We recently sat down with Heather Gross, M.S., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist and voice specialist who brings compassion, creativity, and clinical excellence to her work. From voice therapy to fluency to gender affirming vocal training, Heather helps individuals find authenticity and freedom behind their voice. You can read more about Heather here.
Can you spend a few minutes talking about your experience and background as a speech therapist?
I am incredibly fortunate to be a speech-language pathologist (SLP) and voice specialist. My experience in the field has varied, including private practice, schools, and medical centers. I have also worked with a variety of populations, from infants to elderly. I have been working in a teletherapy setting for approximately two years now and I absolutely love getting to work with clients and families in their natural environments.
My area of specialization is voice! Across each setting, I have found opportunities within those settings to work with voice clients. With a background in voice teaching and vocal performance, these skills have been applicable to my work across a variety of communication needs.
In addition, my work with the gender diverse population has been groundbreaking, as I am continuously researching and discovering ways to holistically guide individuals to find their authentic voice and align their voice with their identity. My mission is to help individuals find authenticity and freedom behind their voice.
Why did you decide to become a speech therapist?
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to work with speakers and singers. I have always been fascinated by the human voice. I’m pretty sure I was singing before I could talk! It was highly unlikely that you would find a moment without me singing or humming. I discovered the field of speech-language pathology after becoming aware of my own vocal challenges and learning about others’ vocal blocks. I became interested in vocal health and vocal anatomy throughout high school, as I wanted to learn more about how my instrument works. After discovering the field, I decided to pursue an M.S. in Speech Pathology along with a multidisciplinary approach with the music department, focusing on vocal health and vocal injury prevention.
When I entered the field, I discovered my calling for working with the gender diverse population. Being that my mission is to help others discover their authentic voice and find freedom, this area of voice is perfectly aligned. I am incredibly inspired by my clients. I am thankful each day that they trust me to be on this courageous journey with them.
What areas of speech-language pathology interest you most?
My clinical passions are gender affirming voice training, voice therapy, professional voice, and fluency! However, I enjoy working with a wide variety of children and adults!
What part of your job do you find most enjoyable?
Having the opportunity to work with clients and their families is the most enjoyable part of my job. I love providing functional ways to implement strategies into their daily lives, and seeing their confidence improve as we continue working together. The growth and evolution I get to see as my clients find their voices is why I do what I do! Hearing my clients’ stories and authentic voices is an absolute gift.
Among all the clients you’ve taught throughout your career, is there a particular success story that stands out in your mind?
There are so many moments I would love to highlight! However, I will never forget this one in particular. I was working with an individual on gender affirming voice work. This was during my clinical fellowship year, and she was struggling over time to find a voice which really aligned with her - one that sounded authentic and natural. We worked together for a few months. One day, she reported that she was starting to feel more comfortable with her voice, so we decided to record a small sample of her voice so that she could listen back. I will never forget seeing her eyes light up and fill with happy tears. She stated “that’s my voice!”
Another success story that comes to mind is working with an individual who stutters. At the beginning of speech therapy, they only wanted to focus on fluency shaping techniques, rather than take a more holistic approach. They felt shame associated with their stutter. Over time, I started to emphasize self acceptance and we began to unpack the beliefs associated with the stutter and their ability to communicate. Through our work together, they began to love and accept themselves for exactly who they are. Yes, we worked on increasing their speech fluency, but only so that they could speak freely, openly, and confidently.
How do you assess and monitor your clients’ progress?
Of course we take objective data and monitor progress over time by taking notes. However, I have my clients assess their own progress over time and find evidence from their everyday experiences that show they are making functional progress. When my clients say to me, “I feel so much more confident in my communication,” or “I love my voice!” that’s how I know my work here is done :) With pediatric clients, I always include the parents in assessing their progress. I assess progress by taking data and evaluating their ability to generalize progress into their everyday lives, because that’s what it’s all about!
What attracted you to online speech therapy?
I actually started teletherapy as I was temporarily living in Texas and knew I was going to be moving back to California. I was in a position where I didn’t want to have to start a new job after I moved. While I thought it was going to be temporary, I quickly became passionate about teletherapy and having the ability to provide high quality, effective, and efficient care to individuals and families around the country (so long as I was licensed in their state). Many clients may not feel comfortable coming into a clinic or center, and I love that our company makes speech therapy more accessible for those individuals. With a click of a button, you can be with your therapist! I find it to be pretty magical.
What are your hobbies or passions outside of speech therapy?
In addition to being a speech therapist, I am a singing voice teacher, holistic voice coach, yoga teacher, and mindfulness teacher. I love helping SLPs and voice teachers find their own self care routines and mindfulness in their everyday lives. I am also obsessed with my dog, Tucker the yorkie. When I’m not at my computer, you can find me soaking up the California sun, and of course singing, because life is indeed a musical.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I want to express gratitude to Expressable for creating a work environment where we can be authentically ourselves. Being such a creative soul, I appreciate the opportunity to be creative, innovative, and holistic within my work with my clients. I also want to express my gratitude to my colleagues, who amaze me everyday with their knowledge, background, compassion, and star power.