Becoming a Leader in Virtual Private Service
By Elise Mitchell, M.S. CCC-SLP, Chief Clinical Officer
An Interview with Lindsay Wheaton, M.A. CCC-SLP
This year has been a remarkable time for DotCom Therapy as we challenged ourselves to spearhead and become a leader in virtual private service provision. As a company run by individuals who know the world of therapy, professionally and personally, we have a passion for fulfilling our mission of making therapy available to all and providing private services is part of the equation.
There were a handful of therapists who served as our trailblazers for this journey working hard to implement the pilot, transition to full roll-out and troubleshoot every step of the way to make this comparable to our highly acclaimed school-based services.
Lindsay Wheaton was one of those providers.
Lindsay is a full-time school-based provider with us who also utilizes evenings, weekends, and summer to focus on private care provision. She has been there from the beginning to provide feedback and provide quality assurance while also providing quality private services.
I want to share Lindsay’s valuable perspective and interview her regarding the unique transition from school-based therapist to private service provider as she spearheaded our most successful service roll-out to date.
Tell us about your professional background, career, and journey to DCT.
My interest and desire to be a speech therapist began as a high school student. At that time, I was diagnosed with a sudden hearing loss in my right ear. After being fitted with hearing aids and fascinated by the process, I decided to make that my focus for my bachelor’s degree from Purdue. After getting my master's degree from Wayne State University, I began my career working in a clinic that specialized in developmental disabilities. I learned a lot and was exposed to a variety of disorders and disabilities. After my clinical fellowship, I began working in the schools witnessing the impact disorders have on children in the academic setting.
And although I have experience in outpatient clinics, inpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, and a traumatic brain injury rehabilitation center, I’ve spent the majority of my career in schools. Many students who receive speech services in the schools need a hero or an advocate, as their difficulties often require a multi-faceted approach from someone who is able to understand how they listen, learn, interact, and grow for them to be successful in the academic setting.
I feel called be both a hero and an advocate for people with communication disorders.
How did you feel about going from school-based to private?
As a school based therapist, I feel that everything must be completed at a rapid pace, including therapy. There is not a lot of interaction with families to demonstrate strategies or share triumphs. The transition to private therapy gives me time for my clients and slows me down in a more family-focused way. I love that therapy services can be provided in the mornings, evenings, weekends, at grandma's house, or even on vacation. It works well for both families and therapists to have that flexibility.
What are your favorite things about private service provision?
The client is at home. There are no transitions.
In traditional outpatient settings, parents have to get kids into the car, out of the car, into the clinic, greet the therapist, participate in/wait for the session to end, and reverse the process to get home.
With private services, therapy happens at the dining room table, on the couch, or in pajamas in bed!
When a client is having a bad day or a rough minute, it’s easy to quickly read the situation when they are in their own space which allows me the ability to share a YouTube video, or an image of their favorite animal or character. This often quickly changes the client's focus to something more positive, and almost always works. Olaf and Spongebob have saved many sessions.
Another incredible benefit of private at-home therapy is that family members can also join in on the therapy session either from home or from a separate location to either watch the session silently or actively participate in games and activities.
What would you tell parents or caregivers who are wondering if teletherapy is a good option for their loved one needing services?
There are multiple conditions and disorders across the lifespan that require speech therapy. Teletherapy only differs from 1:1, in that the therapist is not physically in the room. I am able to use the exact materials and resources that I do while working with clients in person. The fact that I can share my materials via email or text allows for reinforcement and review of materials immediately. Through my career, I have worked with clients ranging from 2-92; as a therapist, I am happiest and most effective as a teletherapist.
Collaboration with families and caregivers is immediate and I find that my clients demonstrate increased participation and engagement in therapy tasks and activities. I feel that both families and therapists greatly benefit from teletherapy.