The collaboration of speech-language professionals on social media is always great to see, but every once in awhile, a post is truly inspirational. Recently, a member asked this question to a group of thousands of SLPs: 

“What advice have you been given about your career that has become a critical piece to embroider into your day-to-day practice?”

Responses poured in over days. Answers fell into various categories, such as how to treat your clients, when to let things go, and work-life balance, but each variation on a theme carried its own wisdom and experience. Here are 84 gems to consider hanging on your wall:

Clients are People First

  1. Try to put yourself in their place and see things from their perspective.
  1. Never be afraid to get close to a family – you will make some life-long friends!
  1. Never pass judgment on people. Every person you meet is fighting their own battle.

Advice for SLPs: Everyone is fighting their own battle.

  1. Remember that families are doing the best they can with the resources they have available.
  1. Don’t say you understand what they are going through unless you have been through it yourself.
  1. If you have a patient who doesn’t agree with you or your recommendation, remember that they’re allowed to choose for themselves.
  1. People have the right to make “bad” decisions after being educated.
  1. Be gentle with your patients and yourself; you are both doing the best you can in the moment.
  1. Treat the person, not the disorder.
  1. Treat your patients as if they were your family, because they are to someone.

Advice for SLPs: Treat your patients as if they were your family.

  1. Have mercy on the patient.
  1. Always try to maintain an unconditional positive regard for your patients. You are fighting on their side.

Part of the Job

  1. Your evaluation begins when your client gets into the building and doesn’t end until they walk out of the door.
  1. Use your professional judgment. A person cannot be diagnosed entirely by using formal tests.
  1. “I don’t like doing it, but it allows me to do what I love to do.” Do the parts of the job you aren’t terribly excited about, because it means you can do the clinical work that makes you glad to be a speech pathologist.
  1. Counseling is in our scope of practice.
  1. It’s not my job to feel sorry for the people we work with. My job is to help them the best I can.
  1. Always ask, “what motivates the client?”
  1. In inpatient rehab, we are a team! PTs work on cognition and SLPs toilet patients. Everything is functional if framed the correct way. Nothing is “not my job!”
  1. Document and treat every case like you would have to defend yourself in court.
  1. Explain the “why” and they won’t question the “what.” If you can’t explain it, don’t do it.
  1. “If you don’t document something, it didn’t happen.” Document, document, document.

Advice for SLPs: Document, document, document.

  1. “Adults like to have fun too.” I regularly make games a part of therapy and it has made a big difference.
  1. Through our therapy, we cannot “cure” people, but we can help facilitate recovery.
  1. “You have to suit up for every game.” This Vince Lombardi quote is my personal incantation when I am tired. It helps me dig deeper to help stay focused on the patient’s needs. 

Let It Go

  1. Choose your battles wisely.
  1. Don’t wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it.
  1. Whenever a client, family member, or colleague says something rude about your competency/skill level, 99% of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with you!
  1. Don’t partake in gossip. Don’t speak ill of co-workers, clients, or families. If you need to vent, call your mom!
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  1. You can’t “fix” everyone, especially in a short time.
  1. There will always be more to do. Meet your deadlines, but don’t push yourself so hard that you don’t have time for yourself.
  1. In private practice, don’t worry when the frustrating clients (frequent non-attenders, non-payers, those who refuse to participate in the therapy process and expect you to wave your wand to instantly fix everything) choose not to return. Don’t waste energy on them or feel guilt, but rather chase and nurture those clients who value your time, skills, experience and resources – makes for a much more rewarding experience all around!
  1. Recognize when you aren’t the best person for the job, when you’re out of ideas, or when you no longer love what you do, and step aside. It’s better than letting down the people who are counting on you for help.

Ethical Consideration

  1. Look out for yourself because it is your license and livelihood.
  1. Sometimes, it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.
  1. Don’t cave on ethics. You can always get another job, but you can’t get another license.
  1. It’s okay to push back when pushed. Don’t hesitate to say no and set your limits.
  1. Trust your gut instincts. They’ll always guide you to do right by the patient.

Advice for SLPs: Trust your gut. Do right by the patient.

  1. Always put your ethics first. There will be pressure on you to do things that are unethical at times. Just remember that those pressuring aren’t the ones with your degree or the ones who will face the consequences.
  1. Own your bias. For example, when asked an opinion, say, “That’s my personal opinion based on my experiences. You do what’s best for you.”

Keep Learning

  1. Never stop learning!
  1. Learn as much from your clients as they learn from you.
  1. You need to listen to your patients, not just talk at them.
  1. It’s as important to know how much you don’t know as it is how much you do.

Advice for SLPs: It's as important to know what you don't know.

  1. If I ever stop learning, then shame on me.
  1. While I might be the expert in treating a certain disorder, my client is the expert in living with it. We must learn from each other if we both want to improve.

Work-Life Balance

  1. Take care of yourself first; it’s the only way you’ll be a good clinician to your clients.
  1. Don’t take work home.
  1. Work hard, but don’t let work take over your life.

Advice for SLPs: Work hard, but don't let work take over your life.

  1. Give yourself permission to take a “break” from your career as an SLP.
  1. Make your career serve your life, not the other way around.

Do Your Best

  1. Never turn down a case because the diagnosis is unusual or unfamiliar to you. Accept it and do research to provide the highest quality services you can.
  1. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  1. Always exceed expectations.
  1. Take it one day at a time.

Advice for SLPs: Take it one day at a time.

  1. Always use your resources.
  1. Be confident, but be humble.
  1. Hard work leads to success in every aspect of life.
  1. Be patient.
  1. Swallowing is life or death. Take it seriously.

Be Prepared for Anything

  1. Be flexible, but firm.
  1. Organization is key.
  1. Be flexible and think on your feet.
  1. Have a plan B and a plan C for therapy tasks.
  1. Always have a protein bar with you!

Communication Matters

  1. Every behavior is a communication.
  1. Be someone your client would want to communicate with.

Advice for SLPs: Be someone your client would want to communicate with.

  1. Be a collaborator. Sharing information is so amazing!
  1. Build rapport first. No rapport, no trust, no follow through in your recommendations.
  1. Learn to read people’s body language. It speaks more loudly than words.
  1. Be decisive. Make your recommendations with confidence or nobody will follow them.
  1. Always be mindful of the energy you bring into the room. If you don’t want to be there, neither do they. If you aren’t having fun, neither are they.
  1. Constructive criticism is not a cause for defensiveness.
  1. The one line that has helped me get through some tough conversations is “My job is to present all of the options and you get to choose which one fits the best within your medical plan. I can give you the option that I would recommend but I will support whatever you choose.”
  1. “Clearer writing leads to clearer thinking.” I often don’t “notice” something until I go to write the report and then remember and piece together really important details from the assessment. Taking the time to document the results, diagnosis, and plan gives you time to think critically and reflect.
  1. Take the time to speak with the caregivers early on. You can learn a lot about the patient, get the family involved early, and educate them – it makes a big difference!
  1. Speak as a professional, but also as a person. 

Coworkers Matter Too

  1. Every job in a hospital is just as important to that person as your job is to you.
  1. Treat nurses, office staff, custodians, paraprofessionals, lunch staff, yard duty staff, etc. very well. They can make your life awesome, or they can make it a living hell.
  1. Treat the janitor as you would the CEO.
  1. Get to know your nursing aides; they spend a whole lot more time with the patient than you do!
  1. Make friends with the janitors and secretaries. They are the people who can help you get what you need when you really need it.
  1. It takes a village. Speak often with PT/OT/TR/Respiratory/Nursing.


Great thanks to the many professionals who contributed to this collective wisdom. What’s your best advice for SLPs? Add it in the comments.