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Executive Functioning Skills Training

What are executive functioning skills?

Executive functions are a set of skills that involve managing mental control, self-regulation, and one's resources in order to achieve a goal. The executive functions all serve a "command and control" function; they can be viewed as the "conductor" of all cognitive skills.

Cognitive skills are core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. These skills are used every day at school, at work, and in life. Executive functions help you manage life tasks of all types.


These skills play a role in most aspects of life. Executive function deficits can hinder an individual academically, socially, and emotionally. While they are present from an early age, problems with executive functions often do not become apparent until middle school, when the demands for working independently increase.

How do we help with executive functioning?

Executive function coaches at Appletree Psychological Services work alongside individuals to set goals (long-term, short-term, or daily) designed to improve self-regulation and goal attainment.


We use a "client goal-setting" approach. This allows our coaches and their clients to work in a collaborative manner rather than prescriptive.

Our coaches are trained to embody the following communication guidelines:

  • Open-ended questions: The kind of questions that open the door to more words from the client than from you, as opposed to yes-no questions used to collect information or data.

  • Affirmation: Affirmations comment favorably on specific positive traits, attributes, or strengths of the person that endures over time.

  • Reflection: Accurate empathic reflections involve listening not only to what the person says but also to what the person means.

  • Summarizing: A special form of empathic reflection where you collect statements from part of or the whole conversation.

Healthy Executive Functioning Looks Like:

  • Response InhibitionThe ability to think before you act.

  • Working MemoryThe ability to hold information in your memory while completing tasks.

  • Emotional ControlThe ability to manage emotions or control and direct behavior.

  • Sustained AttentionThe ability to maintain attention throughout a boring situation or task.

  • Task InitiationThe ability to begin tasks without procrastination.

  • Planning/PrioritizingThe ability to make decisions about what is most important and plan efficiently to complete a task.

  • OrganizationThe ability to create sustainable systems.

  • Time ManagementThe ability to estimate time in an accurate manner and to stay within time limits.

  • Goal-Directed PersistenceThe ability to make and complete a goal.

  • FlexibilityThe ability to adapt to new, unplanned obstacles and setbacks.

  • MetacognitionThe ability to take a birds-eye view in a situation.

  • Stress ToleranceThe ability to endure stressful situations.

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