Encouraging clients to join support groups

My classmates and I read Pam Mertz’s article, “Do We Speak Our Minds Enough?” This led us to wonder how we can facilitate our clients to open up to peers who stutter about their experiences. Do you guys have any tips for starting this conversation to encourage our clients to get involved in a support group?

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Encouraging clients to join support groups — 4 Comments

  1. Nice question! If there are support groups in your area for people who stutter, it is helpful to inform your client about them and provide them with contact information. When someone is interested in attending but is hesitant, it may be appropriate to offer to attend a support group meeting with them. The National Stuttering Association and Friends: National Association of Young People Who Stutter have either regular support group meetings and/or occasional day-long workshops focused on support for the person who stutters and education for family members. Both have annual multi-day conventions in summer. You can look on each group’s website to find out if there are regular chapter meetings or events planned near you. For those living in areas where these are not available, there are some excellent online opportunities to connect with others who stutter, particularly for adults. For children and teens, there are a number of great summer camp experiences that are specific to those who stutter.

    In cases where you have several clients of similar ages within your clinic setting (or even across several settings, when you have colleagues who work with PWS), asking each of them if they’d like to meet is a great way to provide for sharing experiences with peers. If you opt for this, or some other form of group meeting where you will be facilitating, be sure to do some background work to learn how to facilitate group meetings so that everyone will feel comfortable and get the most out of meetings. It is also important to decide in advance if you will offer group therapy versus a support group. While there may be some similarities between the two, the purpose of each is quite different and your role in the group will also differ.

    I’m so pleased that you are thinking about ways to support clients. It seems that you and your classmates are gaining the knowledge and skills to set you up to become effective clinicians. I hope that you continue to network with colleagues in this way when you move out of school and into your professional life. Best wishes to you!

    Regards,

    Lynne Shields

  2. Good question and Pam’s article was a great one. As an SLP who does not stutter, I have seen firsthand the wonderful changes support groups can make in others that I cannot do. I distinctly recall recommending various forms of support for a client, and them not being exactly as envisioned when they attended (similar to some of the things Pam mentions in her article). My client was insightful enough to come up with the mantra, “Everyone is on their own journey, and mine may be different than yours” so that they could separate the benefits from the less helpful parts of the experience for them. I think letting clients know the benefits, and educating them about the potential that everyone may not think about how they handle stuttering in the same way,is a helpful proactive move, and will help them to better interpret and react to what they experience. Attending support groups with an open mind while understanding you are on your own journey can go a long way.

  3. Such a great question! Lynne and Kathleen had great comments and suggestions and I agree completely with their posts. I’d like to add a few more ideas.

    Some clients may not feel ready for a support group right away. The idea of meeting with a group of people to talk about stuttering may seem huge and overwhelming. One thing that I’ve done with many of my younger clients is to find them a penpal who stutters. A lot of time this may be a teen, college student, or adult who stutters (who I know). My client and I will have a conversation about the types of questions he/she has about stuttering; some questions for that person about his/her experiences with stuttering; and, then often times my client will pick things about themselves to add. As we get a dialogue going, we can talk about the responses he/she receives, talk through a response, etc. As the client gets comfortable, we may decide to Skype or Facetime with the individual as well. And, then possibly meet with them if we can. In this case, we are helping our client to become more comfortable little by little – and following his/her lead.

    Another idea, for children and teens, may be a camp-type experience. There are many summer camps for children who stutter. Camp Shout Out, run by Kristin Chmela and Julie Raynor, is one that I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of for the past eight years. Often the campers are initially nervous and hesitant about coming to camp; however, the week is transformational and campers leave with a huge support network of friends. Camp SAY is another summer camp for children who stutter as well. If you look on the Stuttering Foundation website – you should be able to find a list of summer camps for children and teens who stutter.

    Just a few additional ideas. Best of luck to you and your classmates! You’ve chosen a wonderfully rewarding field of work!
    ~Jaime Michise

  4. I thought I would add to the excellent responses so far. Our clinic is in a rural area and it is not uncommon that our clients who stutter have never met someone else who also stutters. I have used some of the available resources that include stories from other folks who stutter: The Stuttering Homepage – there are numerous stories from people who stutter from kids to adults; the Stuttering Foundation – the are tons of brief stories from children; and for adults I have them read stories from the StutterTalk book – the first 16 chapters are stories from those who stutter. There’s no substitute for F2F opportunities to help a person realize s/he is not alone, but if you or your clients have limited means to participate with others, these options may at least open the door to discussing their experiences with stuttering.