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Intensive and comprehensive aphasia therapy—a survey of the definitions, practices and views of speech and language therapists in the United Kingdom

Monnelly, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-3112-9830, Marshall, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-6589-221X, Dipper, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-5918-3898 & Cruice, M. ORCID: 0000-0001-7344-2262 (2023). Intensive and comprehensive aphasia therapy—a survey of the definitions, practices and views of speech and language therapists in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 58(6), pp. 2077-2102. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12918


Research evidence suggests aphasia therapy must be delivered at high intensity to effect change. Comprehensive therapy, addressing all domains of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, is also called for by people with aphasia and their families. However, aphasia therapy is rarely intense or comprehensive. Intensive Comprehensive Aphasia Programmes (ICAPs) were designed to address this challenge, but such programmes are not widely implemented.

This study surveyed the views of UK-based speech and language therapists (SLTs) regarding intensive and comprehensive aphasia therapy. It explored definitions of intensive and comprehensive therapy, patterns of provision, views about candidacy and barriers/facilitators. It also investigated awareness of ICAPs and perceived potential of this service model. Differences across UK regions and workplace settings were explored.

Methods & Procedures
An e-survey ran for 5 months. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Qualitative free text comments were analysed using content analysis.

Outcomes & Results
Two hundred twenty-seven respondents engaged in the e-survey. Definitions of intensive aphasia therapy did not reach UK clinical guideline/research-level thresholds for most of the sample. Those providing more therapy provided definitions with higher standards of intensity. Mean therapy delivered was 128 min/week. Geographical location and workplace setting influenced the amount of therapy delivered. The most frequently delivered therapy approaches were functional language therapy and impairment-based therapy. Cognitive disability and fatigue were concerns for therapy candidacy. Barriers included lack of resources and low levels of optimism that issues could be solved. 50% of respondents were aware of ICAPs and 15 had been involved in ICAP provision. Only 16.5% felt their service could be reconfigured to deliver an ICAP.

Conclusions & Implications
This e-survey evidences a mismatch between an SLT's concept of intensity and that espoused by clinical guidelines/research. Geographical variations in intensity are concerning. Although a wide range of therapy approaches are offered, certain aphasia therapies are delivered more frequently. Awareness of ICAPs was relatively high, but few respondents had experience of this model or felt it could be executed in their context. Further initiatives are needed if services are to move from a low-dose or non-comprehensive model of delivery. Such initiatives might include but not be confined to wider uptake of ICAPs. Pragmatic research might also explore which treatments are efficacious with a low-dose model of delivery, given that this model is dominant in the United Kingdom. These clinical and research implications are raised in the discussion.

What this paper adds

What is already known on this subject
There is a gap between the high intensity of aphasia treatment provided in research versus mainstream clinical settings. A lower standard of 45 min/day set by UK clinical guidelines is also not achieved. Although speech and language therapists (SLTs) provide a wide range of therapies, they typically focus on impairment-based approaches.

What this study adds
This is the first survey of UK SLTs asking about their concept of intensity in aphasia therapy and what types of aphasia therapy they provide. It explores geographical and workplace variations and barriers and facilitators to aphasia therapy provision. It investigates Intensive Comprehensive Aphasia Programmes (ICAPs) in a UK context.

What are the clinical implications of this work?
There are barriers to the provision of intensive and comprehensive therapy in the United Kingdom and reservations about the feasibility of ICAPs in a mainstream UK context. However, there are also facilitators to aphasia therapy provision and evidence that a small proportion of UK SLTs are providing intensive/comprehensive aphasia therapy). Dissemination of good practice is necessary and suggestions for increasing intensity of service provision are listed in the discussion.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Intl J Lang   Comm Disor - 2023 - Monnelly - Intensive and comprehensive aphasia therapy a survey of the definitions .pdf]
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[thumbnail of Survey article final 4th June 2023 (1).pdf]
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