Why and How to Get Started in Online Speech Therapy
Online Speech Therapy or Telepractice is the use of technology to provide therapy via high speed internet, webcam, headset with microphone or any other form of communication. Online speech therapy is a clinical arrangement where the patient and a certified speech therapist communicate and interact face-to-face over the Internet. The session involves a suite of therapeutic exercises depending on the nature of therapy being offered.
Telepractice is defined by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) as the use of technology to provide speech therapy services to remote regions. Janet Brown, the Director of Healthcare services in SLP at ASHA has stated “research shows that with telepractice a speech language pathologist can provide speech therapy services, with the same results, as being there in person.”
Treatments Using Online Speech Therapy
Online Speech Therapy can be used with clients of many ages and ability levels. It is a great method of speech therapy for children, adolescents, adults and seniors.
Children can suffer from a range of speech and language challenges, and finding affordable, convenient support can be challenging. Problems that can be treated via Online Speech Therapy –
- Delayed Speech & Language
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Unclear Speech
- Cerebral Palsy
- Learning Disability
- Intellectual Disability
- Hearing Loss
- Apraxia of Speech
- Down Syndrome
- Cleft Lip/Palate
- Childhood Developmental Syndromes
Online Speech Therapy for Adults is highly effective for those who are looking for convenient flexible options. Here is a list of disorders that can be treated via Online Speech Therapy in adults –
- Aphasia secondary to Stroke/Accidents
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Voice Problems
- Unclear Speech/Pronunciation
- Accent Modification
Benefits of Online Speech Therapy
During the course of conducting online speech therapy at 1SpecialPlace in the past 2 years, we have found several reasons for clients choosing the online model :
- Online Speech Therapy saves time and cost of travel
- It promises better continued therapy overcoming situations like bad weather, traffic jams, unwell parents etc.
- It can be accessed even if clients traveling to another city
- It can be accessed from home/office/school
- Clients can sit with their child to monitor their progress in the online sessions. Many a times in conventional Speech therapy centres parents cant attend the sessions and online therapy breaks those norms.
- Research shows that with online sessions even mothers learn a lot and are able to use the tips and ideas in day to day communication with the child. Hence carry over of therapy is significantly better.
- Effective cost of therapy for the client is lower in case of online consultation as travel and other associated costs are avoided
Professional Scope of Online Speech Therapy
More and more consumers are taking to technology to solve everyday problems including accessing healthcare facilities. Around 6% of all healthcare mobile apps in the world are dedicated to speech and mental healthcare alone! With the onset of the information age, consumers are also willing to try new solutions if it solves their problem effectively in a convenient and affordable way. More specifically, there has been a tremendous increase in demand of telemedicine for healthcare service globally. This sector has been growing at a tremendous pace, with the industry to touch $280 billion by the end of 2020, according to Statista.com. In India alone, the telemedicine market is growing annually at the rate of 20% and is expected to cross $32 million mark by 2020 according to a study by Assocham and YourStory. Therapists in India are not only using telemedicine to reach rural areas where such services are not available but also to reach Indians living abroad! We at 1SpecialPlace are serving customers in regions like Europe, UAE, USA, Australia to name a few. In short, this is a great time to be an online therapist!
Get Started in Online Speech Therapy
Starting an online therapy practice is in some ways similar to starting a conventional offline practice with a few key differences. Below are the steps, we at 1SpecialPlace, followed over the last 2 years in order to establish a successful online practice :
- Get Trained : While any qualified speech therapist can practice online, acquiring certain techniques and methods for practicing online can significantly enhance therapy outcomes. When we started online speech therapy, there was no formal training available for becoming an online speech therapist in India. Trainings provided by therapists in USA are great but can be expensive and not always suited for Indian clientele. As a result we created our inhouse teletherapy training programme at 1SpecialPlace. The same training program has now been released publicly to be used by professionals seeking to get trained in teletherapy. The training is conducted by teletherapy specialists who themselves have been trained at ASHA and have been working in this same for more than 2 years. You can get more details about the program here.
- Find an online therapy platform : Despite numerous advances in technology, conducting online therapy can be quite a hassle. This is due to the lack of availability of an integrated software that can smoothly handle all aspects of communication between clients and therapists. This is key in online therapy because there is so face to face interaction. This communication is of 3 types :
- Pre-Session communication : It consists of collecting payments, booking appointments, sending booking confirmation, reminders and giving easy options to reschedule or cancel. Pre-Session communication is essential to maintain healthy relationship with clients by avoiding any confusions and also to ensure revenue coming in smoothly for your practice
- Ongoing-Session communication : This primarily consists of video conferencing and other associated features that assist therapists in a therapy session. In traditional video conferencing solutions like Skype, the interactive features needed for speech therapists are not present. These also make it super difficult for clients to join sessions. Hence it is important to choose the correct video conferencing platform
- Post-Session communication : After a session has been successfully completed, it is important to communicate what happened during the session, any followups needed, session recordings or materials used during the session. This is essential to improve client retention by keeping them apprised and up to date about their therapy progress. Session recordings are a key differentiator which give an edge to online therapy over offline therapy. Hence it is essential to ensure that your therapy platform supports session recordings and provides easy access to them.
We faced a lot of technical challenges with client-therapist communication when we started online therapy at 1SpecialPlace. You can read about them here. As a result we created our own online therapy platform called TheraKonnect which seamlessly handles all 3 types of communications between a therapist and client as far as online therapy is concerned. As a professional you can use TheraKonnect and avoid any technical hassles coming in the way of starting an online practice. It is a comprehensive and affordable solution for online speech therapy.
- Try taking some online sessions : If you are already working somewhere, starting part time can be a great idea. Infact, the best way to start taking online sessions is with your existing clients as it reduces stress for you, on account of an already existing rapport with the client. Many clients would love the option of taking a session from home instead of travelling! You can also approach past clients who moved away due to a location change. You can offer discounts on first few online sessions or even conduct them for free until you become more confident in conducting online therapy. These techniques help clients warm upto the idea of online therapy and have worked well for us at 1SpecialPlace. As a matter of fact, we still provide free trial sessions to all our clients! With TheraKonnect you get one month trial period which you can utilise for conducting some online sessions with your clients on a trial basis.
- Advertise : Advertising is key to the success of any practice. However advertising doesn’t necessarily have to mean paid advertising :
- If you already have a private practice, you can start by putting up posters talking about your online program in your clinic.
- If you maintain a database of your past clients, emailing them or calling them can be a way to spread the word
- A simple mention on your visiting card can also go a long way in attracting the attention of clients.
- With the advent of social media, it has become possible to advertise online without putting in any funds. You can regularly keep posting about your online practice from social media profiles. You can create a Facebook page and a Google Business page. Google Business even creates a website for your business for free!
- Paid ads on Facebook and Google are also easy to setup if needed. However, the techniques mentioned above can keep you going for a long time. Infact we haven’t felt the need to start paid ads so far for 1SpecialPlace! It is important to understand that social media growth gets compounded over time and as you get more popular on the internet, it will become easier to get attention
- Keep doing it : This has been the single most important lesson that we have learnt in the last 2 years of conducting online therapy. As you gain confidence in taking online sessions and more clients find out about it, the word will spread and more clients will contact you for online sessions. Gradually it will become a full fledged practice.
We hope that this article helps you get started in conducting online therapy. Remember that if you are a qualified speech and language therapist then there is nothing stopping you from trying online therapy! For a country like India where there are 3.26 mental health professionals for every 1,00,000 people, online therapy is a much needed solution. Do contact us at 1SpecialPlace if you need any further help!