As speech pathologists working with people experiencing communication difficulties, the need for mental health care support for clients is often central. At times however it’s difficult to find the right supports, and there is a need for mental health professionals who understand the experiences of clients with communication challenges.
According to Speech Pathology Australia (SPA), not only do some mental health conditions directly cause communication difficulties, but the presence of communication and swallowing difficulties can both put individuals at increased risk for anxiety and depression. For many of our clients, there is a clear history of trauma both developmentally and also as a result of the difficulties they are dealing with.
Speech Pathology in Mental Health
- At least 40% of people who have had a stroke and have aphasia experience depression and anxiety.
- Individuals with communication difficulty generally are known to be at significantly higher risk of mental health conditions than the general population.
- Over 80% of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties have an unidentified language difficulty.
- Socially disadvantaged groups in society are at risk of both communication and mental health challenges.
Speech pathologists play an important role in working with clients with communication difficulties but also frequently work within a team which includes psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors. Often, speech pathologists identify additional needs for support of clients with mental health challenges and advocate for these supports.
Speech pathologists may provide overarching supports which improve mental health including:
- Supporting clients to communicate more to maximise social wellbeing.
- Helping clients to reduce the barriers to participating in life.
- Supporting clients to communicate their thoughts, needs and opinions to build wellbeing.
- Helping clients to advocate for themselves and their communication needs.
Counselling and Psychotherapy in Mental Health
Sometimes, however, the support of mental health professionals is required. Counselling and psychotherapy is an important support which can support individuals and their families through a range of challenges. By working in partnership, speech pathologists and mental health professionals can achieve positive results for clients.
Some of the approaches taken by our Counsellor include:
- Trauma-informed practice utilising a three-phased trauma approach, helping clients to self-soothe before beginning to process traumatic events.
- Internal family systems therapy which focuses on helping clients to organise their inner worlds.
- Narrative therapy, a non-pathologising modality which seeks to centre individuals as the experts in their lives.
The goal of these approaches is to empower individuals to use their own strengths to find solutions which meet their needs.
Importantly, there’s a need to place clients at the centre of practices and often a team approach is critical.