Saturday, June 15, 2013

Professional Issues Class Post 7: Counseling

The assignment:  Counseling is a critical part of the SLP’s scope of practice but not a large part of the curriculum. Consequently, many of us are not comfortable with this topic. Why is that and what can you do to feel comfortable with the interpersonal aspects of the profession?  Should the department and/or ASHA focus more on this topic?  If so, how?

Speech Language Pathology is a very inter-personal career.   As SLPs, we don't just jump in and start working on that stutter or the lisp or the swallowing challenges brought on by a stroke.  We have to consider the entire "package" that contains the stutter, lisp and swallowing problem.   That package is a human being with social, emotional and cognitive needs.  

  • An adolescent girl who is falling behind in her class academically because she has an auditory processing disorder. 
  • A retired teacher in the early stages of Alzheimer's. 
  • A middle aged woman who attended a weekly coffee klatch with her friends, but can no longer eat safely after her throat cancer treatment.  
  • A 10 year old boy with Asperger's who wants desperately to make friends but cannot.  
  • A 2nd grader who is being teased because her /r/ distortion makes her "sound like a baby".  
  • A father of 3 who is slowly loosing his ability to speak due to ALS.  
These are just a few examples of situations in which the SLP may be called upon to provide more than just speech/language/swallowing therapy. 

But do we need additional classes or training to handle this?  I don't think so.  I think this profession, like nursing and social work and other "caring" professions, attracts people who bring a level of compassion and understanding to the table already.    Or in other words, if you don't have those skills, no class on earth is going to be able to teach them to you.   Furthermore, if you don't have the ability to empathize with your clients and see the bigger picture, then you wont last long in this business!   

I also don't think it's rocket science.  It comes down to Respect and Kindness. 

Every client, as well as every parent or loved one of that client, deserves our respect.  We should never look at this person in front of us as "the stutterer" or "the biter" or the "grumpy old man" but rather maintain their humanity in everything we do.   

Kindness, in my opinion, just means being nice.  For the sake of being nice.   

I would hope that if I ever found myself lacking in these two areas, that I would reassess my current job and decide if I am in the right place for me at that time.   I understand that while it sounds simple to break it down to two words, it will not always be easy.    We are all human and get affected by stress, deadlines, Seasonal Affective Disorder and IEP season.  And if I falter in giving my clients the best care possible, I hope those around me can send a little Kindness and Respect my way.   I promise to pay it back!

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