The Impact of Professional Discourse on Identity Construction in Adult Clients

Principal Investigator: Dr. Karen L. McComas

Co-Investigator: Sara Henson

Self-identity is how individuals perceive themselves based on personal goals, values, attitudes, and life experiences (Bryson-Campbell, 2011). Concepts of identity are embedded in discourse, or the way we use language to express ideas. To convey identity through discourse, individuals construct life narratives that “integrate a reconstructed past, perceived present, and anticipated future” (Dunlap & Walker, 2013). Although speech-language pathologists use professional discourse when interacting with clients, the clinician’s identity remains a component of therapeutic conversational interactions.Whack_Notepad

Bryson-Campbell (2011) reported a shift in self-identity occurring in adults after brain  injury. Because identity plays an essential role in discourse production, clients participating in cognitive rehabilitation construct new identities based on conversational interactions post-injury. As professionals, it is important to be aware of the impact of our own discourse during therapeutic interactions so we can engage in conversations that support client identity reconstruction (Cloute, 2008).

Little is known about the personal and social factors that influence life narratives to convey identity, how professional discourse supports client identity, and strategies used in rehabilitation that contribute to identity construction (Dunlap & Walker, 2013; Duchan, 2013; Bryson-Campbell, 2011). The purpose of this study was to explore the professional discourse of speech-language pathologists and its impact on adult clients’ identity construction after brain injury.