What is Voice Therapy?
Voice therapy is the process of assessing your symptoms or issues and developing and carrying out an individualized treatment to address your voice goals. The purpose of voice therapy is to help you attain the best possible voice and the most relief from the vocal symptoms that are bothering you. Speech-language pathologists who specialize in voice assess the pitch, volume and quality of your voice, taking into account any possible underlying disease that may be affecting your voice. They help you to understand the physiology of voice production and the many techniques that can be used depending on your voice symptoms, diagnosis or concerns. In the process of voice therapy, you will take an active role in learning specific techniques that you can use as well as overall practices that will keep your voice healthy. Voice therapists collaborate with physicians, physical therapists and mental health professionals as necessary to help you achieve your voice goals.
Do You Need Voice Therapy?
You may need voice therapy if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Rough, breathy, or strained voice
- Discomfort or pain in throat, neck or related areas while speaking
- Partial or complete loss of voice
- Voice that gets tired easily
- Voice breaks
- Frequent urge to cough or clear the throat
- Loss of singing or speaking vocal range
These symptoms may be an early sign of voice damage that can be successfully addressed to prevent lasting damage to your voice. Alternatively, they may accompany a medically diagnosed voice disorder such as nodules, polyps, chronic laryngitis, muscle tension dysphonia (MTD), spasmodic dysphonia, paradoxical vocal fold movement (PVFM), vocal fold weakness or paralysis, or Parkinson’s disease. In any case, it is important to address these symptoms to optimize vocal function. (For more information about types of voice problems, click here.)
Voice therapy is also useful to improve or change voice quality for personal and/or professional use. Anyone who uses their voice for a vocation or avocation – from singers to teachers to lawyers and others – can benefit from voice therapy to change or improve their voice quality. Voice therapy is also used by transgender individuals who wish to alter their overall communication style including their “voiceprint”, or unique character of the voice. (For more information about voice and communication change for transgender people, click here)
What Happens in Voice Therapy?
Voice therapy has been described as physical therapy for the voice. Voice therapists evaluate the pitch, loudness and quality of the person’s voice and assess breathing, posture, and other aspects that affect voice. They then work closely with individuals to tailor a program of exercises that are most useful for learning good voice use habits and preventing or resolving injury. Treatment modalities focus on the three sub-systems of voice:
- Respiration – the breath
- Phonation – the vocal cords
- Resonance – the throat, mouth and nose
Treatment includes education about voice and training in technical skills. The educational component includes an understanding of healthy voice production and knowledge about daily practices that can keep your voice production system healthy. The technical skills training focuses on ways to achieve optimal respiration, phonation and resonance to produce the pitch, loudness and quality of the sound you desire in a way that is healthy for the vocal folds and that meets your communication requirements. Treatment may also include laryngeal massage and teaching of these methods that you can use to reduce vocal symptoms.
My philosophy is to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms, and to develop an active partnership with each individual to determine and carry out the best plan of care.