Speech therapists help individuals who have disorders or disabilities related to speaking, language, fluency, swallowing and voice. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, clinics and private offices. Some also find employment with home health care providers and provide in-home therapy.

To work in the field, a speech therapist must obtain a state-issued license. Typically, states require speech therapists to complete an approved master’s degree program and pass an examination to become licensed.

Speech Therapists Conduct Evaluations and Create Treatment Plans

When seeing a new patient for the first time, a speech therapist conducts an initial assessment. They ask questions about what led the individual to seek treatment and note general medical history. Then, they do a physical examination of the face and mouth. To identify challenges to communication and speech, the therapist may ask the individual to pronounce certain words or phrases, express thoughts or feelings, follow directions or demonstrate understanding of spoken words. In some cases, the speech therapist may solicit feedback from family members, caregivers and physicians to learn more about the individual’s needs.

Based on the findings of initial assessments, the speech therapist compiles a report that outlines the speech and communication challenges that the individual faces. They set goals for treatment and develop a plan to achieve them. Normally, they share these goals with the individual, so they understand what the desired outcomes of treatment are.

Speech Therapists Administer Therapies and Track Progress

Once the therapy plan is in place, the speech therapist sees the individual regularly. During appointments, the therapist administers various therapies. These may include breathing exercises to improve resonance and physical exercises to strengthen the tongue, lips and throat muscles. The speech therapist may also lead the individual through cognitive exercises to enhance problem-solving ability and memory. In some cases, counseling is a component of therapy. The therapist may teach the individual tactics to help them communicate more effectively and clearly in different situations.

The speech therapist takes detailed notes throughout each appointment. Afterward, they update the individual’s records, noting signs of improvement and areas of concern. Using this information, the speech therapist may modify the treatment plan. With the individual’s consent, the speech therapist may update other members of the individual’s care team about progress and educate family members and caregivers on how to better communicate with the individual.