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So what is voice therapy, really?

Do you know what to expect from voice therapy?

What is really at the core of voice therapy?

So maybe you’ve tried some voice therapy techniques (we see you, resonant hums) and maybe they work, but then you find that your voice just goes back to where it was a few minutes later or right after you do the hums.

Maybe you’ve tried to do the hums but just feel like it’s causing you MORE effort or strain.

Or maybe you’ve done resonant hums and find that the more you practice and work, the harder they become and the more exhausted and frustrated you become!

If someone comes to me as a patient and feels that resonant hums, for example, make symptoms worse pr are hard in any way we make some major shifts. I listen and watch them do them hum and almost 10/10 times can tell pretty immediately WHY these are not feeling good for them. Are they still using a lot of effort, do they have a lack of airflow, do they know even what they’re feeling, are they holding tension anywhere? I listen for all of these things and then make tweaks. Maybe I teach them how to release their airflow or shift the vibration to a slightly different point. Or maybe we try some other sounds or techniques that are easier than the hum. Maybe we need to start with establishment of consistent airflow with speech before they can benefit from the hum.

The thing with voice therapy is also that it's not a cookie cutter approach. If the hums work for you when you try them on your own that's fantastic!! BUT are you able to combine that with airflow? Are you able to realize where you even need to be using more airflow or more forward focus? Can you start to feel those differences and know what to pay attention to and start to learn how to build kinesthetic awareness that builds the foundation of controlling your voice? LIkely this is difficult in the beginning because we are not used to paying attention to how the voice feels, where it is placed, or what's happening physiologically (hint: a good voice therapist will train you how to start feeling these differences to gain control and independence!)

Some people do better with a top-down approach (starting more conversationally and then we make tweaks and use techniques in conversation as needed). This sometimes takes away the effort when someone feels like they are doing “drills” or overthinking getting a perfect production in practice.

Which also brings me to another point. I never do drills with patients. Yes, we work on foundational techniques. But I remember the days where I did drills of practicing one word over and over again until I felt like it sounded like my old voice (which of course didn't work). I put so much pressure on myself during this type of structured practice that my voice was working just harder and harder and it was having the opposite effect. Plus, even if I was able to get a smoother voice in practice, my voice went straight back to its old pattern when I spoke to someone in a real setting. Which was even more disheartening. I felt like I had failed because I couldn't keep that resonance. What I later discovered was getting to that better voice took less effort, not more and I learned to tools to get me there rather than focusing on one that just doesn't work.

So what should a quality speech pathologist work on with you?

-Individualization of techniques: If the hum is not working, I help you figure out WHY it's not working. What can you be doing differently to make it feel better? If it is still not working it just may not be your technique and we try lots of other things to see what FEELS better to you. What's the point of trying to do a hum over and over if it just is not feeling good to you? Each person is so different and has such different symptoms, severity levels, and ways of compenating and we need to adjust for that high level of individualization!

- Transfer of techniques: This was a game changer for me in my voice therapy journey. I was doing hums and work practice all the time but when I spoke my voice was no different. I was frustrated. Was I doing something wrong? Why wasn't I seeing a change? If I gave you a million hums to practice and they all felt great and were in that target voice, that's so great BUT what happens when you go to speak? Does it go right back to your throat? I focus a lot on transfer of what you feel in these foundational techniques like hums to conversation. How do you get that same feeling of ease like you did with the hum or straw in conversation with a person or in a work meeting when there are so many other vocal and cognitive demands during those situations? You need to work directly in conversation if you want to make a change in conversation! Motor learning theory (the theory behind making any voice change) says that specificity of the context matters!! And it makes sense right? If you're only doing hums you'll be really good at resetting your voice but nothing else. We need to learn how to feel those same feelings of control and forward focus but IN conversation. I help you make shifts during conversation, recognize how to make those shifts mid-conversation and how to actually translate feelings from voice techniques to shifting the way you speak permanently.

- Education on your symptoms (what's normal and what's not). We all have questions about our voice and our symptoms and usually no one to ask them to. If you get botox you maybe get .5 seconds with your doctor but that's about it! You can ask others in the Facebook group but do you know if you're getting an accurate answer?

Have questions? Interested in learning more? Contact me with questions or for a free consult to learn more!

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