Who can diagnose

This article is part of the series: Find Treatment and Support. You may want to start there.

You’ll find that many of the providers that diagnose and treat ADHD come from a variety of specialties; such as child and adolescent psychiatry, pediatrics and family medicine, as well as from adult psychiatry. Adults seeking experienced providers may need to seek help from sources they wouldn’t usually consider.

It is so important that the evaluating clinician is knowledgeable about ADHD. He or she must be experienced in recognizing ADHD, but also in recognizing other co-occurring conditions that may be present, as well as being able to tease out other conditions that may be confused for ADHD. Effective treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis. Misdiagnosis leads to ineffective treatment, more problems, and lots of frustration. So really do your research to find an experienced specialist.

• Psychiatrist: An MD who treats the brain and may prescribe medication
• Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: May diagnose and treat, as well as prescribe medication.
• Registered Nurse Practitioner: May also diagnose and prescribe medication.
• Psychologist: A brain specialist who is not an MD and can’t prescribe meds
• Family doctor: Knows your family but may not have extensive knowledge of ADHD. Some will work with non-prescribing specialists to medicate
• Pediatrician: Some even specialize in treating ADHD. Can prescribe.
• Neurologist: A doctor who specializes in treatment of the brain and central nervous system – May prescribe
• Behavioral Neurologist: Another MD that specializes in brain and CNS disorders – May prescribe.
• Therapist: Masters degree in therapy – May diagnose and provide therapy, but cannot prescribe.
• Master level counselor – Has a master’s degree in counseling or psychology, but no prescription authority.
• Social worker: May provide diagnosis, counseling, and behavior assistance. Cannot prescribe.

Note: The above list is congruent with recommendations of the National ADHD Research Center. lists fewer qualified professionals, compares their relative training, the services they offer, and their relative fees. Link works – Who can Diagnose ADD? – What difference does it make?


Note: One professional’s criticism of this article promotes the view that a psychologist or psychiatrist is the best choice for the diagnostic process. Preferably one with access to a diagnostic tool or two. See below. (1) Note: Many well-known practitioners use checklists and thorough interviews with the patient, as well as rating scales from close family members and, in the case of children, teachers reports, to aid in the diagnostic process. There is limited research showing that Tova, Spect scans, and EEG-Based assessments are as accurate. See our Pinterest page on the Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD for more information.


(1) Opposing Opinion from an Email sent to ADD Resources, a non-profit where this article was first posted.

Your posting on “Who Can Diagnose?” is, in my opinion, both inaccurate and unethical. It is clearly understood in most of the professional community that psychological testing is required for a diagnosis of ADHD. In addition, for accommodation purposes colleges, grad schools, SAT/ACT etc only accept diagnoses from MDs and PhDs. There is a reason for this. An ADHD diagnosis is worthless without a complete diagnosis that considers all aspects of a person’s psychological situation/makeup; that is, co-occurring conditions. Moreover, ADHD is known to be over-diagnosed in boys. That is largely because under-qualified professionals are making decisions not based on reliable and validated psychometric testing (like TOVA), but on other grounds. I have spent a career picking up the pieces from misdiagnoses. I’m very disappointed to see an organization like yours promoting this kind of misinformation. If you think this is nonsense, try checking with the AMA, American Psychiatric Association or APA.
Ross Mayberry, Ph.D. –

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