Chris, Nikki and Katie

“My cross path – I grow, & I grow, & I grow…stalk is symbolic of me in rehab…” – Artist Nikki Booth

Katie Strong, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Hi! My name is Katie Strong. I am a faculty member, researcher, and speech-language pathologist. For the last 25 years, I have worked with people impacted by aphasia. I am honored to be a Tavistock Trust for Aphasia Distinguished Scholar.

My research explores how identity changes after having aphasia. I believe that we are the stories we tell. We process life through the telling and re-telling of stories. Aphasia takes away language, an essential tool, that is necessary for storytelling. I am passionate about how stories can help people with aphasia process major life changes. I am also interested in training current and future clinicians to support people with aphasia rebuild their identity by telling and sharing stories about who they are.

I became aware of the power of story in clinical work about 15 years ago when I met Nikki, a person with global aphasia, who came to the rehab center where I was working at the time. Nikki and her SLP Chris, began exploring art together as a means of expression. The art was an amazing way for Nikki to express herself, but what I really became interested in was when Nikki and Chris began sharing Nikki’s story through her art. Nikki’s art gave her something to talk about. I also noticed that Nikki and Chris had a really rich relationship from which this storytelling began. Nikki and Chris began to share Nikki’s story to audiences. What I noticed was that each time Nikki told and retold her story, it changed a bit. Nikki became more confident, she reassumed some of her former identity as a public speaker, and in a way, she found herself through her story. You can read a bit more about Nikki and Chris and the Power of Story in this article. Nikki and Chris have both passed away, but their legacy lives on in me and my research.

When I began a Ph.D. program in my mid-forties, I knew that I wanted my research line to be something that was clinically relevant, and I really wanted to develop some type of tool or method that clinicians could use to support their clients with aphasia in exploring and sharing their stories. The ‘My Story’ Project was developed as part of my dissertation work. You can hear more about my own story and the ‘My Story’ project in this interview.

One of my favorite parts about my job at Central Michigan University is mentoring students in research. I have purposefully created a community to support students in learning about Life Participation Approach to Aphasia, qualitative research methods, narrative co-construction, and identity. My lab is the Strong Story Lab. In the past four years, we’ve had over 25 students in lab. My goal is to mentor students, so they become excited about research. I’m so grateful and proud of each of the students who volunteer their time. We have had a number of state and national poster presentations come out of lab related to story and identity.

A few other bits about me related to my passion and advocacy for aphasia.

  • I am a founding member of the Lansing Area Aphasia Support Group. If you live in mid-Michigan, we’d love to have you join us at our meetings. During the pandemic, we are meeting on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month on Zoom from 2-3pm EST. If you are interested in our group, please email lansing.aphasia.group@gmail.com.

  • I also facilitate groups with Virtual Connections for Aphasia which offers free online groups for families living with aphasia. Hope you’ll consider joining us for a few sessions and connect with others whose lives are impacted by aphasia.