A Counselor in Clients’ Pockets Try these visual apps to help clients understand diagnostic information, process emotions and solve problems. App-titude
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App-titude  |   May 01, 2016
A Counselor in Clients’ Pockets
Author Notes
  • Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a clinician and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.”
    Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a clinician and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, Mass., and consultant to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie, looks at technology “through a language lens.”×
    sean@speechtechie.com
Article Information
Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / App-titude
App-titude   |   May 01, 2016
A Counselor in Clients’ Pockets
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.21052016.np
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.21052016.np
When it comes to counseling patients, empathy and active listening play a key role, along with providing information. Part of our job as clinicians is supporting the client emotionally as we describe a diagnosis and treatment that can be life-changing (see the 2006 ASHA Leader article by audiologist David Luterman).
At first blush, the use of technology may seem incompatible with these counseling functions. However, apps can help visually support the counseling process in a number of ways.
Informing
Particularly at first, clients may struggle with processing information about diagnoses and disorders. Apps offer graphics and documentation that can help ease these difficulties. Multi-modal communication benefits clients and caregivers, and clinicians can use this strategy to “say it, write it, graph it, draw it and hand it” to all parties involved in the treatment process—see this related ASHA Leader article from July 2015.
Apps such as drawMD Speech-Language Pathology (free for iOS) contain charts of speech mechanism structures that can be annotated with drawings and text, then saved and shared. Drawing Desk (free for iOS and Android) provides similar features to import saved or searched anatomical photos and other diagrams for annotation and sharing. For more brain-based information, 3D Brain (free for iOS and Android) allows users to rotate and zoom into brain structures; images can be screenshot for annotation in other apps.
Processing emotions
Writing in the book “Counseling in Communication Disorders: A Wellness Perspective,” Audrey Holland suggests the counseling process can center on defining disorders, symptoms and feelings, “embracing emotional moments,” and developing goals and strategies.
With younger clients, you can help define emotional reactions to communication challenges with apps like Emotionary (free for iOS), which promotes emotion identification. Another option is the “Zones of Regulation” apps (available on iOS, Android, and other platforms), offering a curriculum to identify regulatory states and to problem-solve. For older clients, situational and emotion-based photos assist with processing emotional states; Getty Images (free for iOS, website accessible on Android) contains high-quality photos that surpass what is available in a Google image search.
Problem-solving
In working on problem-solving with high school students with social-cognitive and executive function challenges, I use the Book Creator app (available with “lite” and full versions for iOS and Android) for sketching, inserting diagrams and images, and recording audio samples and statements. As you produce a “book,” you can review material from previous sessions and share the “pages” with the client or caregivers. To produce simple visuals, use Doodle Buddy (free for iOS) and Drawing Desk, described above. Both provide quick multimodal instruction with the option to add comic-style thought balloons promoting positive self-talk.
Many clients, particularly those with language-learning disorders, acquired language disorders or autism spectrum disorder, benefit from visual assistance when learning problem-solving and perspective-taking skills. “Mind-mapping” tools such as Inspiration (free to try then $9.99 for iOS) and MindMeister (free for iOS and Android) visualize problem-solving steps such as identifying and rating problems, brainstorming possible solutions and consequences, deciding on actions, and reviewing results. The popular visual bookmarking tool Pinterest (free for iOS and Android) also offers useful visuals related to problem-solving, self-talk and mindset.
Strategizing
In their work with clients, many clinicians apply principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on tackling problems through redirection of thoughts in positive ways (see, for example, this ASHA SIG 1 Perspectives on Learning and Education article by Lynne Hewitt). Relatedly, several apps lead clients to focus on adaptive thinking and behaviors outside the clinical setting, which can lead to valuable discussions in therapy. Mindshift (free for iOS and Android) serves as a portable thought coach with built-in “chill-out tools” to build strategies for managing thoughts and anxieties, many of which apply to communication situations. Happier (free for iOS and Android) provides a light social media and journaling experience to promote positive thinking and mindfulness.
Sources

Holland, A. (2007). Counseling in communication disorders: A wellness perspective. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing.

Riley, J. (2002). Counseling: An approach for speech-language pathologists. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders, 29, 6–16.

Schneider, N., & Goldstein, H. (2010). Using social stories and visual schedules to improve socially appropriate behaviors in children with autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(3), 149–160.

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May 2016
Volume 21, Issue 5