How to find a qualified Speech Pathologist / Voice Therapist
If you’re looking for a speech pathologist, voice therapist, singing voice specialist, or other voice professional to help with your voice, here are some great places to start your search, and some important questions to ask before you start working with someone:
Speech-language pathology (SLP) organizations (CASLPO and OSLA in Ontario, and SAC across Canada) maintain searchable lists in order to facilitate linking the public with private healthcare providers. It is important to note that in Ontario, these only include private practices, not public/hospital clinics, and inclusion on these lists is voluntary/may only be available to some clinicians (e.g., those who pay extra) and the information is self-declared by the provider. Most importantly, being on the list doesn’t mean the association is endorsing the quality of service, experience, or knowledge by the provider. Not all quality SLPs who do private practice choose to register to be on these lists (I’m not choosing to pay to be on the OSLA list this year, for example), and some require clinicians to pay more to have their listing come up at the top of the list in every relevant search, which isn’t always apparent when you’re the one searching. However, if you want a place to start looking beyond Google, here are two lists you can check out:
If you’re looking for an SLP who practices in voice, the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) maintains a searchable list of clinicians here(see caveats above).
Always do a phone or email “interview” using some of the questions below – and anything else you want to know the answers to, too – to find the right voice professional for you.
For SLPs, always verify that the SLP is registered with the College of Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario. Use of the title Speech-Language Pathologist or Speech Therapist is protected in Ontario. We can’t use the term “doctor” (even if we hold a doctorate degree), and we can’t use words like “expert” or “specialist”. If you see someone using those terms, it doesn’t mean they hold some kind of advanced expertise necessarily; it just means they’re casually slinging language we’re not actually allowed to use. It also means that if someone doesn’t say they’re an “expert” or “the best” that they aren’t; they just can’t say they are, so it’s up to you to find out how a clinician maintains their skill level and ask questions to determine what level that really is – and whether you think it’s right for you.
Non-regulated voice professionals, like singing voice teachers or singing voice specialists, can also be excellent choices depending on the kind of voice help you are looking for. Just because they aren’t regulated doesn’t mean they aren’t knowledgeable, talented, and experienced; in fact, an SVS or singing teacher may have more knowledge of voice care and training than an SLP who has limited experience in voice. Be sure to ask the same questions of a non-regulated voice professional as you would of an SLP, if not more; because they don’t have a regulatory body in place limiting what they’re allowed to advertise, so you’ll need to ask the right questions to sort out who will be the right fit for you.
Many professionals have a direct link to their business website, which is a good place to start getting information after regular business hours. Read what they offer to see if it sounds like a good fit, and follow up with email or a phone call if you have more questions.
Questions to ask a speech language pathologist or other voiceprofessional:
How long has the professional been practicing in voice?
What teaching, training, or performing (for singers) background do they have?
How many hours a week do they work with clients with a similar condition as you, and for how long have they worked in this capacity?
How many clients like you have they worked with in their career? How many voice clients of all kinds?
What is their general philosophy on how they approach work with clients similar to you?
What might a typical assessment look like?
What is their philosophy on assessment and goal setting?
Do you need to have a formal report written? If so, will this professional provide this service, and at what cost?
What are their rates and cancellation policies, and what is included in the fee you pay?
What are their most common therapy schedules, and what is their availability for appointments?
How flexible are they with approach?
For SLPs, is all work done with a speech-language pathologist or is some work with an assistant?
Make sure you describe the kind of work you’re hoping to do on your voice, or talk about the problem you’re having so that the professional can help determine if they’re right for the job, and so that you get a full understanding of how the professional works.
Private speech and language services are not funded by OHIP. CASLPO (the regulatory college) uses a document the provincial association (OSLA) puts out with a range (minimums and maximums) that clinicians are allowed to charge. The maximum allowable rate is currently $206/hour for therapy and assessment; difference in ranges may reflect location, experience, or specialized services. It can’t hurt to ask what is unique about what a clinician offers if they have a higher rate so you know what you’re paying for, or why another clinician has a lower rate. Be sure to ask about travel and report writing costs, or if there are any additional costs for materials, special circumstances, or other kinds of documentation.
Some people have some insurance coverage for Speech-Language Pathology through their work or private insurance; this can be helpful when considering who to have on your voice care team and with what frequency you can afford to receive care. It is recommended that you look into the insurance coverage you/your family have and consider what you can afford prior to starting private SLP services.
If you are limited in the number of sessions you can afford, let the therapist know that in advance, so that they can try and plan a program that will fit in that number of sessions.