So You Want to Be an SLP: Professional Q&A
Last summer, I met an undergraduate student who was considering becoming an SLP. She came into the clinic to observe me working with clients, and we conducted an interview. I thought this article might be helpful for other SLPs or aspiring SLPs. For anyone interested in working in this field, read on to get to know me (and the job I do) a bit better.
Q: How/ when did you decide that you would work with kids and in speech pathology?
A: When I completed my undergraduate degree in journalism, the job market was very poor. I spent a year working for the AmeriCorps while keeping my mind and heart open for the right career for me. I looked into physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social work. Ultimately, I decided what was most important to me: a living wage, to use my communication background, and to be able to truly help people. So, I felt becoming SLP was the best fit.
Q: What has been your favorite part of being a speech pathologist?
A: Every day, even the hard days – you know you made a difference. Here’s a few examples of some of the rewarding moments SLPs witness:
-A child w/autism says their first verbal word.
-A child with down syndrome uses a communication device to indicate what they want for the first time.
-A child who couldn’t be understood by others now says enough speech sounds correctly that his friends can understand him.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
A: There are so many different disorders and areas of practice. This includes: swallowing, neurogenics (adult clients with stroke or TBI), hundreds of different syndromes, and children with a variety of needs. Staying up to date with the latest research in so many areas can be overwhelming.
If you are interested in the areas in which SLPs practice, this pinterest board will help.
Q: Do you have any recommendations/warnings for people interested in studying speech pathology?
A: Speech pathology is an incredibly rewarding field! That being said, be careful of compassion fatigue . Compassion fatigue is a trauma unique to those serving others who are suffering. This may lead to feeling a variety of feelings associated with that trauma.
Also, you will not be a good match for every client – be OK with that. When this occurs, you may work through it with a client by talking a lot and opening up communication. If needed, and/or if possible, you may refer the client to someone else.
Also, there is quite a bit of burn out in this field. Make sure to have a strong support system in place and really tune in to your self care routine before entering this field. You can learn more about burn out via the mayo clinic or via psychology today.
What happened after the interview?
As an update, this student has decided to pursue speech pathology as a career. The deal breaker (incentive?) for her was knowing that she would be truly helping children. Despite the challenges, she wanted to know at the end of the day this profession makes a difference. To that, I wish her the best of luck. Every job has it’s ups and downs. But if you want to help others, this is a job where you’ll truly know when you’ve made a difference and helped others find and express their voice.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy more of my behind-the-scenes type posts such as my thoughts on being ready for speech therapy or why life lessons learned mentoring. In the meantime, if you’d like to see more of what I’m doing in the clinic, feel free to follow me on Instagram, where I spend my social media time.