Intentional Stuttering Strategy

Hello all, I was wondering what the experts thought were the benefits of using intentional stuttering in order to improve your personal stutter are, as well as what the positive or negative emotional effects that could be on using intentional stuttering?

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Intentional Stuttering Strategy — 8 Comments

  1. Julia–voluntary stuttering can be beneficial in terms of reducing secondary behaviors (because the speaker is stuttering openly) and desensitizing the speaker to listener reactions. The drawback is that it is far easier said than done. Many clients have resisted the idea initially. Interestingly, some of them later told me that it was the best thing they learned in therapy because it helps get them back on track when they have the urge to avoid. In this way, it also helps with generalization of treatment objectives.

  2. Julia,

    When I used to stutter a lot, I tried very hard not to stutter. Sometimes, I was marginally successful. However, when I was obliged to use voluntary stuttering (intentional stuttering) in therapy as an adolescent and adult, I found it had great benefit. I hated doing it, but every time I forced myself to go out on the street or on the phone and talk with 10, 20, 30 strangers and stutter, I found that for the rest of the day, (a) my overall stuttering level had dropped to near zero, (b) I did not have any tendency to avoid speaking situations, and (c) I felt “in control” of the stuttering rather than the other way around.

    A former client of mine said that voluntary stuttering for her was like hitting a “reset button” in terms of managing her stuttering. In her case, voluntary stuttering did not eliminate the stuttering (although it did lessen its occurrence), but it gave her the control she needed to exercise her cancellations and pull-outs.

    In a word, it you repeatedly do what you otherwise you would avoid, then with lots of such experience, the need for avoidance goes away.

    Go for it.

    Ken St. Louis

  3. In practice, voluntary stuttering can be beneficial, but it depends sometimes on your attitude and who you are, how your stuttering pattern sounds (or looks?) like, and how you achieve, use or integrate your speech/fluency adjustments (if this is included as elements) in your Speech behaviour and communication in general. I think that we, as SLPs, too often might give such advices without discussing further details which should be discussed if and when voluntary stuttering is an element in treatment. Anyhow, interestingly, and as Ken St. Louis is mentioning above, if you include voluntary stuttering in your communication, the involuntary stuttering is very often decreasing. Therefore, I often believe in it as a tool for people who stutter, but it has to be included gradually and in increased level of difficulty, for making it as an success.

  4. Hi Julia,
    There will likely be lots of opinions on this, so I will go ahead and offer mine:

    From my perspective, the benefits of voluntary stuttering depend on your intent (rationale) for using it, and when in the process of therapy (or self-therapy) you use it. I find it least helpful in early stages, and most helpful in mid-late stages of therapy.

    During the initial stages of therapy, many PWS use it for the purpose of desensitization, in order to reduce reactivity and efforts to hide. This is sometimes suggested to people with “covert” profiles. However, it suppresses real stuttering, so it is not really helping someone who wants to reduce hiding. On the other hand, it may be an advantage for people who are aiming to reduced frequency. The problem though, is that it is a temporary reduction in frequency. Many of my clients find that showing “real” stuttering, in very safe speaking contexts, may be a better way to desensitize to the sound and feel of disfluency than voluntary stuttering at this stage.

    During the middle stages of therapy, when struggle behaviors are reduced, voluntary stuttering can be helpful in “showing yourself as a PWS” when you don’t have to. It can be a form of advertising or a way to take the role of a PWS to help in the process of self-acceptance. You are in some ways, making a “choice” to show stuttering.

    In late stages of therapy, when struggle, avoidance, shame, and fear are minimal, voluntary stuttering can be very useful in reducing the frequency of disfluency in the speech pattern, especially when the voluntary stutters are short and “sprinkled” into the speech pattern. They seem to reduce anticipatory reactions (you are already doing the thing you once feared), and often, frequency.

    Vivian Sisskin

  5. Julia,

    HI! You have had some wonderful people reply to you great question. I wanted to weigh in a little too. It seems that the use of voluntary stuttering with people who stutter is more successful with those willing to step outside of their comfort zone. This behavior of “willingness” might come with increased confidence in one’s self and their speech. With increased confidence usually comes the decrease of overwhelming fears, which in turn can assist in taking more chances.

    Voluntary stuttering is often met with resistance because many people who stutter come to speech therapy to NOT STUTTER. When they are asked to stutter on purpose, this is met with questions like, “why would I stutter on purpose, when I don’t want to stutter at all?” At this point good counseling, and salesmanship (and saleswomanship) come into play with explaining the benefits of such a technique. At the end of the day though, if a client is not comfortable we don’t want to push them either. A person is more apt to practice something they think works and find some level of comfort with, rather than something they despise. Perhaps we introduce voluntary stuttering at several different times during an individual’s treatment history, allowing the technique to grow on the individual, without forcing it on them.

    Time is funny, it allows us to evolve, where at one point in time a person might not be ready for one treatment, down the road they may have evolved so that they are ready for it.

    Anyway,thanks for the wonderful question. Keep asking question!
    With compassion and kindness,

  6. Voluntary stuttering can also be a helpful practice toward building mindfulness and being able to stay “present” when stuttering. Clients often tell me it helps them to be focused on their communication in a helpful way. When using voluntary stuttering, it is easier to keep normal eye contact. In addition to reducing stuttering frequency, when voluntarily stuttering, there is also a tendency to show a dramatic reduction in physical secondary behaviors as well as “recoil” behaviors such as “backing up” People also tend to show a reduction in speech rate when they use voluntary stuttering without a large cognitive demand/effort.

    I agree that the intent behind the use of voluntary stuttering is critical. Therapists need to be able to explain the how’s and why’s to their clients- As we see in the great comments provided by others, there are actually many different and finely nuanced uses and potential benefits for voluntary stuttering.

    Even though it tends to result in increased fluency for many, voluntary stuttering should not be promoted as a tool to be fluent. As others mentioned, at different points in treatment and for different people (such as those who are extremely covert), letting out their true stuttering, tension and all, is often more helpful than using easy voluntary stuttering.
    -Heather Grossman

  7. Hi Julia – It’s hard for me to contribute anything beyond what my learned colleagues have shared already… but I do want to highlight some ways that voluntary stuttering or pseudostuttering might be useful in therapy in addition to the previously stated benefits for desensitization and increasing openness. Pseudostuttering can also be used in the early stages of therapy for learning about the moment of stuttering (perhaps by playing around with different way of tensing muscles, e.g., voluntarily stuttering with more tension or less tension to explore how the muscles activate when stuttering). And, later in therapy, pseudostuttering provides a useful method for increasing practice opportunities when one is learning stuttering management strategies (perhaps by stuttering intentionally then practicing a strategy like cancellation or pull-out following that fake stutter – this can be easier than trying to practice with real stuttering and can provide an important bridge between therapy-room skills and real-world skills).

    Thus, voluntary stuttering is a tremendously important skill – both for people who stutter and for their therapists. It can be used at all stages in the therapy process to help with a wide range of goals. Yes, it’s hard to do, but practice makes it easier, and I’ve seen many of my clients who can attribute their breakthroughs to the time they spend in learning to stutter (not just learning ways to not stutter).

    So, as Ken St. Louis said, go for it! — Scott

  8. Julia,

    I am currently a first year graduate student and had to do an activity where we had to volunteer stutter. As a person who does not stutter, this experience became extremely eye opening to the physical and emotional aspects that generally come with stuttering. Typically, I can walk up to a person and start talking, but when you throw in the volunteer stuttering, I became less hesitate to talk to any one.

    To answer to your question about the benefits of volunteer stuttering, I say the benefits are endless. I can not speak for everyone, but when I did the volunteer stutter activity, my ability to communicate became more difficult. However, it made me think about what a person who stutters goes through on a daily basis. The physical factors like having sweaty palms, the hot sensation that came upon me, redding of your face, no eye contact, and the feeling of trying to get the words out as fast as possible made this experience extremely eye opening. By having a person who stutters use volunteer stuttering, it could help them understand exactly what they are doing during a moment of stuttering. However, some people who stutter may not like doing this because it makes them have to stutter. Also, if the persons attitude towards their stuttering is negative, then this technique may not be beneficial towards that person.

    Ken, I am glad that your experience helped you with your stuttering. You are a great example of how well volunteer stuttering can be. I hope that your experience has helped you continue to work on your ability to communicate.

    -Jay Pajak