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Can SLPs Screen for Depression?

Rebecca Hunting Pompon, PhD

October 10, 2022



What can I do if I suspect my client with aphasia is depressed? As an SLP, can I screen for depression?


SLPs can screen for depressive symptoms, but cannot diagnose depressive disorders. Several evidence-based screening tools are available for SLPs to use with clients and family members. Two tools that may be used with individuals with aphasia (IWA) with mild to moderate aphasia are the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) depression scales (Kroenke et al., 2009; Kroenke & Spitzer, 2002) and the PROMIS Emotional Distress-Depression scales (Pilkonis et al., 2011). These brief and simply worded scales inquire about the features of depression and provide Likert-scale response options for each item (e.g., “Never,” “Rarely,” “Sometimes,” etc.). The PHQ and PROMIS scales are open-access for clinicians (www.PHQScreeners.com, https://www.healthmeasures.net/search-view-measures).

Visual analog mood scales are often used with clients with more severe impairment (e.g., Barrows & Thomas, 2018), though studies of these measures report conflicting evidence of their validity (Kontou et al., 2012; Torrance et al., 2001). Alternatively, mood scales may be given to a family member or other observer of the client to complete as a proxy reporter, though research reports on the degree of agreement between self- and proxy-report on assessments are varied (e.g., Haley et al., 2019; Hernandez et al., 2021). Several versions of the Stroke Aphasia Depression Questionnaire (SAD-Q; Sutcliffe & Lincoln, 1998) were developed for family members and other proxy reporters, and a related study reported a high degree of agreement with other scales that assess similar symptoms via proxy report (Laures-Gore et al., 2017). The SAD-Q scales are open-access (https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/medicine/about/rehabilitationageing/publishedassessments.aspx).

Importantly, SLPs who suspect depression should refer their clients to their primary care provider or a qualified mental health provider as available. We will discuss this more below.

This Ask the Expert is an excerpt from the course, 20Q: Mental Health, Aphasia, and the SLP’s Role.

rebecca hunting pompon

Rebecca Hunting Pompon, PhD

Rebecca Hunting Pompon, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department and Director of the Aphasia and Rehabilitation Outcomes Lab at the University of Delaware. She has a clinical background in adult mental health and counseling. Her research focuses on the measurement of biopsychosocial factors in individuals with aphasia, and the influence of these factors on aphasia treatment response. She trains clinicians in counseling skills and interpersonal communication strategies across the allied health disciplines.

Related Courses

20Q: Mental Health, Aphasia, and the SLP’s Role
Presented by Rebecca Hunting Pompon, PhD


Rebecca Hunting Pompon, PhD
Course: #10306Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Good examples drawn from the literature'   Read Reviews
Depression and other mental health challenges are prevalent in individuals with aphasia. Recent research on the mental health status of individuals with aphasia, along with mental health and well-being screening options and basic counseling approaches that can be used by SLPs, are discussed in this 20Q.

Supporting Mental Health in People Living with Aphasia
Presented by Katie Strong, PhD, CCC-SLP


Katie Strong, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #10173Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Any topic addressing mental health with our patients is a plus!'   Read Reviews
This course provides an overview of the psychosocial impact of aphasia, with particular attention to depression and anxiety as well as barriers to accessing mental health services. The importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between speech-language pathologists and mental health providers, and of supports such as stepped psychological care, peer befriending, support groups, and communication partner training, is also discussed.

Animal Assisted Therapy in Communication Sciences and Disorders: The State of the Evidence
Presented by Sharon Antonucci, PhD, CCC-SLP


Sharon Antonucci, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #9434Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Unique topic'   Read Reviews
This is Part 1 of a two-part series. This course will review the evidence base for animal-assisted therapy (AAT), including discussion of areas where further research is needed, and will describe uses of AAT in speech-language treatment for cognitive and communication impairments including autism, dementia, traumatic brain injury, and aphasia.

Incorporating Animal-Assisted Therapy into Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Practice: An Overview
Presented by Sharon Antonucci, PhD, CCC-SLP


Sharon Antonucci, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #9436Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Topic unique!'   Read Reviews
This is Part 2 of a two-part series. In this course, practical guidelines will be reviewed related to incorporating animal-assisted therapy into clinical practice. This overview will include information regarding training requirements for animal-handler teams, benefits/challenges of the SLP acting as a handler, and clinical decision-making, including goal-setting, when incorporating animals into speech-language pathology clinical care.

Understanding Mental Health in Older Adults
Presented by Gabrielle Juliano-Villani, LCSW


Gabrielle Juliano-Villani, LCSW
Course: #10246Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Related to my aging mother'   Read Reviews
Mental health issues concerning older adults are discussed in this course. Topics include the intersection between mental and physical health, symptoms of common mental health disorders in this population, and referral criteria.

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