A Research Collaboration involving the Argyle Institute and the Douglas Hospital

"You could say that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) is one of the most misunderstood and underdiagnosed brain types in America.  You could. And, you would likely be correct."

- (Sterling, 2011)

Having an ADHD diagnosis, or raising a child who is diagnosed with ADHD, introduces a major strain on the family and negatively affects the quality of life of children and their families. This study of 40 families with a child diagnosed with ADHD is conducted in collaboration between Douglas Mental Health University Institute (Douglas Institute) and the Argyle Institute, a Montreal centre for family counselling, psychotherapy and education.

Guidelines in Canada established by Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance (CADDRA, 2011) include a holistic approach for children with ADHD that includes five steps: Parent and family education, behavioural or occupational management, psychological treatment, educational accommodation and medication management (CADDRA, 2011). Most intervention programs have focused on individual treatment(s) for the child and teaching the parents or one parent about the disorder and how to help their children cope.

The goal of the current project is to integrate family relationship intervention into the standard treatment and develop an evidence-based treatment protocol that will have a positive long term effect on children diagnosed with ADHD and their families, maximizing the treatment gains from standard treatment. We believe that:

  • Family therapy will improve the overall functional performance of the child (WFFRS) and the family (FAD) more than the standard approach for ADHD (medication, psycho-education, skill training, community support).
  • Families who have one or both parents with ADHD will benefit more from family therapy then those who do not.

Treatment will involve an amalgamation of components into a plan to address the problem areas in family functioning initially identified by the family and, with the treating therapist, modified and tailored to best address each family’s needs.

Project Personnel

Joan Keefler PhD
Project Coordinator

Joan Keefler, PhD is a Marriage and Family Therapist,  an AAMFT Approved Supervisor  and former Director of the AAMFT accredited MFT post-masters program at the Argyle Institute.  She has over 30 years experience in work and in research with individuals, couples and families helping them with difficulties adjusting to mental health problems.  She now specializes in relationship counseling for problems posed by Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.

Mariam Ter-Stepanian PhD
Project Researcher

Mariam Ter-Stepanian, PhD, works at the Douglas Institute ADHD clinic, where for the past 17 years, she has been involved in research and intervention with children diagnosed with ADHD. Additionally she is completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Sherbrooke, where her research focuses on conduct problems and ADHD.

Natalie Grizenko MD
Douglas Hospital Representative

Natalie Grizenko, MD, FRCPC works as a clinician researcher, teacher and administrator. She has been medical chief of the Severe Disruptive Behavior Disorders Program since 1988. From 1996 to 2001, she was the director of professional and hospital services at the Douglas Institute and was involved in the restructuring of ultraspecialized programs and the development of a community-based model of psychiatric services.


Goal: to develop evidence based interventions for families affected by ADHD