As SLPs, we each develop a clinical style – a point of view from which we approach therapy.
I think of my therapy sessions as conversations. They’re free-flowing and constitute an exchange of ideas. They are a series of responses between the student and the therapist in which each response is contingent upon the last.
While I keep a general treatment plan in my mind (and of course the goals), I allow therapy to take the form of an open-ended dialogue. If it starts morphing into a monologue, I need to reassess and readjust in that moment to fit the needs, capabilities and interests of the student. The student must contribute and I must allow those contributions to shape my next steps.
Just the other day, I was saying to another SLP that if therapy were like comedy some SLPs would be stand-up comedians with pre-scripted and pre-rehearsed jokes, but me – I’d be an improv artist; I have an idea of where I want to go and some activities I might like to include, but the exact stops along the way are dictated by a back and forth exchange. The audience becomes co-hosts, driving the direction of the show just as my students become co-therapists telling me (in their own ways) what they need and what they’re interested in at any given moment, regardless of what I might have previously guessed.
Sometimes, I try to be more structured. This usually happens at the beginning of the school year when I am just getting familiar with the students and their goals and I have some basic information to cover (like house rules, expectations, etc.), but it generally doesn’t last very long and after a while the stress of forming the plan, memorizing the plan, and trying to stick to the plan but ultimately having to either alter the plan or toss the plan completely out of the window wears away at me (which can’t be good for my students).
Luckily, no one in our field believes in one size fits all for students and the concept of cookie-cutter clinicians doesn’t sit well with many of us either. There isn’t one singular approach to therapy and that’s a good thing. We as speech-language pathologists come just as individualized as the plans we write for our students. That’s a part of the beauty of our field. We each get to find our own voices as as we help our clients find theirs.
My improvisational-flexible-go with the flow therapy style works well for me and my students. It reflects my overall personality, allowing me to be authentic and genuine, while having fun, and still being an effective speech-language pathologist.
That’s the kind of therapist I am.
What kind of therapist are you?