Stutterer As Speech Therapist, The Right Man At The Right Place?

by Gert Reunes

I'm always surprised when I hear people from within the profession saying that it is a bad thing for their future clients when a stutterer expresses the wish to become a speech therapist. Unfortunately, in my experience, only a few people support such thinking. In this paper I want to express my gratitude to Dean Van Cauwenberge and Professor Van Borsel of Ghent University for the sympathy and support they are giving to my studies in spite of my stuttering. As a student in the final year of studies to become a speech therapist and being a stutterer myself I believe that persons who stutter, (who want to be an SLP), are the most experienced persons to treat other stutterers.

In this brief paper I want to stand up for those among us who want to qualify as a speech therapist because in my experience, stutterers are usually discouraged, laughed off and even refused the opportunity to start the studies of their choice.

It is a fact that an ideal therapist doesn't exist and not every therapist gives a stutterer good treatment. Every stutterer is unique and so is each therapist. A therapist has to endeavour to adapt himself to the stutterer, and the therapist sets an example to the stutterer

Sometimes, when therapy doesn't prove succesful, the stutterer might start "therapy shopping." For the therapist it is indeed a difficult task to answer the needs of every single client. We can imagine the stutterer's psyche as a very intricate and fragile building. The therapist has to go through a lot of investigation before the therapy can start. In my opinion an ideal speech-therapist for a person who stutters is another stutterer because he knows what his client is talking about. He has "been there." This time his speech-problem gives him an enormous advantage.

What is now the profile of a good stuttering therapist? Which qualities should he possess? In my opinion, a stutterer who wants to become an SLP should possess empathy, patience, experience, motivation, involvement, respect towards his client, and all that in a much bigger amount than his non-stuttering colleagues.

This paper is written from the heart, hoping this can be a start for more admission for stutterers as therapists. VAN RIPER in memorian.

added August 19, 1999