What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Most common response I get when I introduce myself and my title:

"I don't need speech. I talk just fine."

An SLP is so much more than talking.  Let me explain ..

  • An SLP diagnoses and treats communication and swallowing disorders.  They are experts in communication.  The American Speech Hearing Association has more detailed explanation.
  • An SLP has at least a masters degree, and often has state licenses and national certifications.  
  • Certified SLPs (You see "CCC-SLP" behind their name) take an average of at least 10 hours of continuing education every year in order to maintain their certification.  That is in addition to the many of us who also participate in various professional groups and read journal articles in order to stay up to date on recent research for evidence-based techniques and collaboration with other professionals. 
  • An SLP can not only administer formal assessments; they interpret and explain the results so that you understand them.  

For example, low performance on a "memory" task may be due to a memory impairment.  OR, it may be due to word-finding, motor-planning, hearing, understanding, attention, fatigue, medication, lab abnormalities, or any combination of the above.  

An excellent SLP will look beyond the test score and look at the cause of the deficit, as well as identify strengths and effective strategies.  We use those strengths and successes as we plan treatment.  

We don't just say "Yup, she can't remember".  We might say "She didn't understand.  We don't remember what we don't understand.  Let me help you communicate so that she does understand."  OR "Let's work on recovering from your aphasia. We'll teach you and your family some strategies to compensate while we work towards improving your comprehension skills."

  • SLPs are highly trained professionals, though they vary with their caseload and expertise.  Some work across the lifespan, from birth to geriatrics and end of life/hospice.  Some work in schools with articulation, phonology, autism, language disorders and fluency while working evening and weekends in home health with dysphagia, apraxia, aphasia, cognitive-communication disorders and more.  Other SLPs specialize so that they are expertise in their area of interest. 

I specialize and focus on my self-learning on aphasia, dementia and voice.  For example, last spring I earned over 20 continuing ed hours learning about the latest research and techniques in treating various forms of dementia.  SLPs also spend their own time between visits to research, prepare a plan, and adjust treatment.  I limit the number of clients I will see at a time so that I can devote this time and attention to truly customize my client's plan so that they receive the best treatment possible.  

  • Speech Therapy may be covered by insurance, though there are often limits and exclusions. You may have a deductible to be met, copays, a cap on the number of allowed visits, or your diagnosis/treatment needed may not be covered.  Insurance companies are starting to reimburse for telepractice.  If you have out of network coverage, you can choose an SLP with expertise in your area.  You then pay the bill and submit your invoice to insurance for reimbursement.  This document can help you understand insurance.
Always call your insurance company to check your benefits.  Document what you were told, including the codes, as well as who told you, and the day and time you spoke.  If you can get the response in writing, even better.
  • Costhelper is a website designed to help consumers research the costs of medical treatments.  Speech Therapy may cost from $75-$250/hour, depending on location and setting.  Fair Health Consumer is another website where you can enter a medical procedure and your zip code to obtain an estimation of costs.  These numbers may or may not be accurate, but it is a starting point.  The "procedure code" 92507 is the most common one for speech therapy treatment.  Swallowing therapy's code is 92526.