The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders of the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y., offers a voice modification program for individuals in the transgender community, focusing on enhancing communication for transgender women.
Transgender men are also welcome to take part in the program, which includes weekly two-hour sessions that involve both group and individual intervention (Monday, 5:00-7:00pm). Graduate student clinicians team up with clients to work on voice and communication. Clients have the opportunity to explore their goals in a safe environment, with student clinicians acting as reflective listeners and supportive communication partners.
Mindfulness at the beginning of each session is followed by vocal exercises designed to increase vocal strength and flexibility (Stemple, Roy, & Klaben, 2014). Next, clients complete activities that address individual needs, focusing on modifying voice quality, pitch, inflection, loudness, resonance, and other characteristics that facilitate the perception of female voice. Broader aspects of language and communication are also covered, with attention to language, nonverbal communication, and physical appearance. Our clients have also suggested that we attend to behaviors such as coughing, sneezing, and throat-clearing, because these often affect listener perception of gender (Adler, Hirsch, & Mordaunt, 2012). Each session ends with a gratitude activity.
Among the activities incorporated into the program is an ongoing project in which clients and student clinicians collaborate to develop and implement classroom presentations to raise awareness of the transgender experience (e.g., societal perceptions, the challenges inherent in transitioning, and the important distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation). The presentations are discussed and planned as part of each session, providing a context for generalizing skills learned during the intervention process.
Directors of the Voice Modification Program
The Voice Modification Program is directed by Jack Pickering, Ph.D., CCC-SLP and Dan Kayajian, M.S., CCC-SLP. Contact Dr. Pickering (firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-454-5236) for information.
Adler, R. K., Hirsch, S., & Mordaunt, M. (2006). Voice and communication therapy for the transgender/transsexual client. San Diego: Plural Publishing.
Pickering, J. & Kayajian, D. (2009). Voice Program Assists Transgender Community. The ASHA Leader, 14(3), 18-20.
Stemple, J. C., Glaze, L. E., & Klaben, B. G. (2010). Clinical voice pathology: Theory and management (4th ed). San Diego: Plural Publishing.