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Counseling patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

As speech language pathologists we are trained to engage in counseling all the time. In fact, some days a large portion of my day is typically spent counseling. We counsel patients when we acknowledge their frustrations or quality of life changes due to their communication challenges. We counsel patients when we give them a listening and fully understanding ear when we acknowledge and understand (on a greater level than most) what challenges they’re facing. We counsel them when we say “you can do this” or give a reassuring smile. We even counsel them when we educate and provide empowerment. But things right now are different. How do we support our patients during this time? 

In my opinion, counseling needs are stronger than ever. We need to be relying on our counseling skills now especially. Of course, we are not psychologists and should not take the place of one. But we can put on our counseling SLP hat and rise to the challenge of supporting our patients in need this time. Maybe we can guide them to a referral if they need further guidance that is beyond our scope. Maybe they just need someone to validate that the feelings they are feeling right now are OKAY and normal and that they can get back to a place where they will feel more empowered again. Maybe we can just explain that yes, this increased stress can certainly lead to worsened neurological symptoms, worsened voice, worsened stuttering, more behavioral changes with lack of routine etc. And maybe we can offer more free educational resources to assist right now.

Perhaps we just need to adjust our approach to be a bit more patient, more open, and just simply supportive.  We put ourselves into our work for our patients each and every day. Now we are faced with different times but that need for counsling is just a little stronger. We’ll get through it together!

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