The work of Speech & Language Therapists (SLTs) in restoring or improving the lives of their patients is one of the most valuable and rewarding among the medical and healing profession. Although it may not seem as glamorous or as important as the role of a doctor or nurse, a Speech & Language Therapist can provide life-changing treatment to their clients and patients, including increasingly by teletherapy.
What is Speech Therapy?
Speech& Language Therapists work with their patients in a number of different ways in order to tackle a wide range of speech and related disorders.
As can be gathered from their job title, Speech and Language Therapists work with people of all ages, both children and adults, on a range of speech, language and communication issues. As well as dealing with speech and language difficulties after an illness, accident or as a result of a developmental disorder, therapists will also work with clients and patients on issues around swallowing and eating.
Therapists can therefore work with a range of people on issues around getting them to use their mouth successfully, either again after illness and injury or for the first time as a result of developmental disorders.
What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy is one means by which these therapeutic treatments can be delivered effectively and efficiently. Much traditional speech and language therapy has involved the therapist and the client or patient meeting face to face, and this is still very common.
However, teletherapy has opened up many other new and improved avenues of treatment by allowing for sessions which do not necessitate face to face contact, which may be problematic for various reasons. Teletherapy therefore increases the options that Speech & Language Therapists can offer to their clients as well as giving their clients more choice and agency in how they would like to be treated.
Telemedicine, of which teletherapy is part, has become a common and welcome part of patient care worldwide. The term, teletherapy, suggests that such therapy may be delivered over the telephone, and this may indeed be the case. However, teletherapy has become an umbrella term for a range of online therapy treatments that are delivered virtually rather than face to face.
As well as telephone conversations, this could typically involve face to face video chat, using such platforms as FaceTime, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, whichever is most suitable for therapist and patient.
A range of different platforms and options, which can be used with a wide range of readily available electronic devices, ensures that teletherapy options can be provided that will suit almost any budget or client.
The Benefits of Teletherapy
Teletherapy can be of particular benefit where face to face therapeutic sessions are not available. It is not always either practical or possible for patients to attend at a speech language therapy clinic.
This could because they live in a remote area or somewhere where an in-person clinic option is not available. Teletherapy provides an opportunity to bridge this gap by providing a service where it is not otherwise available.
This also means that a client or patient has a greater range of options for teletherapy providers that might otherwise be the case. With traditional in-clinic options, a patient is limited to the clinics within travelling distance. Teletherapy means that patients have a range of options around their own country, or even around the world, that can help them.
It might also be the case that a patient or a client is not available to visit a clinic because of physical limitations. One example could be an adult who has had a stroke and is not able to cope with the physical demands of regular trips to a clinic in person.
It may also be the case that the patient has an illness that has reduced their immune system, in which visits to clinics increases their risk of picking up an infectious illness that can affect their physical wellbeing. Virtual teletherapy reduces this risk as the patient is no longer required to risk being around other people more than necessary.
In these cases, the option of teletherapy as an alternative, can enable the adult to have a remote session from the comfort of their own home. Advances in modern technology in recent years means that the quality of microphones and cameras in computers, laptops and mobile phones enables the highest quality of assessment from speech and language therapists in these cases.
A hospital or a clinic may seem like a daunting place to some people, either adults who have memories of unpleasant visits to hospital, or young children who find the environment scary or off putting.
In these situations, a remote session, with the client using a device that they are comfortable and familiar with, can help people to overcome the barriers that can sometimes be a result of visits to a clinic or hospital.
Conference calls, where people connect from different locations at the same time, enable therapists to treat a patient from different locations simultaneously, as well as allowing multiple patients to access the service at the same time as part of group therapy.
Many of the types of software or devices that can be used for online therapy sessions can be configured to record the session, making a record of either the audio, video or both. This can be advantageous for the therapist in order to watch back the session to check for signs of progress.
It can also be useful for the patient to watch the session back as it may enable them to be sure of any instructions that they have missed during the session as well as being reminded of any ‘homework’ or exercises that they need to practice.
Teletherapy also has all of the benefits of in-person therapy, namely access to the skills and resources of an experienced Speech &Language Therapist without any dilution due to the virtual nature of the relationship. Such therapists have become skilled in offering services virtually that are at least equal to and in some cases superior to in-person therapy sessions.