I'm trying to change the brush type and every time I do, PS changes the tool. For example, I select the brush tool then go to the brush panel to choose a different brush type, once I do now the smudge tool is active. I go back and choose the brush tool, change the brush - same thing. VERY FRUSTRATING! Any help is much appreciated!
Brushes can be saved in Photoshop with or without tool presets. It sounds like those you are trying to use have the smudge tool set as a preset.
You can tell which in the brushes panel by turning on "Show Additional Preset Info" in the brushes panel menu. Then those with a tool preset will show the tool as a small icon at the top right
If you want to use one of those brushes without the associated tool you will need to save it as a new brush and uncheck "Include tool settings" in the dialogue