Mindfulness and Speech Therapy

With the world being chaotic, mindfulness is more important than ever! This post is geared towards speech therapists interested in incorporating mindfulness into their sessions. This article is meant to empower you to take that next leap into the integration of teaching mindfulness practices in your speech pathology sessions. 


What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the act of being present and aware of one’s own thoughts. Oftentimes, we are consumed with thoughts on the past and future. This prevents us from cultivating gratitude for the present moment. When I started my mindfulness journey, I was discouraged by my trainer who told me to sit in a room and think of nothing for 20-30 minutes.  I found this impossible.  


Instead, mindfulness is the act of being truly present. Use these questions as a guide to grounding yourself and/or your client. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you taste?  What do you feel? The next step is to allow your thoughts to float in and out of your head like disappearing clouds. We can train the brain to be mindful using deep breathing as a strategy.  Focusing on deep inhalation and even slower exhalations is an evidence-based practice to reduce anxiety and increase mental well-being.  


But how does this relate to speech therapy?  The clients we treat have a variety of difficulties, including concentration, reduced thought organization, poor vocal quality, and reduced vocal intensity. Let’s see how using mindfulness strategies can help each one. 


Difficulty Concentrating: Try a deep breathing exercise. Have your client count in for 4 seconds and out for 6 seconds. Try doing this before presenting a task. This will help them work on being aware of their breath and will help their mind calm down. Another idea is to have the client attend a 2-5 minute guided meditation. How do I create a relevant therapy goal that incorporates mindfulness? The client attended for three minutes to auditory information with fewer than two cues for re-direction to the task. Ask them “WH” questions after to assess comprehension of material (i.e. Question: Where did the instructor say to place your feet?  Answer: flat on the floor). The guided meditations are often accompanied by short video clips, which may be captivating for a younger audience.  


Reduced thought organization: Try a lesson plan on being mindful. We can categorize our thoughts into future, past, and present moments. We could also label them as happy, sad, worried, or other feelings. Have your client take a moment to stop and label their own thoughts.  This exercise will plant the seed of self-awareness or in speech terminology the meta-linguistic aspect of speech (being conscious of our thoughts and having the capacity to manipulate our language as we are speaking).   


Sometimes your students may need to take a break during the session. During that 1-2 minute break, you can use some mindfulness practices, such as a simple yoga stretch (mountain pose with both hands up in the air). As you guide your student to stretch, they are taking a “break” while following one-step directions.  


If you still feel lost and want to obtain that zen feeling, I would encourage you to strengthen your own mindfulness practice. This may consist of listening to a guided meditation, taking a yoga class, or sitting and breathing deeply for a moment. I developed a children’s book that incorporates mindfulness, meditation, and a breathing exercise (click here). The world could use a little more zen.  Until next time!


Author: Gina Mervis, SLP

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