UK speech and language therapists’ views and reported practices of discourse analysis in aphasia rehabilitation

Madeline Cruice, Nicola Botting, Jane Marshall, Mary Boyle, Deborah Hersh, Madeleine Pritchard, Lucy Dipper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Discourse assessment and treatment in aphasia rehabilitation is a priority focus for a range of stakeholder groups. However, a significant majority of speech and language therapists (SLTs) infrequently conduct discourse analysis, and do not feel competent in doing so. Known barriers identified in other countries, specifically a lack of time, training, expertise and resources, affect use of discourse analysis in clinical practice. Aims: To investigate UK SLTs’ reported practices and views of discourse analysis, barriers and facilitators, and clinical feasibility in aphasia rehabilitation. Methods & Procedures: An online survey of 52 questions adapted from existing research and incorporating behaviour change literature was created for the study and piloted. UK SLTs working in aphasia rehabilitation for at least 6 months were invited to participate. Potential participants were contacted through national and local clinical excellence networks, a National Health Service (NHS) bespoke e-mail list, and national magazine advertisement, and the study was also advertised on social media (Twitter). Therapists read an online participant information sheet and submitted individual electronic consent online; then progressed to the Qualtrics survey. Descriptive, correlational and inferential statistical analyses were conducted, and content analysis was carried out on the questions requiring text. Outcomes & Results: A total of 211 valid responses were received from primarily female SLTs, aged 20–40 years, working full-time in the NHS in England, in community, inpatient and acute/subacute multidisciplinary settings. A total of 30% SLTs collected discourse analysis often, were mostly very experienced, and working part-time in community settings. Years of experience was predictive of use. Discourse was most often collected using standardized picture descriptions and recounts during initial assessment. Samples were infrequently recorded, and typically transcribed in real-time. Most SLTs (53–95%) reported making clinical judgements or manually counted words, sentences, communication of ideas and errors, and were confident in doing so. Barriers included time constraints; lack of expertise, confidence, training, resources and equipment; and patient severity. Discourse ‘super-users’ were distinguished by significantly higher professional motivation for discourse and workplace opportunity than other SLTs, and ‘non-users’ were distinguished by significantly less knowledge and skills in discourse analysis than other SLTs. SLTs reported a desire and need for training, new/assistive tools and time to do more discourse analysis in practice. Conclusions & Implications: Clinicians were highly engaged and relatively active in at least some aspects of discourse analysis practice. Interventions that target individual clinicians as well as organizations and systems are needed to improve the uptake of discourse analysis in practice. What this paper adds What is already known on the subject? Discourse in aphasia rehabilitation is a priority in clinical practice and research. However, the majority of clinicians infrequently collect and analyse discourse. Research in Australia and the United States indicated that lack of time, assessment resources and relevant knowledge and skills are the main barriers to use. What this paper adds to existing knowledge Compared with existing research, UK SLTs were more likely to see discourse analysis as part of their role and experienced fewer barriers, and more SLTs did it at least sometimes in clinic. However, practices were limited by lack of training, giving rise to challenges in selecting and interpreting findings for clients. More use was predicted by more experience and commitment to discourse analysis, particularly where workplaces supported this approach. Less use was associated with less knowledge and skills in discourse analysis. Practice and decision-making were influenced by client factors and constrained to a lesser degree by logistical challenges. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this study? Education and training in discourse analyses and in specific procedures are needed to improve individual clinicians’ knowledge, skills and confidence in using discourse analysis for clients’ rehabilitation. Equally, organizational and systems changes are needed to promote, support and reinforce discourse analysis in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-442
Number of pages26
JournalInternational journal of language & communication disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2020


  • aphasia
  • clinical practice
  • discourse analysis
  • speech and language therapist
  • survey


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