The following is information from a brochure from the Sheehan Stuttering Center formerly located in Santa Monica, California, and closed in April 2006. It provides historical information about this therapy program run by the Sheehans for 56 years!

What Is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a problem/disability to about three million people in the United States today. We do not know the cause; we do not know a cure. But there is help. Stutterers can do whatever they want to do. There have been many successful stutterers and many who are famous: Moses, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, King George VI , Somerset Maugham, Lewis Carroll, Bruce Willis, Marilyn Monroe, James Earl Jones, Carly Simon, and golfer Ken Venturi.

The Sheehan Stuttering Clinic

The clinic was begun in 1949 by the late Joseph G. Sheehan, a stutterer, speech pathologist, clinical psychologist, professor at UCLA , researcher, and author of books and articles on stuttering. It was continued after his death by Vivian Sheehan at UCLA until 1994. She was the director of the program with more than 40 years of experience until 2006. During those years of experience together they worked with thousands of stutterers from countries all over the world, representing every profession or business and every age level.
It is well known that only 1/8 of an iceberg is visible and the danger lies in the bulk which is beneath the surface of the ocean.

So it is with stuttering. The obvious sounds and sights of stuttering behavior apparent to the listener are a small fraction of the problem. The hidden attitudes, values, fears and feelings as a speaker are a large part of the problem which cannot be ignored. A two-pronged therapy is needed to work with stuttering: behavior/symptom change and attitude/feeling/self esteem change about the role of the stutterer as a speaker.

Treatment Goals

The Sheehan treatment for stuttering was best known as approach-avoidance conflict therapy. The adult stutterer is a product of his past history and carries with him a bag of tricks, real and overwhelming fears, and avoidances of relationships, situations, people and words in his effort to prove to himself and others that he really can be fluent. His tricks work sometimes and become addictive, habitual behaviors which perpetuate the stuttering. Treatment began with acceptance of the reality of stuttering, giving up the striving for immediate fluency, learning what to do when faced with stuttering. Fluency was not practiced as an immediate goal. The result was a lessening of fear and a feeling of being able to say anything to anyone at any time--with increasing fluency over time.

Group Vs Individual Therapy

It was the philosophy of this therapy to meet the many special needs of individuals within each group. The general idea of openness and sharing, of learning how to face stuttering can actually be handled best in small groups. Members shared experiences, explored stuttering patterns, assignments, successes and failures each week, The group spirit and morale helped overcome the shame/guilt and the old habits of withdrawal from speaking and hiding stuttering from oneself and others.

Success Models

Part of the program consisted of including "recovered" stutterers who came as volunteers to share their past and present experiences and offer support, suggestions and guidance because they have been through it all.

How We Operated

There were three groups of about 10 stutterers with three licensed and experienced clinicians who volunteered for years in the clinic at UCLA. The program was open to stutterers on a self-referral basis.

When And Where?

There were two twenty-week sessions each year, roughly from September - March and March - August. Meetings were held on Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 10:00.


Vivian Sheehan, M.A., CCC, ASHA Fellow

Carol Zehner, M.A., CCC

Elizabeth Edwards - M.S., CCC


Ellen Sugerman Jory Faermark

Rosalynn Krissman


  • Stuttering is universal -- in all countries and groups equally.

  • There are 3 million stutterers in the USA --45 million in the world.

  • More males than females stutter --4 or 5 to one.

  • Stuttering varies from time to time -- Cyclic variation.

  • Stuttering begins in childhood -- from 2 to 5 when language is being learned. It cannot be said to begin at birth.

  • There is no known cause.

  • There is no cure; but great help - - and hope for easy speech.

  • Fluency is never perfect for anyone.

  • Recoveries are never quick -- rather gradual, with ups and downs.

  • There are no special words or sounds for stutterers -- only those which have become feared.

  • Authority figures are usually most difficult to talk to.

  • Time pressure increases stuttering.

  • Demands for explanations increase stuttering.

  • Excitement, fatigue, contusion and uncertainty increase stuttering.

  • Praising fluency does not help; it implies stuttering is bad.

    Organizations Offering Support and Materials

    National Stuttering Association

    Stuttering Foundation of America