Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Coastal Speech Therapy and Wellness Story


Michelle Rusk empowers her clients to regain their self-determination

by Candance Moore

Michelle Rusk, MA, CCC-SLP of Coastal Speech Therapy and Wellness

Michelle Rusk, MA, CCC-SLP of Coastal Speech Therapy and Wellness

Every hardship becomes bearable when people can talk about it. Trauma hurts less when it is articulated. When discussed openly, fears are less scary. Safety is felt, even in the midst of pain, when expressed needs are met. For a person who is struggling emotionally, the ability to communicate is of immeasurable value. When that ability is taken away due to illness, injury, or other issues, there are specialists with amazing tools who can restore it.

Michelle Rusk, MA, CCC-SLP of Coastal Speech Therapy and Wellness, is one of those specialists. She's a certified speech-language pathologist who empowers her clients to regain their self-determination.

"Lack of communication is one of the most heartbreaking aspects for caregivers trying to adjust to a new normal," Michelle remarks. "I've watched loving spouses and parents try in vain to make someone comfortable, unable to understand their needs. It's an issue that doesn't get much attention, but it is quite serious. Restored communication is one of the best investments they can make."

"Very few patients
receive enough speech therapy
to fully recover.
They're expected to settle for a new life where they'll
never really be heard again, and they're led to believe
that's just how it is
My clients are often amazed
 by how much of their wellness
we're able to restore."
              - Michelle Rusk

Michelle has also watched healthy individuals struggle to get their words out due to stuttering or social anxiety, which can be a significant source of lifelong frustration. Although she primarily works with patients who have suffered brain or nerve damage, Michelle explains that anyone with impaired communication can benefit from her practice.

Coastal Speech Therapy and Wellness is an independent private practice offering personalized services to restore speech, voice, swallowing, conversation skills, and broader cognitive linguistic strategies. Speech therapy is a clinical field with rigorous educational and certification standards based on evidence-based treatment. Michelle combines clinical guidelines with real-life family caregiving to coach each client with a creative, individualized treatment plan. Children as young as 12 feel at ease with her casual, motherly approach to therapy. Young adults, middle-age clients, and elderly patients also find Michelle to be a therapist who instills in them self-confidence and hope.

It was suffering in her own family that inspired Michelle to pursue a career in speech pathology. As a teenager, she helped her mother and family care for her ill grandmother. Michelle learned her grandmother was changed due to Alzheimer's disease and in witnessing that change, she wanted to help. One day her mother picked up a pamphlet from the doctors office. When Michelle read it, she knew she wanted a career in helping people as a speech pathologist.

"As a junior in high school, I chose my career that day," she recalls with a smile.

A native of Hampton Roads, Michelle chose Old Dominion for her bachelor's degree before earning a master's from Hampton University. She's nationally certified as a speech pathology clinician, as well as being licensed to practice in Virginia and North Carolina.

Her career began as a therapist within the corporate healthcare industry. Stroke patients and brain injury survivors are given access to speech therapy, often as an insurance benefit, to help them transition to a new normal at home. Swallowing intervention is especially important to prevent choking, and this falls within the expertise of a speech therapist. The ability to signal for pain, discomfort, or thirst is also essential to prevent further medical events.

As her career and expertise evolved, Michelle worked in various settings, including outpatient care, skilled nursing facilities, the school system, and acute intervention. Although she enjoyed her work, she began to see a disappointing pattern. Most patients received a baseline of care aimed at sheer survival â€"- no time or money spent to restore the ability to have a conversation.
"Very few patients receive enough speech therapy to fully recover. They're expected to settle for a new life where they'll never really be heard again, and they're led to believe that's just how it is," Michelle reveals. "I started my independent practice so that I can have the freedom to treat my clients as I see fit. My clients are often amazed by how much of their wellness we're able to restore."

Michelle offers free consultations through video calling so she can virtually meet clients in their homes. Weekly sessions through online telehealth resources offer flexible, casual treatment schedules, with coaching geared for each unique home environment. Michelle stays with each client until their optimum potential is achieved. Insurance superbills are available to help cover the cost. Instead of spending those benefits on a limited treatment plan, patients are encouraged to determine their own destiny by reaching out to an independent practitioner such as Michelle.
The scope of practice for a speech therapist is vast and often the name doesn't do it justice. Her treatment tools cover everything from speech production, fluency, language, cognition, voice and resonance to swallowing. Drawn from years of experience, she can also offer guidance on prevention and wellness, caregiver listening and functional strategies to make everyday better for the patient and family. Michelle describes her approach as a holistic model of functional lifestyle wellness.

Since communication is so much broader than speech, Michelle also works with clients to improve their brain health and overall wellness. She's passionate about helping people keep their cognition and language skills into advanced age. Also, as someone with dietary restrictions, Michelle is highly educated in gut health, which plays a surprisingly significant role in the overall health of the human body.

This summer, she is hosting an online wellness workshop called "Hacking Your Health: How to Create an On-The-Go Healthy Lifestyle." Drawing from her personal experience as a mother of four, Michelle has crafted an informative workshop for women that combines clinical education, feasible strategies, and compassionate support. Registration for the workshop is available on the website, and everything is done online.

"Although I certainly work with many clients after a devastating event, my practice also offers proactive treatments for healthy young adults," Michelle says. "I'm here to help anyone in my power to assist. If someone thinks my services could improve their life, I'll be happy to meet with them."

Coastal Speech Therapy & Wellness

237 Hanbury Road, East
Chesapeake, VA 23322