We refrain from using the term “stutterer” for multiple reasons. Labeling someone is reductive and limiting. The particular term implies that a person who stutters is defined by their speech disfluency. It is a stereotype that we aim to break.
A person who stutters can be a speech-language pathologist, speech therapist, researcher, scientist, pilot, author, marketing expert, entrepreneur, sports person, actor, and whoever they want to be.
The imposition and assumption of listeners who don’t stutter tend to limit the choices, and possibilities for those who do. People who stutter (PWS) often feel a lack of confidence, self-esteem, and courage to do something they desire due to repeated negative reactions from their listeners.
The fear of rejection drives PWS into a shell and keeps them from taking on new challenges in life.
Yes, speech therapy or stuttering treatment is definitely an option for children, teens, and adults who stutter. However, there is a significant percentage of the population that does NOT have access to speech therapy for one reason or another.
Self-therapy for stuttering is one of the best options for them to usher a change in their life.
What is Self-therapy for Adults who Stutter?
Self-therapy is ideal for adult clients who have chosen to become their own clinician. The person has to engage in intense self-study, observation, and noting down their emotions, and behaviors when studying.
Malcolm Fraser, published the very first book on self-therapy for adults who stutter. Over the last couple of decades, several stuttering organizations and reputed speech-language pathologists have further simplified, elaborated and built upon his work. Now, we have a set of guidelines that adults without formal training in speech pathology can follow in the absence of clinical intervention.
What are the Steps of Self-therapy for Adults who Stutter?
If you are considering self-therapy for stuttering, you can follow this short guide.
How Do You Identify Yourself?
Is stuttering truly limiting you? Sadly, repeated interactions with listeners, opinions of our parents, negative reactions from our friends make us believe that we are “stutterers.”
Years of avoiding conversations and social situations take a toll on self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image.
Labels can be overwhelming. They can make us believe that we are bad communicators, inept decision makers, or even incapable of living independently.
It is easy to believe that stuttering limits our abilities. However, in most instances, we are limiting ourselves.
Let us begin our fight against these labels and restrictions by listing the instances when you have fought back against the label.
- Write about situations in which you have felt different, dependent, independent, insecure, and secure.
- Share 3 instances where you struggled to express who you are. Don’t forget to write what you felt during these times.
- Share 3 responses people have made about your stutter. How did you respond to them?
- What are the adjectives you believe people use to describe you and your stuttering. Do you agree or disagree with these adjectives? Why?
Overcoming the Loneliness of Stuttering
Stuttering can be a lonely affair. Oftentimes, our blocks keep us from sharing our feelings and at other times, we keep ourselves from speaking. Speech disfluencies may make us feel isolated and alone.
Anyone who stutters is well aware of the frustration of not being able to express their desires, discomforts, likes, dislikes and so much more. We have learned to anticipate the reactions of our listeners before we speak.
It paves the way for depression and long-term emotional turmoil that may impact our life choices. All in all, stuttering is an isolating journey.
It is time to take the power of stuttering away. Here’s how we can do it -
- Make a list of 5 statements people have made regarding your limitations because of stuttering. Discuss what hurt you the most and why.
- What are some of the negative statements you have made to yourself in the following situations –
- Job interview
- Placing an order at a restaurant
- Social gatherings
- Class presentations
What were the emotions and feelings behind these comments each time?
- How do you feel when people focus on your stutter rather than what you have to say?
- Make a short timeline of memories of events, situations, and interactions that are relevant to your stuttering. Describe them and note the emotions you felt in each instance.
Accepting Your Stutter
Speech therapy and counseling may help you accept your stutter as a part of who you are. It is important to remember that you can stutter and still be anyone you want to be in life.
Stuttering should not define who you are, what you do, and the decisions you make. A person who stutters feels the need to reduce their expectations, tailor their dreams, and check their aspirations.
The problem begins when we give up the control of our lives to stuttering and tell ourselves that “I could have done so and so, had I not stuttered”.
Here are a few exercises that will help you realize how much stuttering affects your identity and its influence on life choices.
- Write a narrative on “Life with a Stutter”
- Make a list of 5 experiences that have made you feel like a “stutterer”
- List 5 people who have made you feel reduced to just a “stutterer”
- What do you expect from personal relationships, education, jobs, and marriage?
- What are your perceptions of yourself, people in speech therapy, successful individuals, and people having fun?
Owning Your Stutter
Owning one’s stuttering isn’t as easy as many expect it to be. Most of us have struggled silently for years against our self-perceived inferiority.
Owning our stuttering involves two levels –
- Acknowledgement – This is where we begin to learn more about stuttering. We learn about the causes, potential treatment options, emotional effects, and psychological impacts of stuttering.
- Admission – We admit to our stuttering instead of blaming it on situations or denying it. This is a key step for anyone who is looking for a “stuttering cure”. Before we can go to a speech therapist and demand a cure, we have to accept that we stutter.
Here are a few exercises that can help you own your stuttering and the effect it has had on your life –
- What have you never disclosed about your stuttering?
- Define and cite examples of the following: passive, assertive, powerless, and empower.
- Maintain a journal for a week. Note how you perceive your stuttering in different situations in this format –
Letting Go of the Negativity
Learning to let go of negative images and thoughts from our minds is incredibly challenging. Negative self-images keep us from achieving our true potential.
To truly let go of the negative voices in our mind, here’s what we need to do –
- Recognize when we stop ourselves from participating in social situations.
- Understand when we stop ourselves from communicating with others.
- Admit it when we anticipate someone’s reaction to our stuttering.
- Let go of the negative ideas that limit our interactions with our environment.
To effectively let go, here’s what you need to do –
- Maintain a journal for 7 days. Write about every instance that triggers a negative monologue in your mind.
- Note 3 conversations you have had in the recent past. Write down what you think the listener was thinking/feeling and why.
- What bothers you about your stuttering? Next, write about the different strengths you have developed because of your stuttering.
- Make a list of 10 activities that you have always wanted to do but you blame your stutter for not being able to do them. Pick any 3 and complete them.
A New Perspective
Gaining a new perspective of your stuttering is the ultimate goal of self-therapy for stuttering adults.
The first stages of self-therapy should help you understand how others truly view you and your stuttering, what factors have limited your potential and how you can bring about a positive change in your life.
To consider a new perspective towards your stuttering, you need to –
- Understand all the previous steps
- Accept and own your stuttering
- Disavow the stigma that comes with the “Stutterer” label
- Understand that a larger part of the society will interact with you as a “stutterer” and it is up to you to deal with the feelings this evokes.
- Own your feelings and be the master of your responses.
It sounds like a herculean task and it will take some time. however, here are a few self-therapy exercises that might help –
- Discuss your thoughts on personal values, self-respect, stereotypes, and self-image.
- Write the Ten Commandments that would sum up your rules, ideas, taboos, and thoughts about stuttering.
- What are the 3 goals you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
- Choose 3 challenges and complete them during the next two weeks –
- Introduce yourself as a person who stutters to a new person/group
- Invite someone or ask someone out for coffee/dinner without hiding your stutter
- Ask 3 strangers for directions
- Go somewhere alone
- Answer the phone
- Call a supermarket to ask if a particular item is in stock
- Chat with someone on video call
- Make a list of 10 situations that make you feel powerless.
- Write a powerful piece titled “I am a Person”. Include everything you have achieved despite your stuttering.
The Last Words on Self-therapy for Adults who Stutter
Self therapy for adults is especially effective since adults are capable of assuming responsibility for the course of therapy.
During self-therapy remember to be honest to yourself. Self-therapy isn’t just about speech exercises and fluency shaping techniques. When you undertake self-therapy for stuttering, you need to invest time in self-study. Note your emotions as well as attitudes, behavior patterns associated with stuttering.
Self-therapy for stuttering may help you overcome the fear and anxiety of stuttering anticipation. However, the success of self-therapy depends on your readiness to commit and ability to accept stuttering as a part of your life.