Maria L. Munoz, PhD, CCC-SLP
Reciep SLP, your source for evidence-based how-to books.
June is aphasia awareness month! Learn about aphasia by visiting the website of the National Aphasia Association, a great source for and local and national resources for anyone with a professional or personal interest in aphasia.
I have worked, in some form or another, with individuals with aphasia and their families for over 20 years. I have learned about the power of resilience and how families pull together when faced with a life-changing event. As a speech-language pathologist, I have sought to support client’s goals and priorities. One of the most important things I can teach graduate students is how to listen to their client. What matters to the client? What about their communicative life do they want to change?
My students need help learning how to listen to someone whose speech output is limited or constrained so I’ve devised these quick tips for counseling adults with aphasia. At your next session, give these strategies a try and let me know how they worked for you.
QUICK TIPS FOR COUNSELING ADULTS WITH APHASIA
1. LISTEN. Many times you can provide the most support by simply listening to the person’s concerns. Active listening involves eye contact, non-verbal reinforces, and supportive body language.
2. PAUSE. Give the person time to express his/her concerns. Individuals with aphasia will likely need extra time to formulate sentences and words.
3. OBSERVE. Look for clues to what the person is feeling in his/her body language, facial expressions, and intonation.
4. LABEL. Use words to express what you have understood to be the person’s feelings and concerns (“You feel sad.”). This gives the individual words he/she may not be able to access. It also allows you to confirm that you have understood correctly.
5. RESTATE. Restate the feelings and concerns that individual has expressed (“You are concerned about your family”). This encourages the person to continue talking and allows you to check your understanding.
6. AFFIRM. Validate and normalize what the person is feeling. Do not say “I understand how you feel” because you really can’t understand.
7. AVOID. Avoid yes/no questions. Avoid asking a series of questions to obtain an increasing number of details. In fact, questions should be kept to a minimum. When asking questions ask open-ended questions that will expand the discussion.
8. RESERVE. Reserve reassurance and problem-solving for the later half of the discussion. Your first goal is to allow the individual to express his/her feelings and concerns. Your job is NOT to fix the problem. Only after the individual has worked through the emotion should you work on solutions. Be careful not to provide false reassurance.