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Sharp Health News

Helping those in transition find their voice

June 4, 2019

Helping those in transition find their voice

As a health professional, I take pride in working for an organization that values individuals from all backgrounds and cultures. It’s important to me that transgender individuals realize they have the support and services specific to their needs, such as voice modification, here at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers.

As a Sharp Rees-Stealy speech pathologist, my colleagues and I have started working with patients on transgender voice modification, a program that has gained attention from the transgender and medical communities.

Communication and aspects of using one’s voice to express thoughts and feelings are highly correlated to gender identity. Yet, many of my patients struggle to match the way they sound with the way they identify. Patients going through a transition, be that male-to-female (MtF) or female-to-male (FtM), must undergo hormone therapy. However, research has shown that participating in a series of speech therapy sessions is just as important as any other therapy when making a transition from MtF or FtM.

Research shows that assisting and encouraging individuals to find their most authentic voice improves their mental health and their overall quality of life when transitioning, so it’s important that our speech pathologists are active participants during a patient’s transition.

Our department provides education regarding vocal care, working with ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors to rule out any vocal pathologies, and provides unique insight into physiological implications for gender transition at any point during transition — or even during the years that follow.

Transgender voice therapy targets multiple forms of communication and voicing. It’s critical to note that just targeting vocal pitch during therapy sessions does not lead to the highest levels of patient satisfaction. Therapy goes beyond simply targeting pitch and includes nonverbal communication, features of spoken language such as vocabulary, semantics, syntax, pragmatics, inflection, intonation and vocal hygiene.

Maintaining the best practice for trans-affirming care is part of The Sharp Experience — providing access to services and eliminating the barriers and challenges that affect health outcome for our diverse patient population. By ensuring that transitioning patients are seen and valued at Sharp, we can help them develop the courage and confidence to venture into the community as their most authentic self.

Jordan Weber is a speech-language pathologist at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers.

Learn more about speech and language rehabilitation at Sharp.

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