They say that communication is a two-way street. There are always two or more people involved in an interaction. So when communication breaks down, maybe both people need to make changes so that communication can be better? That is essentially what communication partner training is all about. In this article, I’ll explain what it is, why we do it, and tips you can start implementing right now.

What is communication partner training?

Communication partner training is an intervention that involves a client AND a significant other. This other person is called the communication partner. They might be a spouse, sibling, child, or friend (anyone that the client talks to regularly).

How does communication partner training work?

First, we choose a communication partner to be involved in the training.

Next, we set goals. We will record a conversation between the client and their communication partner, to identify strengths and areas for improvement.

Then, we do the communication partner training. This can be done individually or in a group. The communication partner learns to use positive communication supports. By changing their communication, they can reveal the communication competence of the client. How fantastic is that.

Communication partner training can have a positive impact on a person’s life, by improving everyday conversations.

What evidence is there that communication partner training is effective?

Two high-quality randomised control trials have found that communication partner training results in improved communication outcomes for people after traumatic brain injury. Participants attended either group or individual therapy. Their conversations were compared before and after treatment. The research showed that the communication partners gained skills in providing communication feedback and support. By learning how to structure everyday communication, the people with traumatic brain injuries improved their participation in conversations.

What are some general tips for communication partners?

  • Collaborative intent = go into the conversation knowing that it is a shared experience, and that everyone contributes equally.

  • Cognitive support = use memory or organisational supports, give cues in a conversational manner

  • Emotional support = acknowledge difficulties, show respect

  • Questions = avoid asking questions you already know the answer to, make questions “real”

  • Turn taking = help keep the conversation evenly balanced, allow pauses for the other person to think and speak

  • Elaboration of topics = talk about things that are interesting to everyone and will keep the conversation going, offer extra bits of information, invite the other person to say more

  • Elaborative organisation = keep the conversation organised and logical, talk about one thing at a time, make it clear when the topic changes, summarise information at the end of a discussion

How can I find out more?

If you are a current client, please speak with your speech pathologist.

You can download our handout about it: Communication Partner Training

Check out these amazing online resources, which we have referenced in this article:

  1. Communication Strategies Toolkit, TBI Express:
  2. TBI ConneCT resources for clinicians and families: