UCL Psychology and Language Sciences



Picture of the Better Conversations Lab having a Zoom meeting. Small pictures of several of the team members can be seen.

See below for information on the project team. Click on a name to expand and read their biography. 

Core team

Firle Beckley

Firle Beckley
Firle is a Stroke Association postgraduate fellow and speech and language therapist based at UCL, supervised by Suzanne Beeke and Wendy Best. Firle’s research interests centre around making real-world changes to the lives of people with aphasia including: making conversations more enjoyable, understanding how a person’s cognition may impact on their rehabilitation potential, developing outcome measure(s) to capture these changes, and working with clinicians to pinpoint clinical questions and barriers to implementation. Firle’s PhD work is outlined here https://www.stroke.org.uk/research/factors-influence-effectiveness-conversation-training-people-aphasia-who-benefits-most-and



Key publications:

  • Beckley, F., Best, W., & Beeke, S. (2016). Delivering communication strategy training for people with aphasia : what is current clinical practice International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders http://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12265
  • Beckley, F., Best, W., Johnson, F., Edwards, S., Maxim, J., & Beeke, S. (2013). Conversation therapy for agrammatism: exploring the therapeutic process of engagement and learning by a person with aphasia. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders48(2), pp. ?

Twitter: @firleb


Suzanne Beeke

Dr Suzanne Beeke
Suzanne qualified as a speech and language therapist in 1993 from Reading University. After research and clinical work in Edinburgh she joined UCL on a series of ESRC-funded conversation-analytic studies of aphasia. In 2005, Suzanne completed her PhD on the conversations of people with non-fluent agrammatic aphasia, leading to the development of Better Conversations with Aphasia, funded by the Stroke Association and the ESRC. Recently, she was part of the Nottingham-based NIHR funded VOICE Study, which developed communication training for healthcare professionals interacting with people with dementia on acute hospital wards. Suzanne’s research priorities for BCA development include investigation of the conversations of people with Wernicke’s aphasia to develop additional online resources for this group, a survey of current users of BCA to better understand how to support its implementation across the NHS, and using behaviour change theory to better understand how BCA works.



Key publications

  • Allwood, R, Pilnick, A, O’Brien, R, Goldberg, S, Harwood, R H & Beeke, S. (2017) Should I stay or should I go? How healthcare professionals close encounters with people with dementia in the acute hospital setting. Social Science & Medicine 191, 212-225. www.doi/org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.09.014
  • Beeke, S., Beckley, F., Best, W., Johnson, F., Edwards, S. & Maxim, J. (2013) Extended turn construction and test question sequences in the conversations of three speakers with agrammatic aphasia. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 27 (10-11), 784–804. Open access: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/pdf/10.3109/02699206.2013.808267
  • Beeke, S., Beckley, F., Johnson, F., Heilemann, C., Edwards, S., Maxim, J. & Best, W. (2015) Conversation focused aphasia therapy: investigating the adoption of strategies by people with agrammatism. Aphasiology 29 (3), 355-377. Open access: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02687038.2014.881459  
  • Beeke, S., Johnson, F., Beckley, F., Heilemann, C., Edwards, S., Maxim, J., & Best, W. (2014) Enabling better conversations between a man with aphasia and his conversation   partner: Incorporating writing into turn taking. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 47:3, 292-305. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2014.925667
  • Beeke, S., Maxim, J. & Wilkinson, R. (2007) Using conversation analysis to assess and treat people with aphasia. Seminars in Speech and Language 28(2), 136-147.

 Twitter: @BCAphasia


Dr Jytte Isaksen, Southern Denmark University, Odense, Denmark

Prof Anu Klippi, University of Helsinki, Finland

Rosemary Townsend, Dyscover, Leatherhead, Surrey, UK

Wendy Best

Prof Wendy Best
Wendy Best is Professor of Communication Science and Language Therapy and a Speech and Language Therapist. She has expertise in intervention research and a particular interest in linking research and clinical practice. She directs the UCL Centre for Speech and Language Intervention Research.

Wendy has been part of Better Conversations from the start. She helped devise and evaluate Better Conversations with Aphasia (BCA) with PI Dr Suzanne Beeke. Together with SLT Lucy Hughes and Dr Caroline Newton she is developing and trialling Better Conversations with Children (BCC), a new intervention for children with Developmental Language Disorder and their carers.

She leads research which develops assessments and interventions to optimise communication, with a particular focus on word retrieval and on conversation. Recent collaborations include projects establishing core components in therapy, contributing to the Aphasia Impact Questionnaire-21, and vocabulary & reading interventions with children.

Key publications:

  • Best W., Maxim J., Heilemann C., Beckley F., Johnson F., Edwards S. I., Howard D. and Beeke S. (2016) Conversation Therapy with People with Aphasia and Conversation Partners using Video Feedback: A Group and Case Series Investigation of Changes in Interaction. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 10: 562. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00562
  • Dyson, H., Best, W., Solity J. & Hulme, C. (2017) Training Mispronunciation Correction and Word Meanings Improves Children’s Ability to Learn to Read Words, Scientific Studies of Reading, 21:5, 392-407, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2017.1315424
  • Best, W., Hughes, L. M., Masterson, J., Thomas, M., Fedor, A., Roncoli, S., Fern-Pollak, L, Kapikian, A. et al., (2017) Intervention for children with word-finding difficulties: A parallel group randomised control trial. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20 (7), 10.1080/17549507.2017.1348541
  • Swinburn, K., Best, W., Beeke, S., Cruice, M., Smith, L., Pearce Willis, E., Ledingham, K.  Sweeney J., & McVicker, S.J.  (2018). A concise patient reported outcome measure for people with aphasia: the aphasia impact questionnaire 21, Aphasiology, DOI: 10.1080/02687038.2018.1517406.
  • Johnson, F., Beeke, S., Best, W. (2020) Searching for active ingredients in rehabilitation: applying the taxonomy of behaviour change techniques to a conversation therapy for aphasia. Disability and Rehabilitation DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1703147.
  • Sze, W. P., Hameau, S., Warren, J., Best, W. (in press) Identifying the components of a successful spoken naming therapy: A meta-analysis of word-finding interventions for adults with aphasia. Aphasiology.

Twitter: @wbestsea


Steven Bloch

Dr Steven Bloch
Steven graduated as a speech and language therapist from Birmingham Polytechnic in 1991. Following 12 years of clinical practice in adult community settings, and an interest in conversation analysis (CA), he completed a PhD at UCL, investigating the everyday interactions of people with dysarthria arising from motor neurone disease (MND).  His NIHR post-doctoral fellowship work widened the application of CA to people with acquired dysarthria with an emphasis on how CA principles might inform clinical assessment and intervention. His current work  includes the development of a new therapy programme, in partnership with SLTs, neurologists and families living with MND, to support better conversations for people with motor neurone disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. He is also working on end of life care interactions in association with Professor Paddy Stone, Marie Currie Chair of Palliative Medicine. He is currently an Associate Professor at UCL, co-editing a special edition of Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics on other-initiated repair in communication disabilities with Scott Barnes (Macquarie University, Australia).


Key publications

  • Anderson, R., Stone, P., Low, J, & Bloch, S. (2020) Managing uncertainty and references to time in prognostic conversations with family members at the end-of-life: a conversation analytic study. Palliative Medicine
  • Bloch, S. & Barnes, S. (2020) Dysarthria and other-initiated repair in everyday conversation. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics.
  • Bloch, S. & Antaki, C. (2019) The pivot-point between problem-presentation and advice in a health-helpline service. Applied Linguistics, Vol 40, Issue 4, p.699–716
  • Bloch, S., & Tuomainen, J. (2017) Progressive dysarthria and augmentative and alternative communication in conversation: Establishing the reliability of the Dysarthria-in-Interaction Profile. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. 52(1) 3-9
  • Bloch, S. (2013) Conversation and interaction in degenerative diseases. In Yorkston, K. M., Miller, R. M., Strand, E. A. (Eds.). Management of speech and swallowing in degenerative diseases (Third ed. pp.195-220). Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed.

Twitter: @steven_bloch


Professor Charles Antaki, Loughborough University, UK 

Dr Scott Barnes, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Professor Christopher McDermott, Sheffield University, UK

Dr Charlotta Saldert, Gothenburg University Sweden


Claudia Bruns (née Heilemann)

Dr Claudia Bruns
Claudia qualified as a speech and language therapist at the University of Munich and joined the ‘Better Conversations’ team in 2012. She developed a treatment fidelity tool and carried out a fidelity study of ‘Better Conversations with Aphasia’. She also prepared materials to be included in the ‘Better Conversations with Primary Progressive Aphasia’ e-learning resource. In 2018, she completed her PhD at UCL, supervised by Dr Suzanne Beeke, Prof Rosemary Varley and Dr Vitor Zimmerer. Her PhD research explored aphasic language from the perspective of usage-based construction grammar. She is particularly interested in usage frequency beyond the single word level; particularly, how people with post-stroke aphasia use and recognize common multi-word combinations, and how such combinations can be applied to aphasia rehabilitation. Claudia is currently a postdoctoral researcher on the UTILISE (Unification Therapy Integrating LexIcon and SEntences) project. More information on this can be found here.



Key publications:

  • Varley, R., Bruns, C., Warren, J., Dąbrowska, E., & Javadi, A.-H. (2020, March 18). Computer therapy combined with non-invasive brain stimulation for sentence processing difficulties in post-stroke aphasia: a randomised control trial (the UTILISE study). OSF Preprints, doi:10.31219/osf.io/fduqh
  • Bruns, C., Varley, R., Zimmerer, V.C., Carragher, M., Brekelmans, G., & Beeke, S. (2018). “I don’t know”: a usage-based approach to familiar collocations in non-fluent aphasia. Aphasiology. DOI: 10.1080/02687038.2018.1535692
  • Heilemann, C., Varley, R., Zimmerer, V., & Beeke, S. (2017). "A great deal" versus "a fair deal": Does collocation strength determine processing speed in aphasia? Poster presentation. 18th International Science of Aphasia Conference, Geneva, 11-14 September, Stem-, Sprak- en Taalpathologue, 22, Suppl 2, 75-77. (available at: http://sstp.nl/article/view/30097)
  • Heilemann, C., Best, W., Johnson, F., Beckley, F., Edwards, S., Maxim, J., & Beeke, S. (2014). Investigating treatment fidelity in a conversation-based aphasia therapy. Aphasie und verwandte Gebiete (2), 14-26. (available at: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1446926/)

Twitter: @claudihei


Dr Marcella Carragher, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Susan Edwards

Susan Edwards is Professor Emeritus, University of Reading, UK. Her area of research investigates acquired and developmental disordered language, within experimental and clinical regimes. Susan was part of the original team that developed Better Conversations with Aphasia. She has years of clinical experience and has taught students of speech/language therapy, linguistics and psychology. Her current academic activities include advising various universities and reviewing academic papers for a number of journals. She has authored a range of peer reviewed papers and books including:

Key publications:

  • Edwards, S, & Salis, C. (2016) Aphasia from a Neurolinguistic Perspective. In Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Linguistics. Oxford University Press.
  • Edwards, S. & Salis, C. (2011) Aphasia Oxford Bibliographies of Linguistics.  www.oxfordbibliographiesonline.com
  • Edwards, S., Letts, C. & Sinka, I. (2011) The New Reynell. Granada Publishing
  • Edwards, S. & Varlokosta, S. (2007) Pronominal reference and agrammatic comprehension. Journal of Neurolinguistics 20, 423-444
  • Edwards, S. (2005) Fluent Aphasia. Cambridge University Press. 
Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes
Lucy’s PhD research, with supervisors Wendy Best and Caroline Newton, focuses on developing and evaluating Better Conversations with Children (BCC); a new intervention for primary school-aged children with Developmental Language Disorder. The programme incorporates principles and methods from conversation analysis-based therapy, including Better Conversations with Aphasia, and parent-child interaction therapy (Falkus et al, 2016). The study employs a conversation-analytic framework to examine patterns in adult-child talk, with specialist support from Dr Juliette Corrin. Prior to her work on BCC, Lucy practised as a specialist speech and language therapist in schools, health centres and language units across London and Surrey. She also worked as a research associate on the Word Retrieval and Development (WoRD) Project. As part of her ESRC-funded doctoral training, Lucy has collaborated with Julie Radford and Paula Bosanquet (UCL Institute of Education), investigating the conversational turns of teaching assistants when interacting with children within the classroom: http://maximisingtas.co.uk/research/ta-talk-studies.php.


Key publications:

  • Best, W., Hughes, L. M., Masterson, J., Thomas, M., Fedor, A., Roncoli, S., Fern-Pollak, L., Shepherd, D., Howard, D., Shobbrook, K. & Kapikian, A. (2017). Intervention for children with word-finding difficulties: a parallel group randomised control trial. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1–12.
  • Best, W., Fedor, A., Hughes, L., Kapikian, A., Masterson, J., Romcoli, S., Fern-Pollak, L. and Thomas, M. S. C. (2015). Intervening to alleviate word-finding difficulties in children: Case series data and a computational modelling foundation. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 32 (3-4). Special Issue: Treatment as a tool for investigating cognition, 133 – 168.
  • Hughes, L., Masterson, J., Thomas, M., Fedor, A., Roncoli, S., Kapikian, A., Fern-Pollak, L. & Best, W. (2013). The WORD project: a case series study on intervention for developmental word-finding difficulties. Stem-, Spraak- en Taalpathologie, 18, 48-51.


Jane Maxim

Prof Jane Maxim
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Kate Swinburn

Kate is an honorary lecturer at UCL with expertise in acquired communication disability, Patient Reported Outcome Measurement, and user involvement.  She was a member of the Better Conversations with Aphasia development team.  She worked as a clinical SLT for 15 years in acute, rehabilitation and community settings. In 2004, Kate completed her PhD on Patient Reported Outcome Measurement.  She worked for 10 years in the voluntary sector, for Connect – the communication disability network.  She managed publications, training and latterly the influencing programme (working with the CQC, National Stroke Improvement, the Department of Health and National Commissioning Support). She has written and co-authored three assessments; the Comprehensive Aphasia Test, the Communication Disability Profile and the Aphasia Impact Questionnaire). Kate contributed to undergraduate and postgraduate training and academic projects with several universities, currently working in research at City University.  In 2011, she was awarded a Fellowship of the RCSLT. 

Key publications:

  • Swinburn K., Best W., Beeke S., Cruice M., Smith L., Pearce Willis E., Ledingham K., Sweeney J. & McVicker S.J. (2018) A concise Patient Reported Outcome Measure for people with aphasia: The Aphasia Impact Questionnaire   Aphasiology  DOI: 10.1080/02687038.2018.1517406  
  • Swinburn K. (2018) Aphasia Impact Questionnaire-21 www.aiq-21 
  •  Swinburn K., Porter G. & Howard D. (2004) The Comprehensive Aphasia Test www.psypress.com/books/details/9781841693798/ 

Twitter: @KateSwinburn

Website: www.aiq-21.net


Madeline Cruice, City University of London

Lucy Dipper, City University of London

Jane Marshall, City University of London

Mary Boyle, Montclair State University

Deborah Hersch, Edith Cowan University

David Howard, University of Newcastle


Anna Volkmer

Dr Anna Volkmer
Anna graduated as a speech and language therapist from UCL in 2002. Since then Anna has worked with adults with acquired neurological conditions across England and Australia. She completed a Masters of Clinical Rehabilitation at Flinders University, South Australia, in 2009. Since returning to the UK in 2010, Anna has written three books; the first focusing on the assessment and management of communication in dementia, the other two on the role of the speech and language therapist in mental capacity. In 2020 Anna finished her NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship to complete her PhD at UCL, supervised by Suzanne Beeke and Aimee Spector. Her research focused on developing and piloting Better Conversations with Primary Progressive Aphasia (BCPPA), for people with PPA and their communication partners. She now holds a post-doctoral NIHR Development Skills Enhancement Award and is continuing to develop this work, alongside her commitment as a Senior Teaching Fellow in the department and a Senior Speech and Language Therapist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.


Key publications:

  • Volkmer, A., Spector, A., Warren, J. D., & Beeke, S. (2018a). The ‘Better Conversations with Primary Progressive Aphasia (BCPPA)’ program for people with PPA (Primary Progressive Aphasia): protocol for a randomised controlled pilot study. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 4(1), 158.
  • Volkmer, A., Spector, A., Warren, J. D., & Beeke, S. (2018b). Speech and language therapy for primary progressive aphasia: referral patterns and barriers to service provision across the UK. Dementia, 1471301218797240.
  • Marshall, C. R., Hardy, C. J., Volkmer, A., Russell, L. L., Bond, R. L., Fletcher, P. D., ... & Fox, N. C. (2018). Primary progressive aphasia: a clinical approach. Journal of Neurology, 265(6), 1474-1490.

Twitter: @volkmer_anna


Professor Aimee Spector, Dept of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, UCL

Professor Jason Warren, Dementia Research Centre, UCL


Clinical academics, researchers, and students:


  • Sophie Borrett
  • Coral Brown
  • Richard Cave
  • Claire Farrington-Douglas
  • Charly Harris
  • Lucie Hogger
  • Susan Howell
  • Fiona Johnson
  • Elena Loraine
  • Kirsty McKenzie
  • Amy Pundole
  • Anna Robinson
  • Lena Sakure