The speech-language pathologist is a key member of the Voice Care Team, and is a certified, licensed healthcare professional, ordinarily with either a master’s or doctoral degree.
Education – Training – Certification Track
After college, speech-language pathologists generally complete a one- or two-year master’s degree program, followed by a nine-month, supervised “clinical fellowship,” similar to a medical internship. At the conclusion of the clinical fellowship year, speech-language pathologists in the United States are certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, and use the letters “CCC-SLP” after their names to indicate that they are certified.
Spectrum of Disorders in the Care of a Speech Language Pathologist
Like otolaryngology, speech-language pathology is a broad field that includes care of patients who have:
- had strokes or other neurological problems affecting speech and swallowing
- undergone laryngectomy (removal of the larynx)
- swallowing disorders
- articulation problems
- stuttering problems
- craniofacial disorders
- other related fluency disorders of speech
Concept of Subspecialty in Voice – “Voice Pathologist”
Some speech-language pathologists subspecialize in voice, which includes care of the voice, and swallowing disorders. The speech-language pathologist affiliated with a voice team is usually such a subspecialist, and is often referred to as a “voice pathologist” – although the term “voice pathologist” has not yet received official recognition by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Training as a voice team speech language pathologist is evolving to better provide speech-language pathology training programs that provide extensive education in voice and voice disorders. Ideally, voice team speech-language pathologists should have had training in and become comfortable with caring for individuals with voice problems. Subspeciality training is usually acquired through apprenticeships, extra courses, symposia, or by obtaining a doctoral degree that includes voice-related research.
Scope of Responsibilities
Speech-language pathologists are responsible for voice therapy and rehabilitation which is analogous to physical therapy. The speech-language pathologist analyzes voice use, and teaches proper breath support, relaxation, and voice placement to optimize speaking. A variety of techniques are utilized to accomplish this goal. Speech-language pathologists do not ordinarily work with the singing voice, although they are involved in the treatment of speaking voices of singers.
Perspective on Practice
Speech-language pathologists may be found in universities, private offices, or freestanding speech and hearing centers. In the United States, most are members of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and its voice-related special interest division (SID-3). Many speech-language pathologists with special interest in voice in the United States and elsewhere are also members of the Voice Foundation.
Role of Subspecialization in Voice Care
Like otolaryngologists, speech-language pathologists who subspecialize in voice care provide more incisive, state-of-the-art treatment for voice disorders than most general speech-language pathologists who care for patients with various problems encompassing the entire field. So, it is worthwhile for patients with voice disorders to seek out a subspecialist to improve the likelihood of rapid, excellent treatment results. Referrals to speech-language pathologists specializing in voice are usually obtained through a laryngologist or otolaryngologist.