Stuttering therapy - full recovery vs relapses

If you're looking for speech therapy for stuttering the first thing you probably see is the "before and after" videos. I don't like those videos. I want you to look a little bit further. Because the real question is what happens after that?

And if you've done speech therapy for stuttering before you probably know that that's the real question.

In this video, we'll talk about five practical tips on how we can sustain in real life that fluency and speaking confidence which we gain in the therapy room.

Let's get started! 

The VIDEO: Stuttering therapy - full recovery vs relapses

Stuttering therapy - full recovery vs relapses

https://youtu.be/ujV2wn8ggQY 

"Before and after"

So, the "before and after" videos. What's wrong with them?

Quite reasonably, we want to understand the benefits of a service or product. We want to see the result. And with stuttering, it seems obvious that the "before and after" videos are the best way to show the result, right? 

Well, not really. 

Let's take a look at this well-known episode of Steve Harvey's show.

The girl (Alanie) stutters asking a question. Then on stage, she doesn't stutter following Steve's advice. 

So, that's a wrap! That's an ideal the "before and after" video. We have it already!

A person who stutters joins a program, a therapy and on the first day of the therapy the recording shows stuttering. Then we do some exercises, we apply some techniques and we see the improvement. The person who stutters is happy. The therapist is happy.

But then this person comes back to real life and the speaking there usually is not so great. And oftentimes, we come back all the way just to that exact same spot where we started the therapy.

Why does that happen this way?

1) We don't worry

We don't bring that huge invisible part of stuttering to the therapy room. The invisible part of stuttering consists of our stuttering shame, embarrassment, negative feelings about it, avoidance, escaping, and hiding stuttering.

Here in the therapy room, we're talking about stuttering, we're dealing with stuttering, it's all about stuttering, there's nothing to hide!

2) It's easy

Oftentimes, we just repeat after the therapist some words and phrases or play with short phrases. 

We remove that hard thinking part and the transition between our thoughts and instant, automatic translation into words.

3) We explore 

And, of course, we do some exercises, we apply some techniques so we feel more confident. Yes, we do feel the improvement in the therapy room.

Yet, we also feel the improvement when we, for example, are reading out loud to ourselves at home. But that's not real-life speaking. That's not real-life interaction. We don't feel that emotional burden that we have in real life.

So again, these "before and after" videos don't quite represent the reality.

And some speech therapists, I'm not saying all but some, do believe that that's what they are meant to do - to achieve improvement in the therapy room.

"I showed you the right thing. Now you know it. What else can I do? I've done my job, now you do your job - go there and apply the techniques that I taught you!"

If you've done stuttering therapy before you might have a feeling and belief that as a result of stuttering therapy we either can only improve our speaking or we can attain fluency for some time but then relapses are inevitable.

So, when you see another "before and after" video I want you to remember Steve Harvey's show and ask yourself what's inside there. What's behind that front door? 

5 practical tips

These are the elements of the therapy that you want to have. That's the self-check for you. You want to make sure that you tick all five boxes and make sure you do have all five!

1. Have your training speech

I want you to realize that as long as we're trying to fix something in our existing speaking pattern we're staying in the land of stuttering. We're chasing fluency there. And stuttering is chasing us. We're trying to escape from stuttering using different tricks or techniques.

With the training speech, we're doing just the opposite - we are creating a secure space where we can be truly present. With our training speech, we're saying actually that I'm here, I'm not running away.

Let's demonstrate it with a phrase. For example, we want to say "Can I have a French vanilla cappuccino?"

The usual way, the "default" way for us is to go to as long as we can as fluently as we can.

So, in our regular way when we say "Can I have a..." we are getting to that "f" very very low and shallow. We hit the wall and we're struggling to get through that wall. We might somehow get through "f" and feel the struggle on "v." Or finally, we can get to "c" and feel the struggle there. Or anticipating those struggles we might say "Can I have a... some water please?"

With the training speech, we want to take control over the airflow, we want to be present right from the first sound. We go a bit up on "Can" and "a" in this phrase either saying it in one go or in two pieces "Can I have / a French vanilla cappuccino?"

We create more space for our speaking.  We go a bit up so that we don't let those sounds become hard sounds or words. We go over those walls. We don't need any tricks to avoid or escape or get through them.

Maybe you have a different training speech because you've gone to a different therapy already. But what we want to make sure is that we're not escaping from stuttering. We want to make sure we have an ability to create that secure space and be there, feel that confidence, be present and enjoy that speaking interaction.

2. Like your training speech

If you don't like your training speech you won't use it. It's that simple. 

So a big question, maybe the biggest question, is your relationship with the training speech.

If you think a little bit deeper you will find that your relationship with the training speech represents, reflects your relationship with yourself. How you truly feel about yourself. Your self-esteem, your self-worth, your self-confidence.

Because you're a person who stutters who wants to bring change to the speaking pattern. If you don't stutter or if you don't want to bring that change, well, this article and this video are not for you obviously. And you don't need speech therapy for sure.

You see, every time we stutter we're trying to be fluent. That's another hard truth to take. We're trying to be somebody who we're not.

And ironically, accepting and embracing the training speech we are embracing and accepting stuttering. We're finding peace and agreement with ourselves. And we open the door for the real change in our speaking pattern.

And I'm sure some people will say, "Why do we need the training speech? Why can't we just let go of stuttering? Our speaking is spontaneous, automated, why do we need to create that something?" Many people would say that we don't need another type of control in our speaking.

And I would agree to all of that. Yes, we would love to just let it go. But stuttering is an automated muscle and emotional memory. We've uploaded so many of those negative experiences that it's very firm and stable. Both physically and emotionally. 

That anticipation, that tension that we have in our mind it's not a mere obsession. It's real. If there's no ground for that anticipation and tension then why would we think about stuttering. Why would we anticipate stuttering?

Every time we try to go spontaneously and automatically we might feel some level of fluency but our speaking is still insecure, we're still open for that helplessness in our speaking in the face of speech impediments.

And that helplessness creates a huge negative feeling about it, that emotional pain about those cases when we stutter. And that emotional pain, in turn, creates a huge invisible part of stuttering: stuttering shame, embarrassment, more negative feelings, avoidance, escaping and generally holding back.

That's exactly what we want to change. Not only the speech impediments but that invisible part of stuttering.

3. Use it openly in real life

That's by far the hardest thing. But at the same time, that's what brings the biggest impact.

That's what brings real change. 

And I'm saying it again and again, by being open about using the training speech we are not only creating that secure space, rewiring our neural pathways, creating that new speaking pattern, most importantly we are becoming true to ourselves.

Yes, I'm a person who stutters! Yes, I'm in the speech therapy, in the speech program! Yes, I'm using the training speech! Yes, it might be a little bit different than our "regular" speaking because we are making it more secure to restore the inner structure in our speaking and to make sure we're really present in our speaking.

I call it "active positive disclosure." When it's your choice to open up and use the training speech. Contrary to our usual what I call "passive negative" disclosure when we're trying to be fluent until we stutter and then we just open up "yes, I stutter." In this case, we open up because we have to. Because we've already stuttered. We try to escape that as much as we can.

With the active positive disclosure, we're disclosing the training speech, not quite just stuttering. We're disclosing that yes, I'm here, I'm present, I want to speak more, I want to enjoy that interaction. I don't want to hide or run away. Give me more speaking, please! 

4. Expand

It's not enough just to have the training speech and even to use it in real life. We want to expand creating more space for ourselves that does not belong to stuttering. We want to challenge ourselves to create speaking situations.

What seems impossible first, if we go step by step, gradually feels very natural.

When we go through this journey and when we do all those things (have, like, use the training speech and expand) we realize that the real transformation happens inside.

It's not the speaking part of our stuttering that we're really changing. We're changing that invisible huge part of stuttering where instead of escaping, instead of trying to be fluent, trying to pass as fluent you realize that there's nothing to escape, there's nothing to avoid, there's only you being present, being here, not running away, delivering your message, connecting, communicating, and enjoying the moment of that interaction.

5. Give yourself time

Oftentimes, I see people going to one of these extremes.

After trying some trick or technique we might feel the improvement and we go saying, "I improved my speaking! Now I got to that fluency! Yeah!!! Now I can be confident!"

And then when we get stuck, when we stutter we go saying "I had a period of fluency but then I relapsed and now I'm back to the same spot." And the conclusion is like, speech therapy doesn't work, nothing works actually, there's nothing that can be done really to that stuttering!

I want us to realize that both extremes are not true.

Building a new speaking pattern takes time.

We need time to build a thick layer of new positive experiences, of new muscle and emotional memory to cover, to bury those very firm and automated experiences that we have right now, that automated muscle and emotional memory that we have right now.

And even though yes, it's a journey, it's a long journey, it's not an easy path, but yes, we can attach confidence to the very act of speaking not depending on the environment. Whether it's the comfort of the therapy room when we're doing this "before and after" video or any challenging situation in your life.

When you have all five elements, if you follow all five tips, then you can forget the word "relapses," you're on the right path to the full recovery, to really restoring the inner structure of your natural way of speaking.

Thank you so much for staying in touch! Let me know what you think! Have you had experiences with stuttering therapy in the past? How did it go? Did you like your training speech?  I'd love to know! 



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