4 Things to Know to Create a Successful Speech Therapy Telepractice
Building a successful speech therapy telepractice sounds tough. In Grillo’s 2018 guide Building a Successful Voice Telepractice Program, we found 4 key factors to consider that relate to setting up a speech telepractice that we elaborate upon that can help a speech therapist achieve success when they wish to start providing telepractice speech therapy.
1. Know Your State Laws
Speech therapists may work synchronously or asynchronously with clients. This means that therapy can be delivered with a side-by-side approach using video conferencing or a therapist can use a tool and provide instruction when a client accesses a therapeutic tool. A therapist should choose how to work with a client based on a client’s learning style and therapy needs. Certain medical conditions may also impact the connection method a speech therapist chooses, as some conditions can make synchronous or asynchronous sessions unproductive.
Many applications and websites are available for synchronous and well as asynchronous sessions. Speech therapists should consider the security of both synchronous and asynchronous tools and whether the tools meet country-specific patient confidentiality guidelines. Other features of both kinds of tools speech therapists may consider are how well the tool works with the devices available for both the client and speech therapist, how the tools are accessed, and how user-friendly the tools are for both the client and speech therapist. Certain tools may be effective for the speech therapist but could be too complicated or off-putting for the client to use.
2. Choose How You Want to Connect with Your Clients
There are two ways speech therapists can work with clients: synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous therapy means that therapy can be delivered with a side-by-side approach using the assistance of a video conferencing tool. Asynchronous therapy involves the use of a digital speech therapy tool without the clinician’s presence. Even though the clinician does not have to be present during asynchronous therapy, a therapist should monitor their client’s performance on digital speech therapy exercises and provide asynchronous guidance through messaging or other methods of communication. There are many different combinations of styles available to speech therapists. The best practices consider what therapy style works best for both their client and their client’s therapy goals.
3. Use the Right Digital Speech Therapy Tools
With so many options out there, it is important for a speech therapist to know which tools will be effective for the kind of speech therapy they are providing (i.e synchronous or asynchronous). Grillo (2018) elaborates on knowing what speech therapy tool is effective based on how a speech therapist will deliver speech therapy. We elaborate further on the use of digital speech tools based on how speech therapy is going to be conducted.
If a speech therapist is conducting live video sessions (synchronous) with their clients, they will want to select a tool that is compatible with video conferencing. This digital speech therapy tool for synchronous speech therapy may be able to be accessed by both the client and speech therapist simultaneously, occur on a platform that allows for screen-sharing so that the speech therapist can monitor how activities are being performed, and record client data so that the speech therapist can review sessions and determine the course of treatment for their client.
We advise that speech therapists try different kinds of speech therapy tools to determine which tools offer the best content for their clients, are accessible for both the speech therapist and client alike, and are most compatible with how the speech therapist plans to deliver speech therapy.
4. Understand Your Client’s Environment & Communication Partners
A major advantage of telepractice is the ability to understand a client’s functional environment. This means learning the context and transaction of how a client interacts with the world around them and learning who is a part of their environment and the transactional relationship between a client and their communication partner. Grillo (2017) explains that “because [speech therapy services] are provided in the client’s functional environment, it is expected that communication partners will be involved. Clinicians who use telepractice reported that the most common communicative partners were caregivers (59%), ehelpers (48%), others (30%), children (19%), spouses (17%), and grandparents (15%) “.
We understand that the availability of communication partners can greatly impact a client’s therapeutic outcome, as having a communication partner present allows for a client to engage in vocal conversation and apply practiced speech therapy concepts. Clients that live alone may have further language complications as they may not have a communication partner to apply learned speech therapy concepts with. Knowing this information can help a speech therapist involve a communication partner to the level a client is comfortable with or help their client find an alternative communication partner so that their client can practice vocal speech therapy skills.
The Final Word
Knowing your state’s laws, choosing which platform to use to deliver therapy, using the right digital speech therapy tool, and understanding the communication partners available in your client’s environment can help a speech therapist set up a telepractice geared towards. Having licensure in the state that you wish to deliver therapy is step one to being able to provide speech therapy. Next, ensure you have a platform that allows for seamless delivery of synchronous or asynchronous speech therapy so that both you and your client can maximize therapy session potential. After the right platform is chosen, using the right digital materials that compliment how you are delivering speech therapy and provide ample content will allow your client to learn important concepts needed to build functional language skills. Lastly, having an understanding of your client’s environment and communication partners can help you adapt speech therapy delivery and how speech therapy sessions are structured so that communication partners can be involved and that your client has alternatives if communication partners are not available so that speech therapy progress is not hindered by environmental factors. Considering these factors and making a plan to tackle these obstacles will help any speech therapist set themselves up to have a successful speech therapy telepractice.
Grillo, E. U. (2017). Results of a survey offering clinical insights into speech-language pathology telepractice methods. International Journal of Telerehabilitation, 9(2), 25–30.
Grillo, E. U. (2019). Building a Successful Voice Telepractice Program. Perspectives of the ASHA special interest groups, 4(1), 100-110.