Language and communication is fundamental to the expression of our “Humanness”, but often it is only when there is a loss of communication that its considerable value becomes apparent and problematic. However, research focussing on impairment may unwittingly overemphasize the mechanistic aspects of speech and language therapy and consequently undervalue or overlook the role of care and other wider processes that could be essential to therapeutic success.
This study used a Grounded theory approach, based on semi-structured interviews of adult clients with acquired communication or swallowing disorders, to explore a broad range of issues pertinent to the therapeutic relationship in speech and language therapy. This was accomplished with particular reference to clients' perceptions of the therapist characteristics feeding into the therapeutic relationship. Overall, speech and language therapists were described as having what could be referred to as Restorative Poise. This theoretical label referred to how speech and language therapists used their personal characteristics to restore some form of balance to lives disturbed and fragmented by communication disorders. The core theoretical category, Restorative poise was derived from two lower level theoretical categories emerging from the data, namely Therapeutic Qualities (TQs) and Therapeutic Actions (TAs). While TQs referred to those qualities of the therapists' personal attributes clients perceived as therapeutic, TAs referred to actions their speech and language therapists performed. The TQs Being Understanding, Gracious, Erudite and Inspiring and the TAs Being Confident, Soothing, Practical and Empowering, were obtained in a process of theoretical sampling and constant comparison by noting that various initial codes seemed to cluster naturally together.
The researcher provided the profile of an ideal speech and language therapist, implications for practice, areas for further research, and the strengths and weaknesses of the study.
Key words: Speech and language therapy, communication disorders, therapeutic relationship, qualitative research, Grounded theory.