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What to do when your speech therapy session feels like a failure

This is the situation:

You managed to have the therapy session, but it just didn't seem to go anywhere you imagined it to be despite all the prep work you have done. You come out of the therapy session thinking, 'This went really bad. I am struggling. I'm not a good therapist.'? (Even your usually apathetic cat can tell something's off about you)

Does this sound familiar?

Before you continue to indulge in beating yourself down, take a step back. Let's figure this out together.

You might be familiar with Gibb's reflective model. This is a great way to reflect on a session and to develop an action plan for the next one:

Other than Gibb’s, here are some more prompts to think about your session:

  • What went well? What was a struggle?

  • For the things that went well, why was it a success? What contributed to that success?

  • For the things that were a struggle, what might have been some of the contributing factors?

    • Was the client motivated to have the session?

    • Could we try to incorporate more of the client's interests into the session?

    • Are the activities developmentally appropriate for the client?

    • Have I included some activities that can give the client a sense of success?

    • Does the client know what they are expected to do, or have I been too vague and keep on moving the goalpost of 'when is this hard thing going to end?'?

    • Have I included enough visuals to support their understanding and communication?

    • Is our aim and goal achievable for the client based on their baseline? Did they communicate and engage previously? Is what you are doing functional?

    • Perhaps the client is simply not ready to do what you wanted them to do that day? Considering fatigue, delirium, medication side effects, hunger, medical wellbeing, mental health wellbeing. Is there anything else that they might need before they can attend to what you want to offer them?

  • Consider the bigger picture - what are you trying to do? What are the smaller individual steps that the client needs to get there? What is another more functional step to take?

  • Experiment the next step

There is no perfect way to do therapy sessions - there are simply too many things to contend with within therapy sessions.

Try things out, reflect on what happened, adjust course and then try again.

Don’t forget that it might not even be because of you - there are at least two people within that therapy session and the client needs to be ready to access what you can offer them.


If you learnt something from this article - share this with your friends and colleagues!

Better yet, DM us on instagram to tell us your thoughts - @speechtherapistslinks


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