Silo Buster Two: Transforming Support at the College of Saint Rose Speech-language pathology and counseling students join in a voice modification program for people who are transgender. Features
Features  |   June 01, 2013
Silo Buster Two: Transforming Support at the College of Saint Rose
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Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Special Populations / Transgender / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Features
Features   |   June 01, 2013
Silo Buster Two: Transforming Support at the College of Saint Rose
The ASHA Leader, June 2013, Vol. 18, 43. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1sb2.18062013.43
The ASHA Leader, June 2013, Vol. 18, 43. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1sb2.18062013.43
Five years ago, I received a call from a local mental health counselor about services for two transgender women interested in modifying their voices. With the help of these clients, The College of Saint Rose established a voice and communication program for people in the transgender community ( Initially the program focused on voice, but expanded to include nonverbal communication, language and articulation.
Collaboration has been an integral part of this program from the start. Each semester, graduate student clinicians in speech-language pathology provide services to five to 10 transgender clients using an apprenticeship model in which supervisors and clients serve as “master craftspeople” supporting the students. A team-based approach fosters collaborative decision-making between clinicians and clients. Participants discuss the collaborative partnership during weekly group supervisory meetings.
A lynchpin of the program is collaboration with counseling, as mental health counselors play an integral role in gender transition. Counselors support people as they work through a significant and often stressful life change and connect them with providers who address primary health care, hormone therapy, surgery and other aspects of transition. We encourage students to explore their role as clinician-counselors. And we include activities that allow student clinicians and clients to experience interprofessional collaboration between speech-language pathology and counseling. These include:
Classroom presentations. Clients and student clinicians visit counseling and communication science and disorders classes to practice communication skills, evaluate communication in a functional context and teach others about the transgender experience ( In two graduate classes, “Counseling for SLPs” and “Multicultural Counseling,” faculty and students also use the visits to practice counseling skills (such as active listening and facilitating the client’s story), creating a dynamic collaboration between the two disciplines.
Mission and mindfulness. Two years ago, a counselor specializing in transgender health came to the group to discuss ways of creating a more positive culture. The counselor helped us craft a mission statement and determine principles of effective communication. The counselor also provided guidance on using mindfulness to enhance the group experience. Feedback from clients and student clinicians, who provide mindfulness activities, indicates that this is an important component of the program.
A Learning Module In Counseling Skills. With a small grant from the college, two communication sciences and disorders faculty members, a mental health counselor, CSD students, and program clients collaborated to create a video designed to teach CSD students about counseling for individuals in the transgender community. The video focuses on gender transition, the role of the mental health counselor, group therapy and the speech-language pathologist’s role as clinician-counselor.
Student projects in multicultural counseling. Two students in multicultural counseling have completed projects on counseling people who are transgender. Part of their project research involved engaging in the group’s activities and interviewing clients.
Visiting mental health counselor. During the past semester, a mental health counselor from a large community-based counseling center came to the group, observing activities and providing support. She also presented to the student clinicians about gender change and the emotional aspects of transition. This arrangement will continue in an effort to foster more regular interprofessional collaboration between our program and the counseling center.
The transgender voice and communication program at Saint Rose has received considerable support from students, faculty, administrators and our primary referral source—mental health counselors. The program has a relationship with the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center, which extends our reach beyond the campus. Continued collaboration with mental health counselors and students studying counseling will ensure that our services meet the needs of people undergoing an extraordinarily life-changing physical and social transformation.
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June 2013
Volume 18, Issue 6