PhD defense Maren van Rijssen: How to prevent communication problems between people with aphasia and healthcare professionals

Logopedist met een patiënt tijdens Afasietherapie ©
Speech therapist with a patient during Aphasia therapy ©

On 21 December, Maren van Rijssen will defend her PhD thesis titled 'CommuniCare'.


The language disorder aphasia is still unknown to many Dutch people. Even though it is very common, there are even more people with aphasia than with Parkinson's disease.

Aphasia is a possible consequence of a stroke. It is often very difficult for people with aphasia to understand others or to express themselves. Sometimes people with aphasia can no longer find words at all, and they often find it difficult to follow conversations.

Speech therapists provide treatment for the language disorder and are experts in communication. Treatment may also involve other healthcare providers, such as a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, nurse and social worker. Communication problems between patient and healthcare provider can create ambiguities about treatment, with unpleasant consequences such as lower satisfaction with care and higher medical costs.


In her dissertation, Van Rijssen investigates the needs of people with aphasia, their loved ones and their healthcare providers in terms of communication. Based on those needs, she developed CommuniCare, a training and coaching programme for healthcare professionals to improve communication with people with aphasia.

Almost three hundred healthcare professionals participated in CommuniCare. It helped care professionals gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to use (new) communication techniques. Texts on websites, leaflets and signage in care facilities were also adapted so that people with aphasia could understand them better.

Illustratie met alle symptomen van Afasie ©
Start date and time
End date and time
Utrecht University Hall, Domplein 29 & online (via this link)
PhD candidate
Maren van Rijssen
PhD supervisor(s)
prof. dr. P.A.M. Gerrits
prof. dr. J.M.A. Visser-Meilij
dr. L. van Ewijk
More information
Full text via Utrecht University Repository