Aphasia can be emotionally difficult. People with aphasia are 62% more likely to have depression following a stroke. Researchers at Penn State are working with this fact to change the mental health of people with aphasia.
Penn State Creates a Training Program
Researchers at Penn State completed a pilot program that is the first step to implementing a broader plan. That plan? “To train undergraduate students, graduate students, practicing speech-language pathologists, and practicing clinical rehabilitation and mental health counselors about the mental health concerns of individuals with aphasia.”
Aphasia is treated by speech-language pathologists, but the researchers realized that most speech-language pathologists do not have mental health training. They can treat the aphasia but not the emotions surrounding aphasia. At the same time, talk therapy can be difficult if the individual is rebuilding communication skills. The answer is to change the therapy to fit the needs of the individual.
The work needs to flow in two directions:
Future speech-language pathologists will learn how to engage patients with mental health concerns and when to refer their patients to a licensed counselor. Undergraduate rehabilitation and human service majors and counselor education graduate students will learn about aphasia and how to communicate with individuals who have difficulty communicating.
Aphasia is at the center, with help coming from two directions simultaneously: speech-language pathologists will be more aware of the mental health needs of people with aphasia. And mental health therapists will be more aware of the unique communication needs of people with aphasia.