Beginning this fall, the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders has been pleased to welcome individuals seeking transgender voice therapy services to be clients at the Eckelmann-Taylor Speech and Hearing Clinic. The journey was prefaced with substantial preparation and training for clinical educators and student clinicians within the department.
Before launching the program, many components of treatment were considered. Community outreach and promoting awareness on the topic were the first and largest aspects of preparation. Collaboration with many experienced professionals allowed the program to be set up for success.
Robin Boyd, graduate student clinician, and Tricia Larkin, clinical educator, both collaborated with Illinois State University’s voice specialist, Lisa Vinney, Ph.D. All three attended a two-day intensive training conference in April 2017 for professional development to incorporate this program into the Eckelmann-Taylor Speech and Hearing Clinic.
Services offered at the Eckelmann-Taylor Speech and Hearing Clinic incorporate several areas of therapy. Larkin said her main goal is making sure that the clinic provides services that address physical and emotional health, as well as physical safety.
She went on to discuss two components of therapy sessions: the perceptual characteristics of voice and additional aspects of communication. Within these two elements of therapy, there are several subcomponents necessary for a successful therapy session. To begin the therapy session, the clinician addresses the patient’s counseling needs, which include checking in and addressing emotions associated with his or her voice. Once the clinician has completed the counseling portion of the session, he or she may work on mindfulness, relaxation, and stretching to address mental and physiological aspects of voice. The majority of the session may be spent working on voice techniques and skills targeting resonance, respiration, pitch, and articulation.
Larkin and Boyd reflected on their experiences thus far with transgender voice modification. Larkin reported that the experience has been an amazing learning opportunity and Boyd added that being a student clinician working with transgender clients is “all about self-education, which shows awareness.”