Voice Therapy

Voice therapy can help you change the way you speak to closely match your gender expression. Voice therapy is provided by our speech-language pathologists, who design exercises specific to your communication needs. We use the clinical knowledge and experience of your speech-language pathologist, the latest research evidence, and your own voice goals to develop a customized therapy plan for you.

What Does a Speech-Language Pathologist Do?

Our speech-language pathologists will first conduct an in-depth assessment of your voice quality. Our comprehensive evaluation will include:

  • getting to know your voice therapy goals,
  • analyzing the sounds of your voice, and
  • evaluating the characteristics of your speech and breathing patterns.

During our acoustic analysis, we will have you speak into a microphone to record your current voice and perform a range of vocal activities such as:

  • pitch glides (gradually increasing or decreasing the pitch of your voice until you reach the highest or lowest points of pitch),
  • reading sentences, and
  • using your voice in conversation, and
  • sustained sound production.

We will then analyze your recording using specialized software to assess your voice and determine which vocal aspects we need to target in your therapy sessions. You will also complete a questionnaire that asks about how you would like to sound and communicate and your perception of your current voice. We will use the results from each of these assessments to design a treatment plan that will help you achieve the voice that affirms your identity.

Our Speech-Language Pathologists

Vocal Hygiene

An integral part of your therapy will include improving your vocal behaviors and vocal hygiene, which will allow you to easily modify your voice. Some habits that will help improve your vocal behaviors and hygiene include:

  • adequate hydration,
  • getting plenty of rest,
  • avoiding excessive throat clearing or coughing, and
  • monitoring the amount of time you spend using your voice, etc.

Voice Therapy Exercises

Our individualized voice exercises will also teach you optimal vocal techniques to use when speaking. Our aim is to cultivate healthy vocal behaviors and eliminate harmful ones as we help you shape the voice that reflects your gender identity. Voice exercises can train different areas of your voice such as:

  • Pitch – The tonal range of your speaking voice.
  • Resonance – The placement of sound in your vocal tract.
  • Voice quality The clarity and texture of your voice.
  • Volume – The loudness of your voice.
  • Intonation – The stress and rhythm of your speech.
  • Rate – The speed of your speech.
  • Articulation – The precision of your pronunciation.

We can also target other areas of communication, such as:

  • Language – The words you choose when speaking.
  • Nonverbal sounds – The quality of laughing, coughing, etc.
  • Body language – The posture, gestures, and facial expressions you use.

All of this is accomplished through behavioral modifications that you can develop and train. Your speech-language pathologist will use a variety of techniques to help you modify the above parameters and find the voice and communication presentation that is right for you.

Practicing at Home

Changing the mechanics of your voice—such as pitch, resonance, and other vocal elements—takes time to achieve. You can speed up this process by practicing your voice exercises every day at home and following the recommendations from your speech-language pathologist.

The frequency and duration of voice therapy sessions varies from person to person. In most cases, therapy sessions are scheduled once a week and continue for several months.

We encourage you to use your new voice with friends and family as soon as you feel comfortable. Using your new voice outside of therapy and practicing your voice exercises at home will help you develop and cultivate the voice that matches your identity.

Is Voice & Communication Therapy Right For Me?

Voice therapy is typically the first line of treatment for changing your voice to match your gender expression. Hormones for feminization have a limited effect on your voice, and hormones for masculinization can have a varied effect. For example, testosterone (the male hormone) therapy, will lower the pitch of your voice. However, it has no effect on any other aspects of your voice or communication.

We do not recommend trying to change your voice on your own without a professional or it could lead to adverse side effects like:

  • pain and discomfort,
  • hoarseness,
  • strain, or
  • voice loss.

Voice therapy helps you take control of your voice changes. A speech-language pathologist can help you fine-tune your vocal pitch and quality and communication. Voice care professionals can provide you with feedback and reinforcement to help you bring out your desired voice and communication style.

Next Steps

At our clinic, gender-affirming voice therapy can be scheduled at any time without a referral from a physician. We will schedule your appointments as soon as possible at a time that is convenient for you. However, we sometimes place patients on a waiting list until a recurring time becomes available because we schedule sessions over a number of consecutive weeks. Please contact our clinic for more information at: speechpath@utah.edu or call 801-581-3506.

We Want Your Feedback

We are constantly evolving as a program and welcome any feedback from the community that will help us meet our mission to provide safe, gender-affirmative care at University of Utah Health. Please email us at transgenderhealth@hsc.utah.edu.