Choosing a Speech Therapist

Who are Speech Therapists?
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), sometimes also referred to as speech therapists are dedicated and highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who specialize in the evaluation and treatment of speech, language, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders. Some of the specific disorders treated include:

  • Cognitive aspects of communication such as attention, memory and problem solving.
  • Speech disorders such as articulation, fluency, resonance, and voice including aeromechanical components of respiration
  • Language disorders such as pragmatic/social aspects of communication including comprehension and expression in oral, written, graphic, and manual modalities, language processing; pre-literacy and language-based literacy skills, phonological awareness.
  • Swallowing or other functions such as infant feeding and evaluation of esophageal functions.
  • Voice disorders including hoarseness, poor vocal volume, and abnormal vocal quality.
  • Sensory awareness related to communication or swallowing.

SLPs often work as part of a team, which may include teachers, physicians, audiologists, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation counselors, and others. Corporate SLPs work with employees to improve communication with customers.

Where do Speech Therapists Practice?

  • Public and private schools
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Short and long-term nursing care facilities
  • Community clinics
  • Colleges and universities
  • Private practice offices
  • State and local health departments
  • State and federal government agencies
  • Home health agencies
  • Adult day care centers
  • Centers for persons with developmental disabilities
  • Research laboratories

What are the Educational Requirements for becoming a Speech Therapist?
All speech therapists must receive a graduate degree - either a masters or clinical doctorate - from an accredited speech-language pathologist education program before taking the national licensure exam that allows them to practice.
Degree levels for speech therapist education programs:

  • Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology (e.g. M.A., M.S., or M.Ed)
  • Clinical doctorate in Speech Language Pathology (e.g. CSCD or SLP-D), or a Ph.D.

What are the Licensure Requirements for becoming a Speech Therapist?
After graduation, candidates must pass a state-administered national exam. Other requirements for speech therapy practice vary from state to state according to speech therapy practice acts or state regulations that govern speech-language pathology.

How to Choose a Speech Therapist
Seek the services of a speech therapist that can help you with your condition. Many SLPs specialize in treating specific disorders such as speech, swallowing, language, cognitive.

Always make sure that your speech therapy is provided by a licensed speech-language pathologist.  Speech therapists are professional health care providers and they are licensed by the state in which they practice.

Once you have chosen a speech therapist, make certain to inquire if the clinic participates with your health insurance company as this should minimize your out-of-pocket financial responsibility. Many speech therapists list the insurance plans that they participate in on their websites; but you should always call the clinic as this information may not be up to date.

There are some circumstances where it might make sense to see a speech therapist who does not participate in your health insurance plan. Some of those circumstances could include special skills related to your particular disorder, or if the clinic location is more convenient for you.

Inquire whether the speech therapy clinic submits health insurance claims on the behalf of their patients. Some policies require co-payments at the time of service and the amount of the co-pay will depend on whether the speech therapist is a part of the insurer’s provider network.

You may also have to meet your deductible, which can vary from health plan to health plan.

Always ask for an estimate of your financial responsibility prior to seeking treatment.

Your first office visit should include an evaluation by the speech therapist to identify current and/or potential conditions. Based on the examination results, the SLP will develop a plan of care that will include specific exercises or routines and will propose a timetable to achieve the goals.

Always make sure to ask questions. Your health and wellness and ultimate recovery depends upon how well you and your speech therapist communicate.
Use PREFERRED’s Provider Locator to find highly qualified providers in your area.

For more information on speech therapists, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website: