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Training Review: PESI's Changing the ADHD Brain - Moving Beyond Medication with Dr David Nowell

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

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In my ongoing quest to learn and grow as a non-ADHD spouse, I recently discovered another invaluable resource that I can't wait to share with you. PESI, a platform I've previously recommended for supporting our education on ADHD, offered a fantastic free training session by Dr. David Nowell. After participating in this session, Dr. Nowell has solidified his place as one of my top educators in this field. Here's why I found his training so compelling and why I recommend you check it out too, especially if you're a non-ADHD spouse.

Who is Dr. David D. Nowell, PhD?

Dr. David D. Nowell, a renowned expert in the field of ADHD and neurodiversity, is a name that carries significant weight in the ADHD-impacted community. With a PhD in Clinical Psychology and extensive experience in this domain, Dr. Nowell has dedicated his career to advancing our understanding of ADHD and helping individuals and families thrive in the face of its challenges. His approach is not solely academic but also deeply practical, setting him apart as a leading figure in ADHD education.

What is the training about?

This is a training offered by PESI, led by Dr. David Nowell. While the primary target audience is therapists, teachers, and caregivers, I found it highly enlightening as a non-ADHD spouse. Many non-ADHD spouses often have to play the roles of therapist, cheerleader, and caregiver in their daily lives with their ADHD spouse.

What was the training like?

First and foremost, Dr. Nowell's presentation style is nothing short of entertaining. Let's be honest; sitting through an 8-hour online training session can be a daunting task, but his engaging approach, great use of the zoom chat feature for instant feedback and ample of Q&A sessions made it much more manageable. He covered a wide range of topics, from ADHD medication to techniques and tools suggestions, and some of his treatment philosophies. Now, let me share some key takeaways from his training that ADHD couples could benefit from.

My top 4 takeaways for ADHD couples

1. Prioritizing Important Skills for Success

Dr. Nowell emphasized the need to focus on essential life skills for long-term success, rather than getting bogged down in everyday tasks like laundry and dishes. He made a thought-provoking point by calculating the number of days we have left on Earth. This perspective shift is essential for our relationships. Instead of stressing about daily chores, he encouraged the audience to focus on helping ADHD clients acquire the skills that will genuinely contribute to a successful, long-term life. He introduced a four-quadrant framework that can help the audience prioritize these skills effectively with their ADHD clients. Anything landing in the orange quadrant, not important and not fun, he explained not to spend time on. Instead, focus on the green and yellow (important and fun, and important and not fun) and help ADHD clients build the necessary skills to support successful completion in these two quadrants.

4 Quadrant Framework

For me, a light bulb moment occurred because it made a lot of sense to me. As a non-ADHD spouse, I've often focused on minute, repetitive household tasks (not important and not fun in the long term of our marriage) with my ADHD spouse. I'd get upset because of his inability to perform those tasks while neglecting the focus on important things that matter to me and our future, such as building a financial future together. Once I realized this, I completely shifted a large portion of my focus from getting him to do many daily household tasks down to a few key ones to helping him increase his earnings, which will achieve a financial future for both of us and allow us to enjoy ourselves when retirement time comes.

2. Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches

Dr. Nowell advocated for a holistic approach that includes both top-down and bottom-up strategies. The top-down approach involves behavioral support, reframing, and strategic behavioral inquiry, like "How did you do that" (HDYDT). It's about altering behavior and understanding how ADHD clients accomplish tasks. On the other hand, the bottom-up approach involves helping ADHD clients control and self-regulate their behaviors with the concept of "modified independence" to minimize distractions and get to the completion of the next steps in the tasks. Dr. Nowell suggests providing various forms of prosthetics that help ADHD clients at their point of performance, increasing the likelihood of achieving the desired performance and outcomes.

His examples of how to determine if you have the "right" prosthetics to help ADHD clients to remember to pick up groceries on his/her way home were truly eye-opening for me. His explanation of what constitutes appropriate prosthetics and how to define the point of performance has prompted me to rethink how I could further enhance the existing prosthetics for my ADHD spouse at his points of performance to achieve the desired outcomes. While neurotypical people like non-ADHD spouse only needs a simple text message request with approximately what is needed for the dish some time during the day is sufficient. For people with ADHD, they need multiple prosthetics to support multiple points of performance - text message (prosthetics #1) as one leaves work (point of performance # 1) and a grocery list of items needed (prosthetics #2) as one enters the grocery store (point of performance #2).

3. A Toolbox of Practical Tools and Tips

Throughout the 6-hour training, Dr. Nowell shared a wealth of practical tools and tips that we can immediately implement in our daily lives with ADHD clients, our ADHD spouses. These range from using clear containers to help them locate items more easily, creating Spotify playlists for smoother morning routines like getting in and out of the shower, utilizing talk points recorders, employing timer apps like Pomodoro, and practicing various self-regulation techniques, including breathing exercises. These tools are a godsend for non-ADHD spouses seeking to provide effective support from the ground up.

For me, this was extremely valuable as I'm always looking for ways to help my husband succeed. This training surfaces many all at ones, verses a few at t time. These tools and tips are all part of the prosthetics toolbox that could aid my ADHD spouse in staying focused, being less distracted, and achieving more daily.

4. Finding the Right Partner

While this portion is brief, Dr. Nowell did take the time to talk about the importance of the right partner for people with ADHD. Finding someone that complements ADHD client's skillset is critical for long-term life success as the partner will need to help build those prosthetics and continue the work with the ADHD clients between their therapy sessions.

For me, this makes a lot of sense. While in my ADHD marriage, we have complementing skills, there are areas that neither of us are very strong in. The good thing is we continuously grow as individuals throughout our lives and many skills, like communications, can be improve bit by bit. As long as both are willing to keep the conversation channels open and willing to build up those areas , then ADHD couples can benefit from a long-term relationship together.


As part of the gratitude month, I am super grateful for Dr. Nowell and PESI bring this free training to the public to open up my perspective and find new ways to support my ADHD spouse more effectively.

Dr. Nowell's free training session is an eye-opener for anyone in an ADHD marriage. The depth of knowledge he imparts, along with the practical applications, is simply outstanding. If you missed the free training but still want to attend, you're in luck. You can purchase this training as digital seminar with on demand access for $99.99 here instead of paying the full price of $249.99. If you are in Boston and want to see him live, here is the link to the in person session.

If you were one of the luck ones that access the free training or attended the digital seminar, be sure to share your thoughts in the comment below.

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