The importance of augmentative communication systems in sociotherapy

The importance of augmentative communication systems in sociotherapy

Sociotherapy refers to the supportive, therapeutic approach that focuses on the patient’s socio-environmental and interpersonal factors as a means of adjusting to their surroundings. It is a non-medical approach to the clinical rehabilitation of people battling with mental problems.

Through the Sociotherapy Association, we learn that sociotherapy is an approach that celebrates our diversity as humans and views each person through a holistic lens as a relational, emotional, rational, and spiritual entity. Their goal when treating patients is to create the space for clients to feel free yet supported and to be who they are.

In the treatment of patients using sociotherapy, the Sociotherapy Association has the view that the therapist is not the agent of change but rather supports the client’s own self-empowerment in healing themselves. They instill the idea that the client has the ability to change and heal themselves and to feel connected once more.

Social workers and sociotherapy

Social workers work with individuals and communities, connecting them to various services, and advocating for change within communities. Social workers put treatment plans in place to support the patient, depending on factors such as mobility, illness, social background, and mental health, to name a few. Sociologists, on the other hand, research, analyze, and develop solutions. The two disciplines do overlap, however, and the area of sociotherapy is a good example. Social workers often find themselves in situations where they must deal with therapies that are related to sociological training.

The opportunity to gain expertise in this training is available through online social work master degree programs, such as those offered through Cleveland State University, which offer specialization in the field of social work, such as developing knowledge on sociotherapy and treatments such as augmentative and alternative communication. Offered both full-time and part-time, Cleveland State’s MSW combines 100% online coursework with 900 field practicum hours completed in your local community, which makes this program ideal for balancing your professional and personal life as you earn your degree.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

AAC is a method of treatment that describes a range of therapies that involve different methods of communication. When used to supplement existing speech, AAC is augmentative, and when it is used as an aid for patients whose speech is absent or non-functional, it is known as alternative therapy. AAC therapies can include the use of equipment, such as a simple pen and paper, or more sophisticated electronic methods used to depict words and sentences. It can also include sign language.

In this instance, we are discussing the efficiency of these methods when used in the treatment of patients who have severe expressive communication disorders resulting from illness, for example, patients with mental disabilities who have been hospitalized for some time and have lost their ability to speak coherently.

Examples of augmentative communication include eye gaze and facial expressions, vocalizations, gestures, tangible objects, picture communication, and sign language. These are unaided communication systems that can be used by anyone. The choice of the AAC method depends on the level of the client’s disability and what they are most comfortable with.

Communicative and psychosocial competence

Communicative competence is an individual’s ability to freely express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings to a variety of listeners. It enables them to achieve certain social, personal, and vocational goals.

An important part of communicative competence is social competence, and in the case of patients dealing with mental illness, psychosocial competence. Psychosocial competence is the ability to maintain a state of wellbeing and manage the challenges of daily life, including the ability to demonstrate positive and adaptive behavioral traits during communication.

Psychosocial rehabilitation of people with mental illness

In India, a study done in a community-based rehabilitation environment showed that 69% of the patients were rehabilitated back into the community. The rehabilitation centers used a combination of routine and livelihood activities in a community setting, with additional outreach training for the staff and members of the community on mental health and how to diagnose and treat patients.

Key characteristics for the success of the model included integrated care involving multi-skilled professionals and vocational training, enabling patients to interact socially and develop the skills to live independently. A further 25% of participants were still in the process of rehabilitation, while only 6% dropped out. The conclusion drawn was that psychosocial-based rehabilitation using innovative methods was highly successful and, in less fortunate communities, the most economical way to treat patients with mental health issues.

In the context of AAC therapy, when performed in a community setting, the social worker may find additional benefits regarding the breakdown of social barriers and the patient’s ability and desire to begin speaking.


Patients in hospitals and rehabilitation centers are sure to be affected by stress at some stage, and the inability to communicate with fellow patients and staff is likely to exacerbate the problem. This treatment does not apply only to people in mental rehabilitation facilities but to anyone who has lost their speech, whether due to a physical reason such as a stroke or mental trauma. The use of AAC helps patients communicate and minimizes feelings of insecurity, making it an invaluable factor in their treatment.

Sophisticated equipment is not always accessible under the circumstances and, possibly, not always suited to the patient. A simple line system on paper, gestures, facial expressions, and pictures on a chart will go a long way toward reaching a patient who is just beginning to show signs of wanting to communicate. This is an essential part of therapy and, as such, should be introduced into any situation where it could make a difference.