What is a Therapist?
“Therapist” is a generic term for any practitioner (audiologist, psychologist, occupational therapist, etc.). He or she may have a master’s degree or a doctorate, and specialized expertise in a variety of fields. Each of the types of professionals listed below may fall under this broad title.
What is an Audiologist?
An audiologist is a practitioner who specializes in hearing. Traditionally, audiologists have been allowed to practice with a master’s degree, however you may encounter audiologists, especially those just now entering the field, with doctoral degrees. An audiologist with proper training may help misophonia sufferers in a few ways. Firstly, this type of professional may aid in determining if you have misophonia (keep in mind, however, that there is no approved “test” for misophonia yet and it is not in any diagnostic manual, making it much more difficult for a practitioner to identify). An audiologist may also be able to provide you with personal earplugs. These devices, which may or may not generate non-offending noise, can help to mask the sounds that bother you.
What is a Psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors that specialize in treating mental illness. These doctors can prescribe medication to treat symptoms and conditions that may accompany misophonia (such as anxiety, insomnia, feelings of rage/fear/depression, etc.). While this may be helpful to those suffering from concurrent conditions, there are no medications that have been tested or considered for misophonia, specifically.
What is a Neurologist?
A neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in disorders that affect the brain, the spine, and the nerves, such as Epilepsy, migraines, Alzheimer’s and Tourette’s. Neurologists and psychiatrists may sometimes overlap, as they can both treat psychiatric conditions. However, neurologists treat a broader range of disorders. Anyone who has a sudden onset of changes in mood or sensory perception should see a neurologist to rule out other disorders. People often confuse neurologists with neuroscientists. Neurologists are medical doctors; they went through medical school. Neuroscientists are also doctors, but they are Ph.D.s, (they attended a different type of graduate school). Neuroscientists scientifically study the brain, through experimentation, and often work in university settings.
Finding a Therapist
Finding the right therapist is a complicated task for anyone seeking counseling, and finding a professional who is also versed in misophonia can sometimes seem impossible. However, by asking some key questions, you can find the right person to help you and your family.
The first question you must ask yourself is, what type of provider do I want to work with? As discussed, there are many types of professionals who can help you cope with misophonia, and you may want to seek out multiple types of providers. When I work with clients as a counselor, I often refer families to audiologist, occupational therapist, psychiatrists, and neurologists. This is an important point: a worthwhile therapist will recognize when a client needs to seek help that is outside of the scope of his or her practice, and will be happy to consult with other professionals. As therapists, it is our duty to only offer the help we are trained to provide, otherwise we are deceiving our clients.
Once you choose the type of therapist you are looking for to begin your coping journey, you can begin to search for the individual practitioner you will work with. This decision comes down to many factors, including practical ones such as proximity, and hard to quantify ones such as rapport. One thing not to be overlooked, though, is therapeutic style. That is, you should make sure the therapist you choose offers the type of treatment you want. Don’t just settle for the type of treatment a particular therapist offers to you. If you are interested in trying a certain therapy, whether that be family systems, cognitive, mindfulness, etc., ensure that your therapist is a trained and experienced in providing that type of treatment. Of course you will also want to make sure your therapist is aware of misophonia, or other sensory issues. If a therapist is not familiar with misophonia, however, he or she should be very willing to learn from other practitioners, and do online research.
While most of the therapists you encounter will likely be well-trained, empathetic professionals, it is important to be on the lookout for several “red flags.” First, a therapist should never claim he or she has the “cure” for misophonia. While we would all like for that to be the case, that is wishful thinking, and not reality. A therapist who makes this claim may simply not understand the research, or may be trying to prey on your suffering. Likewise, you should be suspicious of any therapist who solicits you or your family members for treatment, or pushes you to pay him or her for expensive products. These are signs that the therapist may be unethically seeking to make extra money off of you, rather than provide services at a reasonable price.