Speech therapists have a truly special role in helping a range of people. They work to diagnose and treat disorders related to speech, social skills and communication. They also work with people who have trouble communicating due to injury or disability. Speech therapists can also help those who are having difficulties swallowing food and drink.
All speech therapists need a university degree before they can practice. The journey to becoming qualified might be challenging but it’s worth the effort. Working in a career which can help so many people improve their quality of life can be a very rewarding experience.
Top 10 tips for speech therapists
If you’re currently studying to become a speech therapist (or you’re thinking about starting) there are some things you can do to make the most of the experience.
1. Make a ‘toolbox’ of resources
Everything you learn during your time at university has a purpose and comes in handy once you’re fully qualified and practicing as a speech therapist. It’s useful if you can refer back to these materials when the time comes so make sure you keep them somewhere safe. Create a file or folder of printed material or make a digital filing system to store all the useful information you collect along the way.
2. Don’t be afraid to say yes to new opportunities
Although it’s good to have a clear idea of where you’re headed on your journey to becoming a speech therapist, it’s also important to be open to new opportunities. You never know what new and exciting areas might present themselves to you if you’re open to saying yes to them. They might even open you up to a new passion within the speech pathology world.
3. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
As speech therapists, it’s natural to become very invested in your clients’ journey. But it’s important you make sure you set clear boundaries to avoid becoming emotionally exhausted or overly busy. Boundary setting helps ensure everybody is aware of how you work and how you like to be treated. It’s a good idea to set this up as early as possible. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your clients.
4. The first year is the most challenging. Take time to find your rhythm
Studying can be chaotic and stressful at times, especially in the beginning. Don’t expect everything to feel easy straight away, but don’t take up every available option the moment you can either. Be kind with yourself and trust the process. Take things day by day and you will be sure to find your rhythm, your passions and your routine.
5. Remember the basics
While there’s so much to learn, you should always remember the basics of speech pathology is building good relationships with your clients. Building a good foundation based on mutual respect and understanding is a sure-fire way to encourage long-lasting, positive outcomes for your clients and their families.
Engagement can be achieved through active listening, positive body language and paying careful attention to your client. Using these skills can build rapport – a caring and shared understanding of issues between you and your client. It implies a team approach to the management of their issues, rather than you just telling them what to do. Creating a sense of trust means clients are more likely to open up and disclose relevant information to help with their treatment.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Remember: you will never reach a point where you know everything. None of us can! So, enjoy learning new things about yourself and your role. The world of speech pathology is constantly changing and progressing so even when your official studies are over, there will always be new things to learn. And remember it’s natural to make mistakes along the way. They are an important part of progressing and, without them, we would be missing out on key learnings.
7. Embrace your creativity
When you work in the speech pathology world, you might not think of it as a creative profession. But no two clients are ever the same and you’ll always need to use your creativity to keep things interesting and motivating for your clients. Embrace and nurture your creative side as you study, knowing it will be useful when you are fully qualified and practicing as a speech therapist.
8. Know you are impacting a person’s life forever
The work you do as a speech therapist is important and valuable to the lives of your clients and their families. Particularly when you’re working with children, you can make a lasting impact on your client as you help them to communicate. It’s not always going to be easy work, but it will definitely be rewarding.
9. You don’t need to have the answer to everything
Creating honest relationships with your client and their family is vital to your role. And this means being honest with them even when you don’t have all the answers. By saying you will get back to them later, you’re assuring your client that you’re going to give them the most accurate information you can. This is far more useful than offering false information. Don’t be afraid to take some time to research and seek guidance before getting back to your client later.
10. Get as much experience as you can
Take up as many opportunities as you can to gain experience while you’re studying. Don’t just wait for student placements – seek out your own experiences too. You might be able to observe qualified speech pathologists in practice, or complete some volunteer work in a relevant area. The more experience you get, the more confident and competent you will feel once your study is complete.
How SpeechEase can help
At SpeechEase, we love what we do. Our therapists work with clients and collaborate with families to improve their quality of life. And we’re always looking out for passionate and caring speech pathologists to join our team.
Are you thinking about becoming a speech therapist, or have you already started on your journey? Feel free to contact us to come and see how we do things, we love helping those interested in becoming Speechies. And don’t forget to check out our careers page here and follow us on LinkedIn for future career opportunities.