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  • Writer's picturePaul

The Biggest Lesson I've Learned from My Clinical Fellowship

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

I finished my speech-language pathology clinical fellowship in March of 2020. This euphoric sense of accomplishment was met with the swift upheaval of life as we knew it. Ironic how just as I was becoming a full fledged SLP, the universe decided to throw my life plans into a tornado of plague then just peaced.

As I spent the new few weeks trying to keep my mind off of the coronavirus twist of fate, I began to reflect on one particular question: What was the biggest lesson I learned from my clinical fellowship? My first experience of actually traversing this path alone with full independence to create my own personal therapy convictions.

One may tout the important of time management or office cleanliness or reflect on a new set of swallowing exercises they learned from a mentor.

The friends I made with co-workers and bosses was a significant and humbling experience. The relationships established with parents and caregivers was validating and uplifting. Even the little things like how the water from the fountains was always at the perfect drinking temperature was apart of the highlight of my CF.

As I continued to look back on what an eventful year I had, the faces of my clients kept coming into me. All unique, all full of potential, and all ready to take the this world with their “go get em” attitude. And that is when it hit me.

Like the “ah-ha” moment I had when I first found this career in high school, I again realized the purpose of this field.

The biggest lesson I learned from my clinical fellowship is the impact our jobs as SLP can be if, through our therapies and methodologies, we can empower our clients to advocate for themselves and for others.

Isn’t that what it comes down to? In the components of language, advocating for one’s self and others seems to the pinnacle of pragmatic language. It encompasses everything one has learned through communication development.

It’s the Avengers: Endgame of language, the culmination of years and years of work, for some, to go out into the world and thrive in an ever-changing society.

And while it is scary to think about it in that sense, it is somewhat comforting that as a clinician I’ve done all I can to prepare my clients to advocate for themselves in world that may move too quickly or too harshly to those without that sense of empowerment.

The term advocate is one we hear quite often through a variety of meanings, sometimes brushed aside in the lexicon of human to human interaction. At its very untainted core, to advocate is to communicate for one’s self or others or a cause to support.

If there is anything I have learned in my clinical fellowship, and that list is extensive, its that SLPs have the potential to be individuals to empower those we work with.

From modeling play with infants and their families to teaching patients with aphasia how to say their names again, we hold a significant responsibility in giving our clients a voice.

A unique voice.

A voice of their own.

A voice where what they say and how they say has an impact that can reverberate throughout this universe. And its not just a spoken voice. This applies to all forms of communicating; whether through signs or a communication device, when we give our clients the tools to state their feelings, wants, and needs we are building the stepping stones of allowing them to take charge of their lives.

I have found the bigger picture sometimes gets muddle in the day to day structure of sessions and data tracking. It has been an uphill effort to strike a balance between efficacy and empowerment. It is a skill I hope to hone and learn more about as I grow in this profession.

In the end, I have always believed that an SLP should be a small vignette in the story of our clients. When the outside world reduces us to an articulate stereotype, it seems that SLPs universally agree to help others knowing we may not stand out or get a shout out when are clients are giving out their award speeches or victory toasts. It is more a quiet smile when we come across the successes of our clients. The work we do with them and collaboration we provide for parents is just another joyful day for us.

A great Jedi Master once said, “we are what they grow beyond, that is the true burden of a master.” It is my hope that I instill a sense of empowerment to my clients. I want them to be better than I was at their age. That just means they are even more ready to take up the world and its burdens when the times comes.

I will continue to strive for evidence-based practice methodologies. I must continue to uphold the ethical means of providing therapy, but it should not come at the expense of an individual’s ability to advocate for themselves. I have learned these two things in fact need each other. It is a small lesson, but a lesson I am happy to have learned now as I prepare to take another big leap into our field.

Till Next Time,

The Speech Geek :)

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