What Types of ADHD Doctors and ADHD Therapists Are There?

Monday, March 5th, 2012

The first physician that’s usually involved in the treatment of ADHD is a pediatrician. The pediatrician makes an initial evaluation to determine whether the child’s developmental maturity is at par with that of other children in his age group.  In addition, the pediatrician also conducts a comprehensive physical examination to rule out the possibility that the suspected ADHD case does not actually stem from some organic cause like thyroid, hearing, or vision problems. Only when organic causes are finally ruled out should the case be referred to a psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, neuropsychologist, or learning specialist.

The psychologist will administer psychological tests to help in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.  For example, a psychologist may be necessary to find out whether the child has been subjected to violence or abuse in early life.

Although psychiatrists and psychologists have the same primary directive – the treatment of mental distress—their training, methods, and way of looking at things differ. While psychologists tend to rely on therapeutic treatment, psychiatrists, being licensed physicians, tend to rely on medicine in assessing mental health problems, and lean towards psychotropic medications as the primary weapon to address mental health problems.

Many psychiatrists also employ psychotherapy.  For ADHD, the psychiatrist may try to treat psychological, emotional, or behavioral symptoms by establishing a crucial relationship of trust with the patient, paving the way for the free expression by the patient of whatever it is that bothers him.  Through this expression by the patient of his innermost thoughts and emotions, the psychiatrist, through the healing power of words, gains valuable insight into the patient’s condition.

If the symptoms associated with ADHD—inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness-  are not ADHD at all but other disorders like depression, anxiety disorder, or learning disorders, it is the psychiatrist who’d be able to tell.  If the problem is a bipolar disorder and not ADHD, it is the psychiatrist who’ll be able to spot that.

Among the approaches to ADHD treatment is a learning process called neurofeedback.  That is why neurologists, neuropsychologists, and learning specialists are brought into the picture. Neurofeedback aims to channel the patient’s selective attention trait.  It is based on the premise that ADHD people do not have an attention deficit at all; it’s just that they have little patience with things that do not interest them.  As a result, they tune off, leaving people with the impression that they have an attention problem.  The aim of neurofeedback is to enable the ADHD patient to produce a mental state appropriate to what the situation requires. Thus if the situation requires the ADHD child to pay attention, he would.

In the same way that people go to the gym to exercise their muscles, ADHD people go to neurofeedback centers to exercise their neural pathways so that they can concentrate better. During neurofeedback training (NFT), sensors are placed on the scalp. These are connected to a computer that detects, amplifies, and records specific brain activity.  The resulting feedback is instantaneously brought to the patient’s screen.  Changes in the brain wave patters tell whether or not the person is paying attention, and whether or not he’s suppressing the impulse to move. The computer converts the brain wave patterns into colorful game-like displays complete with sound. For example, the player would see a fish onscreen trying to find his way through a maze. By helping the fish find its way, ADHD children control their level of attention.

These are just some of the many ways that doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists help with ADHD treatment. The most important thing is that you find an ADHD doctor to help you with the initial ADHD diagnosis and he can put you toward a path of treatment.