In this post, you’ll learn how to more quickly make a speech therapy treatment plan.
Follow these 7 steps to confidently choose treatment options that help your patients reach their goals. Plus, we made you a free Treatment Plan Worksheet PDF!
- How To Make A Speech Therapy Treatment Plan
- Treatment Plan Worksheet PDF
- Step 1: Identify The Primary Purpose
- Step 2: Identify The Underlying Cause
- Step 3. Decide What To Work On First
- Step 4: Choose Treatment Options
- Step 5: Choose Treatment Tasks
- Step 6: Choose Day 1 Handouts
- Step 7: Adjust!
- The Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack
How To Make A Speech Therapy Treatment Plan
Have you ever wondered how to make treatment planning easier? Or asked, “Does it really need to take months or even years before I’m good at developing treatment plans?”
The answer is definitely not!
Speech therapy treatment has a predictable flow. No matter their disorder, your patients can follow the same route from where they are now to where you want them to be.
We call this flow The Speech Therapy Treatment Roadmap. And we created it for adult SLPs because having a route to follow is much more efficient than the alternative—both for you and your patients!
Ready to learn the flow of treatment planning? Keep scrolling!
Treatment Plan Worksheet PDF
But first, download your free Treatment Plan Worksheet to refer to as you follow along.
We’ll use a fictional patient (see “Bob’s” worksheet below) to learn how to do the 7 steps.
Step 1: Identify The Primary Purpose
The first step of the treatment planning roadmap is to zoom waaay out and figure out the primary purpose of speech therapy services for your patient.
To do this, you need to pan out even further than their goals and ask one question: Why?
Why get a patient back on their previous level of functioning diet? Why improve intelligibility?
Your answer will get to the heart of what we want for our patients and what our patients and their loved ones want for themselves: Safety and/or independence for a better quality of life.
Asking “why” matters because it keeps our treatment on track. It gets us out of tunnel vision or rigid fixation on our plans. And helps us prioritize what matters most.
Example: Identify The Primary Purpose
Let’s use the example of a fictional patient, Bob Duncan. His assessment told you that he has oropharyngeal dysphagia and mild cognitive impairment.
The interview portion also told us that Bob and his partner are most concerned about Bob being able to eat safely while his partner is at work.
We determine that the primary purpose of speech therapy is swallowing safety. That is what will guide our treatment planning.
Step 2: Identify The Underlying Cause
Next, you’ll identify the underlying cause of your patient’s areas of weakness.
If a patient has oral dysphagia, what’s the underlying cause of it? This goes deeper than the symptoms they present with.
The underlying cause may be weakness after a stroke. Or it may be decreased arousal after a brain injury.
Once you identify the underlying cause, you have 4 treatment routes to choose from.
- Treat Now.
Speech therapy can treat the underlying cause now
- Treat Later.
Speech therapy can treat the underlying cause, but your patient isn’t ready for it yet, so you will treat it later. Are there compensations you can work on now until they’re ready?
- Compensate. Speech therapy can’t treat the underlying cause, but you can teach compensations that improve their outcomes and quality of life
- Refer Out.
Speech therapy can’t treat the underlying cause—but another discipline can
Learn more about the 4 Treatment Routes.
Example: Identify The Underlying Cause
Bob presents with minimal mastication and anterior spillage. But those are his dysphagia symptoms, not the underlying cause.
The underlying cause of Bob’s issues is weakness and slow muscles.
Step 3. Decide What To Work On First
For step 3, you’ll touch back on the primary purpose and start getting a little more specific.
Patients often have several issues going on at once! So you need to decide where to focus everyone’s time and energy.
Here are a few tips to help you make that decision:
- Prioritize safety concerns then discuss with the patient what’s most important to them
- Common areas of safety or independence for our patients are swallowing safety, using a call light, remembering safety precautions, and managing medications
- What’s personally relevant and motivating to your patient? Think career, hobbies, etc.
- Focus on strategies. Strategies are what patients will keep with them, long after you’re gone. So they can be a great place to start!
Example: Decide What To Work On First
With Bob, the obvious area to work on first is swallowing safety.
And since Bob and his partner expressed concern about Bob being safe while alone for a few hours during the day, we also add using swallowing strategies without help.
Step 4: Choose Treatment Options
For step 4, you’ll use your speech therapy goals to choose treatment options.
Treatment options are the broader areas of treatment. They include compensatory strategies, exercises, environmental modifications, using specific equipment, etc.
Does your patient need AAC? Are they ready for exercises? Did visiting their home make it clear that environmental modifications would help tremendously?
Make those decisions now!
Example: Choose Treatment Options
Bob is motivated and ready for treatment. His partner is supportive and already filling up his Amazon cart with adaptive kitchen and feeding equipment.
Together, you decide that Bob’s treatment options will be swallowing exercises, swallowing strategies, environmental modifications, and memory strategies.
Step 5: Choose Treatment Tasks
Now it’s time to choose specific treatment tasks!
This will be much easier because you already know what treatment options to choose from and what to do when you’re feeling stumped (hint: refer back to the primary purpose of treatment!)
Treatment tasks do not have to be complicated. They also don’t have to be unique.
Tasks as simple as medication management can be functional and person-centered! You can use the same worksheet and adapt it to each patient’s unique needs.
Use the TV guide or a patient’s mail to work on receptive language. Use a blank calendar template to work on cognition.
The Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack has hundreds of pre-made handouts and worksheets to save you time. But you can certainly put together excellent treatment tasks on your own!
Simple can be very effective. Don’t knock yourself out trying to be creative, unless it’s something you enjoy doing. Focus on adapting functional tasks to each unique patient, and you’ll be good.
Example: Choose Treatment Tasks
Based on Bob’s assessment results, you decide on the following treatment tasks:
Exercises: effortful swallow, labial exercises, lingual exercises
Swallowing Strategies: lingual sweep, liquid wash, small bites
Environmental Modifications: quiet environment
Memory Strategies: repeat, repeat repeat & write it down
Step 6: Choose Day 1 Handouts
Choose Day 1 handouts for your patient so that you can both hit the ground running!
These early handouts will educate your patient about their impairment and introduce homework and strategies.
As mentioned early, strategies are what your patients will keep with them, long after you’re gone. They’re the foundation of the therapy journey. So, when possible, introduce strategies on Day 1!
Examples of education about impairments include the anatomy and physiology of a swallow, how neuroplasticity work, and the coordination of respiration, phonation, and articulation.
Example: Day 1 Handouts
You print out swallowing exercises handouts and a safe swallowing strategies handout to review on Day 1 of treatment with Bob.
Step 7: Adjust!
Become comfortable with adjusting your treatment plan. Often! Patients will always keep you on your toes. It’s to be expected and it’s okay.
Try your treatment tasks, record your patient’s response to them, then adjust according. When feeling lost, go back to the top of the Treatment Plan Worksheet.
What’s the primary purpose of your treatment? What does the underlying cause tell you about what speech therapy can actually do for the patient right now?
Maybe it tells you to refer out. Maybe you’ve learned that your patient’s culture doesn’t value independence as strongly as you do. This is all good information to help you pivot.
The Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack
Interested in having 900+ pages of premade Day 1 Handouts, worksheets, and much more at your fingertips? Then check out the bestselling Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack!