The Why and the How of Voluntary Stuttering

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Re: Negative Experiences with Voluntary Stuttering

From: Peter Reitzes
Date: 04 Oct 2005
Time: 20:52:49 -0500
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Thanks for your questions Megan. It is common to fear trying and using voluntary stuttering. Several years ago I facilitated a voluntary stuttering workshop at a national stuttering convention. One of the participants was extremely upset and began crying when a passerby completely ignored her. While this was painful for her, she continued with the workshop and felt great afterwards. Sure it was painful for her, but she saw the overall experience as very positive. Any listener who laughs or makes faces or rude comments in response to voluntary stuttering will respond in the exact same way to real moments of stuttering. The listener cannot tell volitional stuttering from real stuttering. So my advice to someone who is mocked by a listener is to remind him or her that stuttering is always allowed. It has been my experience in the United States that most people are not rude toward stutterers. The problem is that the listener who laughs uncomfortably or mocks our speech is the one we tend to remember. If a client finds voluntary stuttering to be a difficult task it is fair to remind him or her that being a stutterer is hard and changing how you stutter is also going to be hard. Hard work is required to make serious and long lasting changes. I have never had a client or workshop participant give up on voluntary stuttering because of listener reactions. What I think you will find to be much more common is when some clients become frustrated when their voluntary stutters occasionally turn into real stutters. I remember this happening to me at times and it can be frustrating, but is part of the process. I have had a few adult clients stop therapy because we reached a point where they were just not ready or willing to do any of the hard work. They wanted to see me every week and write me check, but did not want to put any effort into their therapy. One speech pathologist I know has referred to this as the client “paying you for air conditioning.” While not all people who stutter need to use voluntary stuttering, there are many who would greatly benefit from this strategy. Some clients who enter into therapy find out that they are just not ready yet to make painful and difficult changes. Other clients may require your patience. It took me about a full year of speech therapy to begin experimenting with voluntary stuttering. My therapist at the time basically said to me that there was nothing more he could do for me if I was not willing to leave my comfort zone and stutter on purpose. He made the right call because nothing short of his ultimatum would have gotten me to really dig deep and start confronting my stuttering.

Last changed: 10/24/05