The Four Hats of a Speech-Language Pathologist

Written by: Julie Cohn / Treatment / May 2019


Something we discuss at our clinic often is the different “hats” a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) must wear to be effective.  The hats are skills we bring to working with our clients to help them with their goals.  Here are the four hats I feel are most important:


1) Clinical provider

Our first and foremost job is to be knowledgeable about speech-language pathology best practice, evidence-based practice, and client-centred practice (see my previous blog entry for more information on these).  In addition to keeping our knowledge current, we stay active in sessions, providing our best clinical judgment, assessment, and knowledge of treatment methods to ensure your speech and language goals are progressing well. 

2) Listener

Many of the areas in which we practice are deeply ingrained in a person’s sense of identity (their accent, native language, gender, and/or sound of their voice).  These can be very difficult areas for clients to work on, and can bring up many different feelings and thoughts.  To be able to treat speech and/or voice, we must be able to treat a whole person, with the context of who they were, who they are, and who they want to become.  This means we must take care to be a good listeners: being patient, sympathetic, respectful, and supportive is crucial.  Being good listeners for our clients can ease the stress associated with making major life changes (like changes to voice or accent) and helps our clients to fully trust and feel safe with our work.  Really letting a client speak about what matters to them and listening so they feel understood can be the most valuable part of our work.  


3) Counsellor

In conjunction with listening, clients often express deeply personal fears, truths, thoughts, and/or feelings. While we always take care to stay within our professional scope as SLPs and not mental health professionals, it’s important that we are able to have difficult conversations with clients and speak to their fears, concerns, doubts, etc.  In this way, we are not simply working on a client’s speech or voice, but showing that we understand how our work must fit into a client’s life. We are always happy to help with a referral if there is the need for more in-depth counselling, but where our treatment is concerned, it’s important to be able to reassure, explain, or otherwise speak to a client’s expressed ideas.  

4) Detective

With many of our clients, it can be hard for a person to pinpoint the area on which they want to work.  While listening to the client as a priority, it is also important to look deeper, and to try to understand more than the presenting problem a client shares with us (kind of like Dr. House!)  I have had many clients come to therapy saying they want to improve their “voice” when what they are describing is part of their accent (e.g. intonation), or explaining they have felt their “accent” has held them back from promotions, when what they actually describe is lack of confidence in speaking to their superiors (which may be a cultural difference, but may also be marked by quiet speech, fidgeting, feeling nervous, etc.). Therefore, while it is very important to listen to what the client is saying, it is also helpful to consider that speech and language issues are often complex and interwoven.  Plus, clients may have encountered lots of folk wisdom or checked out WebMD before arriving to a session, or they may have received unscientific advice from well-meaning friends or colleagues.  Being sure to provide accurate feedback, helping clients understand how areas of speech and language work together, and together seeking to understand the specific needs a client has are all important to narrowing down treatment goals.  A good SLP will assess and share their findings clearly with a client in order to help clarify speech and/or language issues and set appropriate goals.

When you work with an SLP at Well Said, keep in mind we are wearing all of our hats to help you achieve your goals!  We will be happy to provide our best clinical knowledge, listen to you, provide empathetic discussion around your concerns and needs, and work carefully to fully flesh out treatment needs and a plan that is suited specifically to you! You can book an initial consultation with us using the link below, or by calling (647) 795-5277.