For the Bergens, the CCCs are ‘the Gold Standard’

Amy, a SLP, and husband Michael, an audiologist, share how their respective careers have benefited from their ASHA certification.

As part of Better Hearing and Speech Month, ASHA spoke with Amy (CCC-SLP) and Michael (CCC-A) Bergen about their careers, their personal experiences and why their certification is so important. Amy is a clinician in a special needs school in Staten Island, mentors new SLPs, and previously supervised clinical fellows. Michael is director at Brooklyn College’s Speech-Language Hearing Center.

ASHA: First question, how did you both get into the field? And, we’re sure you get this question a lot, is that how you met?

Amy: I actually wanted to be a speech-language pathologist since I was eight years old. I have a brother who is developmentally disabled, so I was exposed to the field very young. Something about it really appealed to me and clicked.

Michael: What brought me to the field was actually Amy. I had no idea what it was before meeting her. We met when we were teens in high school as part of a student exchange program to Japan. Later, we went to different colleges in the New York area and I was initially on a different career path, but because Amy had always been so driven and motivated by speech-language pathology, I was exposed to it through that. Part of it was a natural attraction to the field and part of it was how passionate Amy was about it. It’s infectious to people around her. She was a gateway to it for me because I had the opportunity to meet with her faculty members too.

Amy: Michael would often come and sit in on some of my classes, so he had the opportunity to really get exposed to what was happening. Getting to hear the material and see what was happening really was really attractive for him, rather than just hearing me talk about it. I don’t think I was intentionally an ambassador or in recruiting mode. I just loved it. 

ASHA: Where did your personal and professional paths take you after that? Were there moments along the way that validated your career choice?

Michael: My first job was at Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital, where I was exposed to so many different ways to work with individuals with hearing impairments. There was never a point in my training where I questioned if I was doing the right thing but having jumped into that as my first employment experience, it really solidified for me that was the right career path for me.

Amy: As for my career, I have worked in a variety of settings: I started in the schools, worked in residential settings, worked with adults with developmental disability, taught in university settings, supervised in clinics. I do like the school setting a lot – it’s where I feel the most comfortable.

I was honored by our state association a few years ago. In my acceptance speech I said that I’m very fortunate because there’s never been a day where I woke up and I didn’t love my job. I may not have always loved the place I was working, there may have been a bad day, or a colleague or two I didn’t like, but I have always loved my job. I feel very blessed by that.

ASHA: What have the CCCs meant to your respective careers?

Amy: It’s impossible to envision my career without my CCCs. They legitimize and validate what I do. It’s part of who I am, I can’t possibly even imagine not having them.

Michael: Same here. I work with students and serve as a role model, and to do anything short of setting the bar as high as ensuring continuing education, ethical behavior, or ensuring that I keep current with constantly evolving techniques and research wouldn’t suffice in any of my myriad of roles. Whether it’s my day job as director of the center and the patients who walk in the door, or my students, I would be shortchanging every one of those stakeholders if I didn’t have my CCCs.

Amy: For me, this was what I always what I wanted to do, so there was no other way for me than to fully do it. To be a speech-language pathologist and not have my CCCs would be hollow.

ASHA: What is it about being ASHA-certified that makes people stand out in the field?

Michael: Being in academia, we have supervisors who maintain their CCCs partly because it’s required, but I view it as bigger than that. When there are changes to the profession that require changes to the certification standards, these are additions that folks may view as onerous, but in the long haul it’s very important. We can become creatures of habit, but these sorts of bars that we can set through the CCCs is for the betterment of the individuals we work with.

This also springboards to the importance of interprofessional education and practice, (IPP/IPE). In recent years, ASHA has given renewed attention to this through the CCCs, so that it’s built into the standards and ensures that SLPs and audiologists are working and learning together for the benefit of children and adults. After all, it’s such a rapidly changing field. 

Amy: It represents a certain level of quality. Having our CCCs tells our patients and their families that if they’re going to a certified practitioner, that person is committed to staying current, participating in continuing education, and maintaining ethical behavior. It’s the gold standard.