No AccessSIG 2 Neurogenic Communication DisordersClinical Focus24 Apr 2020

Spotlight on the Clinician in the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia: Balancing Relationship-Centered Care and Professionalism


    Speech-language pathologists make clinical decisions informed by evidence-based theory and “beliefs, values and emotional experiences” (Hinckley, 2005, p. 265). These subjective processes, while not extensively studied, underlie the workings of the therapeutic relationship and contribute to treatment outcomes. While speech-language pathologists do not routinely pay attention to subjective experiences of the therapeutic encounter, social workers do. Thus, the field of social work makes an invaluable contribution to the knowledge and skills of speech-language pathologists.


    This clinical focus article focuses on the clinician's contribution to the therapeutic relationship by surfacing elements of the underlying subjective processes.


    Vignettes were gathered from clinicians in two community aphasia programs informed by the principles of the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia.

    Results and Discussion

    By reflecting on and sharing aspects of clinical encounters, clinicians reveal subjective processing occurring beneath the surface. The vignettes shed light on the following clinical behaviors: listening to the client's “whole self,” having considerations around self-disclosure, dealing with biases, recognizing and surfacing clients' identities, and fostering hope. Speech-language pathologists are given little instruction on the importance of the therapeutic relationship, how to conceptualize this relationship, and how to balance this relationship with professionalism. Interprofessional collaboration with social workers provides a rich opportunity to learn ways to form and utilize the benefits of a strong therapeutic relationship while maintaining high standards of ethical behavior.


    This clinical focus article provides speech-language pathologists with the “nuts and bolts” for considering elements of the therapeutic relationship. This is an area that is gaining traction in the field of speech-language pathology and warrants further investigation.


    Additional Resources