There are many causes of aphasia, or the inability to speak, read or understand language, either written or verbal. The main causes of aphasia are stroke, brain damage, or brain tumors. Anything that causes tissue damage in the language center of the brain can cause the development of aphasia, which can come on suddenly or progress slowly over time.
There are many different therapies for people suffering from aphasia, and one of these is group therapy. Group therapy is advantageous because it reminds people that they are not alone in their situation, and empathy from a fellow sufferer can help a person feel less isolated. Also, seeing other patients responding well to therapy and hard work can inspire a sufferer to work harder at relearning the language.
There are several ways for a clinician to select groups for aphasia treatment. One way is to keep aphasia severity within a narrow range, such as limiting one group to mild aphasia, while limiting another group to severe aphasia. This prevents feelings of jealousy, anger at one's condition or hopelessness.
While there are downfalls to including all ranges of aphasia, there are also some benefits to the wider range of severity in aphasia group therapy. Some of these benefits include the ability of those with more severe aphasia to model themselves after those with milder cases, so that they may learn by example. Another benefit of a broader severity arrangement is that those with severe aphasia may see the progress that others have made and take hope that they too will soon be able to improve their communication skills.
While the majority of the case studies dealing with group aphasia therapy were single group prospective studies, with no secondary group to make comparisons against, all studies showed a significant increase in improvement of language skills and understanding, marking aphasia group therapy as one of the likely resources for sufferers to utilize.
There are several different aspects of aphasia that need to be treated. One is purely verbal communication based. The aphasia patient knows the words in their mind, but has difficulty speaking the words aloud in order to communicate effectively. There can also be problems with understanding spoken words. Sometimes, oral communication is easier than reading comprehension. Sometimes, the words are unrecognizable. Other times, the words make sense, but grouping them together to form coherent thoughts proves difficult.
There are several different ways therapists can utilize group sessions. These include the most basic form of aphasia treatment with higher severity, such as word finding and clueing treatment. Helping patients find ways to remember the correct words properly is the first step in increasing communication and language memory. After word memory is increased, it is important to remember how to structure sentences, and there are several ways to increase this function, such as syntax memory, melodic intonation which utilizes the rhythms of speech in order to properly phrase sentences and questions, verb network strengthening which helps remember tense and verb order by use of chaining. Once all of these are mastered, it is important to remember how to use these in reading and writing. Once verbal and reading skills have been improved, it is important to also remember or relearn how to write. Motor skills are sometimes but not always affected by the same stroke or brain damage that may have caused aphasia, so writing may prove difficult for some time until the habitual hand movements are relearned.
No matter what treatments are needed, the clinician is able to determine what areas need the most work, and whether aphasia group therapy is possibly a good therapy solution for the patient.