Quantifying the Clinician-Client Relationship Kerry Ebert assesses how the relationship between SLPs and their clients affects treatment success, which may lead to developing a measurement tool. Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions  |   September 01, 2018
Quantifying the Clinician-Client Relationship
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Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Professional Issues & Training / Language Disorders / Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions   |   September 01, 2018
Quantifying the Clinician-Client Relationship
The ASHA Leader, September 2018, Vol. 23, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.23092018.np
The ASHA Leader, September 2018, Vol. 23, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.23092018.np
Name: Kerry Danahy Ebert, PhD, CCC-SLP
Title: Associate professor, Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences, and director of the master’s program in speech-language pathology, Rush University
ASHFoundation Award History:
  • 2014 New Investigators Research Grant ($5,000)—“Measuring Rapport in Speech-Language Treatment for Children”

  • 2008 New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship

What is the focus of your research?
I have two lines of research that both fit under the broad umbrella of improving treatment outcomes for children with developmental speech and language disorders. The ASHFoundation grant supported research focused on examining “common factors” of speech-language treatments for children—that is, things that are a part of treatment but are not specific to a treatment program. One example of these common factors is the clinician-client relationship.
How did your award from the ASHFoundation lead to your current work?
The ASHFoundation award really launched this line of work for me. I had done smaller, related projects as a doctoral student and as a new faculty member with some internal funding, but this award let me design and execute a quality project. I see the project I completed through my New Investigators Research Grant as a stepping stone to other projects along this line. It opened new doors for me, and I have lots of ideas for follow-up projects!
What do you hope to demonstrate through your research—or what has it already demonstrated?
The project I completed demonstrated the viability of a tool to measure the clinician-client relationship in speech-language pathology. I was interested in questions such as:
  • Can 6- to 12-year-old children assess and report on their relationship with their speech-language pathologist?

  • Do their ratings of the relationship correspond to ratings made by their parents or their SLPs?

  • Do any of those ratings predict what happens later in treatment?

I found positive answers to all these questions—children can reliably report on their relationships with their SLPs, the ratings do correspond to their SLPs’ ratings (though not very well with their parents’ ratings!), and there were treatment outcomes that were predicted by earlier ratings of the clinician-client relationship. So, now we have a tool for measuring clinician-client relationships from the perspective of the child, the parent and the SLP.
In the future, I hope to use this new tool to show that clinician-client relationships do matter to treatment progress, and that we can take steps to improve clinician-client relationships in speech-language pathology. It’s also something that clinicians could use to assess how well they are connecting with parents and children in treatment, and to make adjustments if they need to.
Why did you choose this particular research focus?
I feel that the field would really benefit from looking at all aspects of behavioral treatments. As SLPs, we have control over the treatments we deliver in ways that aren’t captured in a treatment manual. Looking at complementary lines of research, like clinician-client relationships, can help us enhance our knowledge of how best to deliver treatment. I’m excited to start to get a handle on these factors.
How has ASHFoundation funding affected your professional life?
The ASHFoundation is an amazing resource, and I feel lucky to have it. I’ve been fortunate to benefit twice from its funding: once as a doctoral student and again as a new researcher. The ASHFoundation is so supportive in helping new researchers establish themselves.
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September 2018
Volume 23, Issue 9