Meet David Sitt PsyD, who advises the Agave Health team on how to provide the highest quality of care to adults with ADHD! Learn more about his background, what inspires him and his vision for adult ADHD care.
May 2023, Agave Health Team
Dr. David Sitt is a man of many hats, with a passion for lighting the path toward optimal living. As a tenured professor at Baruch College (CUNY), he exposes undergraduate students to psychology, cutting-edge research, and mysteries of the brain. At the graduate level, he trains the next generation of therapists in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). As a clinician, he specializes in treating adults with ADHD, anxiety, and mood disorders through validated modalities and innovative techniques. As a consultant and executive coach, Dr. Sitt advises thought leaders, corporations, and educational institutions, and has been featured on Vice Media, the Howard Stern Show, and the New York Times.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in working with individuals with ADHD?
My background stems from my personal world where at the foot of graduate school in my early 20’s I was diagnosed with ADHD, and that came about due to challenges I was facing in my academic studies. I was compensating unknowingly and when the demands exceeded those abilities I hit the asphalt in one of my courses. This led a professor to suggest I get an evaluation and I was diagnosed with ADHD. This was the early 2000’s and all I could find was medication. There was not much written about it, not much therapies available for adults and I saw that as a void and decided right then I would attempt to fill that void. I was certain the adult ADHD space would blow up. I was certain we would need more knowledge and more experience and treatment methods aside from medication. I threw everything I had into this and every internship and training that I did and that's when it started - whether at NYU’s famous child study center, I did research and my dissertation on this, and when the famous Hallowell Center opened a clinic in New York I got in touch right away and was hired that week as the only adult focused clinician. The rest is history as they say.
What advice would you give to someone who suspects they may have ADHD but has not yet been diagnosed?
I advise people to take time and do some psycho-education on their own. Spend time reading and finding verifiable and validated resources such as ADDitude magazine or CHADD, and learn more. If it seems that you continue to suspect that ADHD may be at play, the best is to seek out an assessment from a mental health professional who has experience in the ADHD space. Don’t go to your general MD or your nutritionist, but a mental health professional you know has experience with adult ADHD.
What are some of the most common challenges that you and adults in general with ADHD face?
I think one of the most common challenges that I and my clients face is procrastination - it’s very palpable, top of the soup experience that people with ADHD have. The propensity to struggle to get started on tasks and wanting to press the ‘not now’ button more often then the ‘now’ button. This is not just a small delay - procrastination is so powerful in the ADHD brain that when we say ‘not now’ it completely leaves our mind and we have a way of completely ignoring the task until that deadline is right upon us and then we go into full action mode which is another feature we commonly talk about in the space - the capacity for hyperfocus, and that’s the other side of the coin. We procrastinate and when the deadline arrives and we can’t push it off anymore we very often can throw all of our focus intensely, to the exclusion of everything else, to get things done. Another very common challenge we hear about is the difficulty in mapping out and planning out tasks. Things just feel overwhelming and trying to figure out how to get organized and keep all we have to do in mind and how to effectively prioritize - which is in close relation to procrastination. The biggest challenge not talked about in the DSM is emotional dysregulation. It's shocking that it’s not mentioned at all in the DSM as it's so prominent. The anxiety, depression, guilt, shame and intense emotions that come as by products to the procrastination and the ADHD tax that we pay. I can go on and on but the other prominent one is time blindness - we can't gauge time. I'm never ever early, because the way we gauge time is like a weird blob evaluation of time and sometimes we can't tell how much time has passed and we miscalculate time all the time. The research talks about a deficiency in our brain's ability to map time. Time blindness weaves through a lot of different areas.
Do you think it’s a necessity to have ADHD when becoming a coach, therapist, psychologist or specialists for adults with ADHD?
Great question! It's not a necessity to have ADHD. To be a good coach or therapist you have to be able to have empathy skills, be non judgemental, and be able to develop a strong alliance with somebody. It is difficult to understand ADHD when you don’t have it. I had a couple come in where the wife is not ADHD and the husband is, and the wife was saying that she couldn’t even understand the way he does things because she is the complete opposite. A coach needs to be able to get it and understand it from the eyes and perspective of that person, so it’s possible. With that said, it's a big advantage to have ADHD and be aggressively dealing with it when you are a coach or a therapist. When I do my work with my clients it's very easy for me because I get it and give them the relevant examples of actually living it. I always tell my clients that when they work with me they are getting a bimodal experience because you are getting 1on1 therapy but it's almost like group therapy because I'm there too sharing my experience.
What excites you most about the different types of work you do for adults with ADHD?
As an adult with ADHD, having multiple hats provides the steady flow of varying stimulation so that I remain at peak performance. I have my therapy work, professor work, my writing, social media work, consulting for Agave and other companies. To me having that variety protects me from boredom and only doing one thing would be hard. I am excited, stimulated and motivated by impact and making a difference and playing a role in the impact of others. I’ve always been driven to find ways of scaling up impact so I go from one-on-one therapy to teaching rooms of 500 students to be involved in launching companies like Agave to broaden the impact.
Partnerships, collaborations and team work also really excite me because then you have exponential impact, so working with Ori and Eve and you and the team at Agave excites me.
Why did you join Agave Health’s Clinical Advisory Board?
I excitedly and enthusiastically joined Agave's board because to me opportunities to scale up impact are the highest level motivation. Specifically I felt a strong alignment with Agave’s mission and felt a great amount of confidence in Ori and Eve (the founders), in their methodology and the way they are organized. They are not ADHD, and I'm a creative, so to partner with founders with a great deal of organization and structure and past success, and be able to plug into that has been a very symbiotic endeavor and to me it was a no-brainer.
How do you see the field of ADHD treatment evolving in the coming years, and what role do you see virtual clinics like Agave Health playing in this evolution?
I believe wholeheartedly in the capacity to leverage technology and it becoming a great advantage to the ADHD community.
In particular in Agave’s model of providing real-time coaching, the fact that we are providing synchronous, face-to-face coaching is a very powerful tool that I believe can provide significant support to the adult ADHD community and technology is what allows us to do that.
Alongside the wonderfully curated therapeutic content and modules we are putting together that are dynamic from the inside of the ADHD mind - bringing those together in one place will undoubtedly move the needle in great ways. Living with ADHD is a daily grind. It’s not the type of diagnosis or experience where you learn it once you never have to work on it again, it's not a static program, it's dynamic and must be addressed in a dynamic way. We have that in mind in the way we are developing the Agave app - it's there in a dynamic way to help our users, and we accept and know people will have their slips and we want to make sure that they know we have the ladder next to them to climb back up. Similar to the game “Shoots and Ladders” you may fall down the slide but a few boxes over we have a ladder for you and as long as you stay on the board, you are still in the game. That’s part of living with ADHD so we have to bring tons of self compassion, forgiveness and love and that's a major piece of how we see ADHD and the treatment and toolkit of ADHD must have those wrapped around it because it's a hard knock life.
In addition to your extensive experience and impressive roster of responsibilities, you are also coming out with a book: “ADHD Refocused: bringing clarity to the chaos”. Can you tell us a little more about this?
I love talking about this! I think I wrote in the book “this has been a labor of love and procrastination”. It’s been 5 years in the making, this project that I had deep in my heart but it didn't come together until I brought my ADHD toolkit to the project. Which means, understanding how to break it down to smaller parts, partnering with the right teams to help me put it together, lots of self compassion and love when it didn't go according to plan. The book is filled with mindsets and methods to maximize people’s probabilities of success of living with ADHD. It’s written from my own experience, my clients experiences and I speak about the background of ADHD, provide information on tools for living with ADHD, and the role of technology in the space. There is a lot of information and insights for everyone in the book. I'm excited and proud of the project. The book is coming out May 30th and can be found on Amazon or my website http://www.drsitt.com/.