What is speech and language therapy?

What is speech and language therapy?

What is speech and language therapy?

Speech and language therapy provides treatment, support and care for children and adults who have difficulties with communication, or with eating, drinking and swallowing.

Speech and language therapists (SLTs) are allied health professionals. They work with parents, carers and other professionals, such as teachers, nurses, occupational therapists and doctors.

There are over 18,300 practising SLTs in the UK working in a variety of settings.

What do speech and language therapists do?

Speech and language therapists provide treatment, support and care for people of all ages who have difficulties with speech, language, communication, eating, drinking and swallowing.

Using specialist skills, SLTs work directly with clients and their carers to assess, treat and provide them with tailored support.

They also work closely with teachers and other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, other allied health professionals and psychologists to develop individual treatment programmes.

Watch our video on becoming an SLT

Who do speech and language therapists work with?

Speech and language therapists work with people of all ages with a range of communication, eating or swallowing difficulties.

Babies and children

SLTs babies with feeding and swallowing difficulties.

They support children with:


SLTs can help adults who have communication or eating and swallowing problems, including those that are a result of neurological impairments and degenerative conditions, for example:

Full list of topic pages

Visit our clinical information A to Z for information on the full range of areas an SLT may work in.

Where do speech and language therapists work?

SLTs work all kinds of settings including education, justice and children’s services, in the NHS or as an independent/private speech and language therapist.

They work in all settings within the NHS, from acute adult wards to providing services to children within local schools, from general services to highly specialist settings.

How much do speech therapists earn in the NHS?

Visit the NHS careers website for information on pay scales.

Speech and language therapy research

Speech and language therapy is a research-active profession, with SLTs taking an evidence-based approach to practice.

Many SLTs may choose to undertake research as part of their career, for example by studying for a master’s or PhD, or they may use their clinical work to investigate research questions by collecting data on patient/client outcomes following a particular intervention.

Research evidence is taken into consideration by a SLT, alongside a patient’s/client’s, or family member’s preferences for their care and appraised in light of a SLT’s clinical expertise to deliver meaningful and effective speech and language therapy – this is the basis of evidence-based practice (or EBP).

How the RCSLT supports research

The RCSLT helps SLTs to access and understand the latest and best evidence about ways of working with people with speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties. For example, six times a year our journal, the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders publishes the latest research undertaken in these areas.

We are carrying out a research priority setting project to identify the top most important areas that require further research in speech and language therapy as agreed upon by a range of stakeholders, including people with speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties.

You can view our research priorities for dysphagia, learning disabilities and developmental language disorders.

Speech and language therapy support workers

The speech and language therapy support workforce is an integral part of speech and language therapy services. Currently there is no set academic requirement in order to become a support worker, instead there will be local requirements for these roles.

The best way to find support worker/assistant roles within the NHS is to check the NHS jobs website or to approach services directly to enquire about vacancies.

Visit our support workers hub to learn more about the role.

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Related content

Become a speech and language therapist

Explore the different routes to becoming a speech and language therapist

How to find a speech and language therapist

Details on how you can find a speech and language therapist

Where speech and language therapists work

Explore the different settings SLTs work to learn about the varied roles