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Staying a Lifelong Learner: How It Can Improve Your SLP Therapy Approach

Becoming a speech-language pathologist requires degrees and certifications, but an SLP’s education should go beyond both of those things. In fact, there are benefits to becoming a lifelong learner, and they can help your approach to therapy. Dan Sherwood, MS, CCC-SLP, HSE, clinical vocologist at the John Hopkins Voice Center at GBMC, emphasized that fact during the latest episode of The Missing Link for SLPs podcast.

Dan Sherwood, MS, CCC-SLP, HSE, clinical vocologist, John Hopkins Voice Center at GBMC

Dan started his career in voice after a 13-year stint as an on-air radio personality, and he was eager to absorb everything he could about his new profession. His background not only led him  to a beginning built on books and articles, but it also gave him a unique perspective to approach vocology from. 

For Dan, it’s all about being able to apply the principles you learn from reading up on various topics. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in this field, but having a well-rounded and informed approach to therapy tends to yield positive results. 

These takeaways from Dan’s story can help any SLP expand their knowledge of speech pathology and how they practice it. 

Read, Read, Read

If you’ve already gotten a degree or job in the field of speech pathology, there’s a good chance you already have a few books on the subject. Dan recommends reading those cover to cover, even if that’s not initially why you purchased them. Going beyond the topic you set out to learn is a great kicking off point for a lifelong education. It will introduce you to subjects outside of your comfort zone (and probably persuade you to pick up more books and articles, too). 

Learn From Other Disciplines

One way voice therapists can grow their knowledge of speech pathology is, strangely enough, to look outside of it. For those interested in voice work, reading up on voice practices in music and acting fields can present new approaches to the way you work with clients.

Networking Plays a Role

Learning doesn’t always involve sitting by yourself in a library or coffee shop. In fact, if combined with networking, it can help newer SLPs gain knowledge and build connections in one fell swoop. After Dan read the books and articles he’d acquired, he reached out to the authors who wrote them. Making those connections eventually enabled him to work with those professionals in a more personal environment.

The takeaway? Don’t be afraid to reach out to the authors you’re learning from. In many cases, they’ll be happy to answer your questions and get to know you.

Learn From Your Patients

At the end of the day, SLPs are here to treat their patients — so why shouldn’t they learn from them? Taking a client-centric approach to therapy sometimes means allowing the patient to take the lead. And the ways in which they respond to certain solutions can tell an SLP a lot about its effectiveness. 

Don’t get so wrapped up in specific approaches or solutions that you forget to take an individual approach to each patient. Flexibility is a critical component of speech therapy, and being knowledgeable in a number of areas will help you master it.

Written by Mattie Murrey

February 10, 2021

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