a child with ADHD is that this is not a deliberate attempt by the child to mess up your psychological functioning.  Children do the best they can given the difficulties associated with ADHD.   I think the hardest concept for parents to grasp is that you may direct or discipline your child for the same offense numerous times without it apparently having any impact on behavior.  This is truly one aspect of behavioral functioning where persistence is an absolute critical aspect.

Lee: Can you briefly explain how ADHD affects the family and why it’s so important for the family to learn about it? 

Dennis: ADHD can have a number of different patterns of impact on the family functioning.  Some children are very passive and very inattentive while other children may display hyper focus and inability to apparently learn from experience.  ADHD is not an indication of lack of intelligence.

Lee: What would you like teachers to know about the ADHD students in their classrooms?

Dennis: The difference in children’s behavior patterns are essentially the same as the differences in the functioning family.  However, the classroom offers an environment in which there is significant stimulation.  ADHD children can quickly have negative responses to too much stimulation.  The tendency will be for the child to switch from topic to topic to topic.  It is important that tasks within the classroom be broken down into very small units.

Lee: How is ADHD different in adults?  What is the impact for them in their relationships at home and at work?

Dennis: If a person reaches adulthood and still has an active pattern of attention disorder many individuals will have learned some coping mechanisms, again dependent on how significant the level of AD is within the person.  For example, most AD persons function best in a vocational environment where there is some degree of variety and where the stimulus picture does vary to some degree, i.e., moving from one task to another task to another task and then back to the initial task.  Do keep in mind that boredom sets in very easily.

Lee: In closing, what would you like people to know about living with ADHD?

Dennis: It is important that parents in particular do not view the diagnosis of ADHD as somehow a kiss of death.  Persons with AD by definition have trouble with focus but a positive aspect of attention disorder is usually a pattern of notable creativity.  Rather than having attention which focuses routinely on a single topic, one has a pattern of expansive thinking.  There are many famous individuals, usually those in the arts or with patterns of inventiveness, who clearly had ADHD.  This includes Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and probably Charles Lindbergh.

This issue is quite remediable, and treatment generally involves a physician or equivalent to deal with medical issues and a psychologist or behavioral specialist to assist in dealing with behavioral and organization issues.  This area has been studied enough at this point that most patterns of difficulty associated with AD do have treatment alternatives.  There is some possibility that persons may actually outgrow this although the research on this is very sketchy.  If someone is going to outgrow the issues it will probably be in their late 20s.  However, during childhood and adolescence the person with ADHD, even if under active treatment, may lag behind in terms of social and behavioral functioning.

My initial contact with a child whom I now know clearly had ADHD was literally my first client out of grad school.  After five years of grad school and being taught a variety of patterns for psychological treatment it became very frustrating to realize that all the techniques I had been taught had essentially no effect on this particular child.  At the time I realized there was more than just a psychological or behavioral issue.  There had to be a biological factor involved with this.  It was shortly thereafter I was fortunate to connect with Dr. Larry Greenberg at the University of Minnesota Medical School who was one of the pioneers in describing ADHD as both a medical and psychological issue.  A joint involvement with both fields of discipline proved this necessary.  This is not always a simple issue with which to deal.

For more information contact:

Dennis Andersen, MA, LP

Central Minnesota Counseling Center, Inc

103 Doctors Park, St. Cloud, MN 56303

Phone: 320-253-4321

Fax: 320-240-8525 

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