Step into the power of a therapist.  We create futures, we save lives and we inspire.  Make a difference and light that fire.  

Sometimes, when I discharge a patient, I almost want to cry.  I have worked hard and they have worked harder and I am so proud of them and the progress they have made!  

Yes, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.  

When I was younger, I used to apologize for my heartfelt goodbyes and well wishes and now that I am older, I realize that is a part of who I am and that is part of my passion.  

The patients I work with know that I am real and that I believe in what we are doing together.

This point hit home with me one spring day as I was sitting in my office talking with a first-year graduate student. This student and I had been working together for a few months and in the CSD program where I am fortunate enough to be an Assistant Professor, our first-year students start with one client their first semester.  

This student had been working with her client for a few months and was really beginning to notice that they were making substantial progress towards the long term goals they set out to reach.  She was reminiscing on how far she had come and in turn, how far her client had come,  

I then directed the conversation into how impactful she was as a student clinician and she smiled sideways at me, sighed deeply, and exclaimed, 

“Ahhh, the power of a therapist.”  

She captured it all with that one statement.  As SLPs, we are indeed powerful, and here is why:

WE CREATE FUTURES

It doesn’t matter whether we are working with children, infants, or adults.  We have the power within us to shape the future of another human being.  Take, for example, this same student who was part of our aphasia group.  One goal she had set with her client was that her client, who obviously had aphasia, would be able to “simply” walk up to a counter in a store and ask where an item was located. 

Simple task, right?  Not for someone with aphasia.  There are all sorts of challenges to overcome, some physical, some emotional, and some language-based.  Those are just a start…

Well, one day, this client came to Aphasia Group with a shopping bag clutched tightly in her hand, careful to not let her precious package drop as she navigated her steps, her cane,  the hallway, and other group members, finally reaching the safety of her chair. 

 Her smile was as bright as sunshine on a wildly sunny day.  

She made us all wait to hear about what was in her bag until it was round-robin time.  She then proceeded to tell a wonderful story of bravery, empowerment, and successful communication!  Her story included a trip to an antique store, an inquiry to the owner of the store regarding a certain curio, and then the purchase of her treasure, which she was proudly sharing at Aphasia Group.  

Following the group, other members congratulated her on her success and mentioned what an inspiration she was to them.  

Imagine that!  Through the dedication and skills of an SLP (student-clinician in this case), lives are changing and we are helping our patients and our clients realize new futures, ones where they develop skills they never thought they could or a future where they gain back some of what they once lost.  

The doctor sees all the sickness of mankind; the therapist sees all the hope for a better future. MMT


We are powerful because we create futures.

WE SAVE LIVES

As a medical SLP, I am often evaluating inpatients and sometimes outpatients who have a significant swallowing difficulty.  I am the one who identifies that difficulty, evaluates the specifics of the swallowing difficulties, provides treatment to maximize the safety of oral intake, thereby minimizing the risk of aspiration and consequently pneumonia.  

Dysphagia therapy complete.  Life saved.  That’s obvious.

What about the not so obvious lives we save?  Such as the twin boys who developed “twinnese”, or their own speech and language patterns that they used with one another that no one else could understand.  People thought they were cute when they were young but as they entered pre-school, then kindergarten, then 1st grade, and communication difficulties continued and behavior difficulties increased, it wasn’t so cute anymore.  

It was an SLP who thought to request a hearing evaluation and significant sensorineural hearing losses were identified.  

Once aided, the kids quickly began closing the gap between themselves and their peers in regards to communication and academic skills.  

Articulation therapy completed.  Lives saved.

What about the older gentleman who had a massive stroke and his family is so excited that he just LIVED but now he cannot communicate his most basic wants and needs in these final years due to severe apraxia.  

AAC device obtained.  Life saved.  

What about the concussed patient who looks and talks “just fine” according to everyone else, but who needs someone to believe her that she lives in a brain fog and that she is about to lose her job because she can’t remember things anymore and her relationships have changed because her personality has changed and now she is just not sure what to do next or even where to turn.  

Cognitive-Communication therapy completed.  Life saved.  

What about the high schooler who is on the ASD spectrum and missing some of those critical pragmatic language skills such as how to apply for a job, how to maintain social boundaries, what idioms mean, when and how to ask a girl on a date, or even how to navigate social media. 

Social pragmatic therapy completed.  Life saved.

Think about the foster child who is caught in a system and needing someone to believe in her.  An SLP who determines that her “articulation disorders” are simply an accent and cultural dialect and not “laziness”, as a parent implied.  Someone who notices when her ride home from therapy is consistently over an hour or two late each time. 

Human being validated and life saved.

How about the young transgender client who you are the first one ever they ask to address them by their preferred pronouns and preferred name and answer their questions about transitioning voice changes.  

Another human being validated and life saved.

One of my favorite stories is the starfish story:

While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.”  

Loren Eiseley

As SLPs, we treat the disorders, but the best of us really work with the whole individual and when we see that disorder as a person with a life to live, we help save that life.  

We are powerful because we save lives.

WE INSPIRE

I was looking through my Facebook feed the other day and I saw a post by Tara Puma, an SLP, who posted “My 8-year-old fluency client told me he might want to be an SLP like me.”

Think of all the children and young adults we work with who look up to us and find us inspirational.  To them, we are who they want to grow up to be.  

We represent hope, caring, choices, value, and power.  We represent passion and unconditional love.  

To me, if Tara had an 8-year-old client says that about her, you know she is an inspirational SLP and she is saving a life.  And when we as SLPs inspire, we create forward momentum for our clients and ourselves.  In real-time, nonetheless!  

We also inspire those in our inner circles, our families, our children, our friends, as they see us living our passion. Sometimes, we even inspire ourselves 🙂 

Inspiration is not the filling of a bucket but it is the lighting of a fire.  

When we find something that is inspirational, we can change the way we think and feel about ourselves, expanding what we believe is possible.   And when we change the quality of our thinking, we can change the quality of our lives, sometimes instantly.  

We are powerful because we inspire.

In conclusion, yes, I still do tear up when I say good bye.  I also tear up at weddings, at sappy commercials, when a baby is born on TV, and when the graduate students I teach graduate (especially when I am honored enough to be chosen to read their names as they cross their virtual stage to receive their diplomas) …and this is a good thing.  

Me being transparent does not make me less powerful.  It makes me more powerful because I am me and I care.

So step into the power of a therapist.  We create futures, we save lives and we inspire.  Make a difference and light that fire.  

*Special thanks to Bailee Jackson, the graduate student who is the source of inspiration for this blog.

The Power of a Therapist

We are powerful because we create futures.
We are powerful because we save lives.
We are powerful because we inspire.
We are powerful because we listen, 
we teach,
we learn, 
we cry,
we take, 
we give.
We are powerful because we love.

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