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Speech Therapist (SLP) Qualifications

3 Important Qualities of a Speech Therapist

Finding the right speech therapist for you or your loved one can be stressful.  While some requirements are specific to one’s needs, there are 3 basic necessities to look for in a speech therapist with one often neglected.

Three Qualities of a Speech Therapist

Most, if not everyone, look for 3 important qualities in their health care professionals:

  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Relatability, which includes personality or great “bedside manner”

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find all three qualities in a health care professional.  I am not saying a speech therapist needs all these characteristics to be a good therapist.  I am saying it only serves to enhance the client experience and improve care.

Education and certifications provide the baseline for knowledge but experience must go hand-in-hand with it.  The more patients you treat with speech disorders, debilitations, delays, etc. the more knowledge one gains.  However, experience does not only pertain to the number of years as a speech-language pathologist.  It also includes where or under what setting they gained the experience.

A speech therapist, who primarily worked with school children for 10 years may not be the right fit for your elderly father with swallowing or cognitive issues.  I am not saying this speech therapist will do a poor job, but a 5-year therapist working in a skilled nursing facility might be better suited.  You need to inquire where your speech therapist gained knowledge and experience.

Speech Therapist recommendations

Now, we all want someone, who is smart and experienced, but you also need someone, who can relate to you.  This is very important in all cases.  A mom or dad need to have a connection for their child, so they feel comfortable.  A son or daughter want a speech therapist, who shows real compassion for their elderly parent.  “Bedside manner” is all too often overlooked along the way.

A speech therapist needs passion and understanding for all involved in the healing process.  As a therapist, we must look at the situation from the perspective of those we want to help.  Simply, a speech therapist needs to be relatable.  This creates a stronger connection and faster recovery for our patients.  Everyone is capable of earning both knowledge and experience, whether through a degree or years on the job.  Personalities, however, are shaped over a long time.  How one is raised along with life’s experience shape their personality into adulthood, so it is generally set in stone and difficult to change.

Know Your Speech Therapist

Take time to research a speech therapist.  Education and experience are important factors, but we learn a lot about a person by just talking with them.  Everyone gets a feel for someone through mere conversation.  You can learn a lot about a speech therapist when they offer personal insight relating to your situation.

Look for ways to elicit this information, and see if they “click” with you.  Of course, you do not forgo their expertise in the speech-language pathology field.  You are looking for what sets a speech therapist or a speech therapy company apart from others.  What is their approach to you and your loved one?

Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Remember, a speech therapist works for you, so they need to meet your expectations.

Questions For a Speech Therapist

Here are just a few basic questions regarding knowledge and experience. Of course, answers may lead to additional questions, but a good speech therapist will provide open-honest responses.

The Basics

  • How long have you been a speech therapist?
  • What is your experience?
  • Do you have a specialty?
  • Have you worked with people with similar problems as my child (mother, father, etc.)?
  • How would you assess my child (mother, father, etc.)?

The Relatable

These types of questions are all too often overlooked.  As mentioned, this is not a “make or break” but helps establish the needed connection with your speech therapist.  Keep in mind, not everyone wants to share personal experiences, so do not get offended.  A reserved therapist is in no way a bad therapist.  They still may be the perfect fit for your loved one.

Look for answers through general conversation as opposed to forward questioning.  Guide the subject around what specific speech therapy characteristics you find important.  Listen for empathy and hope in their voice and whether they focus on your loved one’s strengths versus their weaknesses.

Ask yourself, are they going to partner with me and be my loved one’s advocate?  How do you feel after the conversation?  Do you feel hopeful and encouraged?  There are hard truths but optimism is vital to the patient’s outcome.  Keep in mind, you are not looking for a best friend.  You are looking for someone, who meets your requirements.

I choose to share my experiences because I am a mom, a daughter, and a speech therapist.  I recognize the need to connect with my clients and their families because I sat where they are now.

My Passion, My Understanding, My Speech Therapy Story

michelle mares e-integrated slp servicesHi, I’m Michelle, the owner and lead speech therapist at E-Integrated SLP Services.  I want to share my experiences and how they helped define my career path and instill a passion and understanding that made me a better mom, daughter, and speech therapist.

Where Speech Theapy Started

As a far back as I can remember, my dream career was to be a physician. It was not until my senior year in high school, I realized my passion was in the process of evolving. My grandfather’s cancer diagnosis led my grandmother to stress and exhaustion causing her to shut down.

I lived with them at the time, so I took every opportunity to help my grandmother around the house as well as take care of my grandfather.  This included preparing his PEG tube feedings and going to his doctor appointments.

For comfort, I would lay on his bed and hold his hand while listening to him talk about the angels and tell me about his secret hiding places for money.  At the time, I did not realize the magnitude of the situation nor its influence later in life.  I did not realize the immense stressors as a 17-year-old, but my time with him was a blessing in an otherwise difficult situation.  My love, understanding, and empathy for my adult patients came from many of these moments.  I not only have compassion for my patients but their families as well, and I am not afraid to express it.

The Birth of a Speech Therapy Connection

Fast forward several years, and my life took another turn.  After 5 years of fertility treatments, my husband and I were blessed with our first boy.  He was an active explorer and growing beyond an age-appropriate level for speech and language until he turned 18 months old.

While playing “Ring Around the Rosie” at pre-school, he fell on a toy causing him to bite down nearly severing his tongue in half.  Doctor’s informed us stitches would worsen the situation, and it would take several weeks to heal.  We never expected his speech and language skills to stop and revert back to a 0–6-month level.

As a speech mom, this was devastating.  I now understood and felt a mom’s apprehension regarding their child’s speech delay.  It was hard for our son to separate mom from speech therapist, so we placed him in private speech therapy.  It took several years to reach his milestones, but he persevered in the end.  I never imagined a minor accident would lead to years of delay and speech therapy.

Along the way, I learned being momma was my role in his journey and not as a speech therapist.  Experiencing these challenges allows me to establish a deeper connection with my patients and their families, who often convey the same worry.

A Speech Therapist Advocate

After 3 additional years of failed fertility treatments, we decided to adopt.  During this process, God blessed us with a second pregnancy.  Our second son was born 2 months premature and placed in NICU.  He suffered from a nonexistent suck reflex that required feedings through a nasogastric (NG) tube for nearly 6 weeks.

Again, as a mom, I felt the same worry and concern as other moms in this situation.  Even as a speech therapist with a feeding specialty, it was difficult to watch him struggle for nutrition.  At six weeks, he gradually transitioned to a bottle.  I monitored his growth closely and was steadfast in our goal to bring him home at 2 months.

After several midnight calls to his NICU pediatricians, I convinced them to increase bottle feed opportunities.  This was difficult for our boy and often left him exhausted, but he was a fighter.  The NICU pediatrician discharged him as planned and made certain to inform me it was due to having a speech and feeding therapist for a mom.

This experience taught me the importance of advocacy and fighting for my patients as well as their families.

What sets me apart from others?  As a parent and caretaker, I can relate and empathize with those moments of despair, exhaustion, and most of all, the fear of failing a loved one.  But, in reality, they are not failed.  We are simply instilling hope and providing opportunity for them to succeed.

Michelle Mares

Michelle Mares

I am credentialed through American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and hold certifications in LVST (Big andLoud), Vital Stim, and E-Stim. Upcoming certifications to include Hanen, for my pediatric clients and their families, and Speak Out & Loud individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

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