Vivian Sheehan

Vivian Mowat Sheehan passed away February 14, 2008, at her home in Santa Monica, California. Vivian Mowat earned an A.B. (Adrian College), M.A. (University of Michigan). Ollie Backus who write extensively about group therapy in her 1930's was her mentor. Vivian shared information about group therapy with Charles Riper and later with her husband, Joseph Sheehan. Group therapy became an integral part of speech therapy for people who stutter and for people with aphasia. Vivian began her career as a "Speech Correctionist" in the Public Schools in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was also on the 1944 staff for Shady Trails in Michigan. Vivian was known for her pioneering work in the treatment of aphasia as well as her work in stuttering at the UCLA Speech Psychology Clinic with her late husband Joseph Sheehan, and later as director of the Sheehan Stuttering Center. She was an active and vibrant member of Division 4 since its inception. Vivian is survived by her 3 children (Marian, Joe and Kathy), and a wonderful group of grandchildren to whom she was devoted.

In the 2007 ISAD online conference, one of Vivian's daughters shared an interesting insight into what it was like to be Joe and Vivian Sheehan's daughter. Her paper Sheehan Therapy as a Way of Life by Marian Sheehan, is online.

Vivian was part of a panel at the 1984 ASHA convention in memory of Joseph Sheehan. Her speech is available online in various formats

  • Listen with Quick Time (12.6MB)
  • Vivian published an E-Book, Easy Stuttering. The following summary reproduced below, is from the E-Book site:

    This book is the product of more than fifty years of studying and treating stuttering and stutterers. It consists of articles and assignments in an order we have found effective and should not be used in any other order. Its worth depends on achieving successes with each assignment to overcome habits and attitudes that each stutterer has typically developed in his or her attempts to be fluent. Originally, in the clinic, the assignments contained in this book were weekly projects, but an individual going through this program on their own may take longer than a week to progress to the next assignment (but do not try to shorten the time required to complete each task). What is important is not the time it takes to complete an assignment, but how well you do it. This book expresses the ideas and concepts of its originator, Joseph (Joe) Sheehan, and most of the assignments were originally written by Joe. Joe had guidance from Charles Van Riper in developing his way of working with stutterers, but Joe went on to develop his own philosophy about how to overcome the problems of stuttering. Joe was a very severe stutterer who never gave up, found ways to help himself, and eventually became a professor at UCLA. He devoted his life and energy to helping other stutterers. Through the years of holding a clinic at UCLA, the assignments in this book were developed, used, reused, and modified as he saw ways to improve them. As a clinician and as his wife, I collaborated in running the clinic and then continued his work when his death came to soon for him to finish his mission. This compilation of Joe's thoughts, wishes, and urges to help others feels good to me as a way of bringing his mission to fruition and to bring some recognition to his genius. Our philosophy and keynote ideas for therapy stress no direct attempt to be fluent. The quest for a sure way to be fluent only perpetuates continued disaster with no real change in attitudes and feelings, and no genuine hope for the future. Real fluency can only be earned through openness, acceptance of one's stuttering, and an honest attempt to give up avoidance of words, situations, and people, thus conquering the fear both of stuttering and of silence. Our therapy ideas differ so much from the usual attempts to train a stutterer to be fluent that it is difficult to explain, difficult to teach on paper, and hard to help the stutterer or clinician to accept the idea that success does not necessarily mean sounding fluent, but is experienced by not using tricks to avoid stuttering. It takes courage to continue to face stuttering openly without struggling to cover it up from oneself and from the listener. The best attitude is to accept stuttering and try to do it more easily and openly. This way will lead to more and more permanent fluency with easy communication. No Words to Say is a video available from Amick Holzman Company and features the Sheehans.

    Articles by Vivian Sheehan ASHA members can reach the articles on the ASHA site

  • Rehabilitation of Aphasics In An Army Hospital Vivian Mowat Sheehan Journal of Speech Disorders, June 1946, Vol. 11, 149-157. doi:10.1044/jshd.1102.149 - first page only

  • The Creative Process in Avoidance Reduction Therapy for Stuttering Vivian M. Sheehan and Vivian Sisskin SIG4 Perspectives, Fluency and Fluency Disorders,January 2001,

    The following tributes from several of her colleague and friends exemplify the impact she had on everyone.
    Additional tributes may be sent to Judy Kuster

    Allan McGroarty

    Charlotte Weinert

    Lou Weinert

    Bill Murphy

    Barbara Dahm

    Barry Guitar

    Kris Baines

    Alida Engel

    Zan Green

    Elizabeth Edwards - tribute delivered at Special Interest Division conference, Phoenix, AZ, June 2008

  • NSA tribute to Vivian Sheehan, including an article by Bill Smith

  • Vivian Sheehan 1917-2008, Summer 2008 issue of 'Speaking Out'- British Stammering Association
    added March 1, 2008
    last modified July 18, 2018