Negotiation of identity in group therapy for aphasia: the Aphasia Café

Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2011 May-Jun;46(3):312-23. doi: 10.3109/13682822.2010.507616.


Background: There has been increasing interest in ensuring that aphasia intervention includes attention to the negotiation of a robust identity after the life-altering changes that often accompany the onset of aphasia. But how does one go about simultaneously improving communication and positive identity development within aphasia therapy? Socially oriented group therapy for aphasia has been touted as one means of addressing both psychosocial and communicative goals in aphasia.

Aims: This article describes the results of a sociolinguistic analysis of group therapy for aphasia in which positive personal and group identity are skilfully negotiated.

Methods & procedures: Sociolinguistic microanalysis of discourse in a group therapy session was undertaken. The session, described as group conversation therapy, included eight adults with aphasia, a speech-language pathologist and an assistant. The session was videotaped and transcribed, and the data were analysed to identify 'indices of identity' within the discourse. This included discourse that exposed members' roles, values or beliefs about themselves or others. The data were further analysed to identify 'patterns' of discourse associated with identity. The result is a detailed description of identity-enhancing discourse within group therapy for aphasia.

Outcomes & results: The findings included several categories associated with the negotiation of identity in therapy including: (1) discourse demonstrating that group members were 'being heard', (2) that the competence of group members was assumed, (3) that 'solidarity' existed in the group, (4) that saving face and promoting positive personal identity was important, and (5) that markers of group identity were made visible via discourse that referenced both member inclusion as well as non-member exclusion.

Conclusions & implications: The results suggest that it is possible to create identity-enhancing interactions as part of therapy for aphasia; the analysis demonstrates the potential role of the group leader/clinician in managing identity negotiation in aphasia therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aphasia / psychology
  • Aphasia / therapy*
  • Aphasia, Broca / psychology
  • Aphasia, Broca / therapy
  • Aphasia, Conduction / psychology
  • Aphasia, Conduction / therapy
  • Aphasia, Wernicke / psychology
  • Aphasia, Wernicke / therapy
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Behavior
  • Speech Therapy / methods*