“Who then can softly bind up the wound of another as he who has the same wound himself,” Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States, Person who Stutters (PWS)
People who stutter (PWS) help each other by listening, sharing common experiences, exploring options and giving support. Settings include one to one communication, workshops, conferences and support groups. PWS can relate and consequently offer empathy and validation. They have experienced similar life interactions and are able to offer practical advice. By working together, they create a sense of community.
There are hundreds of studies which examine the effects of peer to peer (peer2peer) relationships on healing. The studies highlighted below were selected because they provide good examples of professional and peer led communication across a variety of settings – one on one, small groups, and internet discussion groups. As well, these studies show correlations between peer support and increased emotional wellbeing, development of coping strategies and problem solving skills, improved quality of life and social functioning, enhanced self esteem, reduced depression and anxiety, and the development of a strong sense of community, including lasting friendships.
Peer2peer support studies have provided helpful information for participants who experience mental health issues or chronic disease, addressing many of the social and emotional concerns that individuals face. However, there are far fewer studies that involve PWS and the impact of peer2peer activities on fluency, coping mechanisms and increased quality of life. These realms – the physical manifestation of the condition versus the social and emotional aspects – are intertwined. The point of this paper is twofold, first, to promote the use and training of PWS as peer counselors, trainers and leaders to enhance the quality of life for PWS and second, to encourage more research about the impact of peer2peer experiences on PWS.
RESEARCH (Not About Stuttering)
- Early research of drop-in centers run by and for psychiatric consumers found that participants experienced an increased quality of life as well as enhanced social support and problem solving skills (Mowbray & Tan, 1993).
- Mental health self help groups, an integral part of Tennessee’s Peer Support Center programs have been shown to decrease symptoms, increase coping skills and increase life satisfaction (Davidson et. al.,1999; Chamberlain et. al.,1996, Humphreys 1997; Raiff 1984).
- One to one peer support with people who have co-occurring disorders of mental illness and substance use was found to result in fewer hospitalizations, improved social functioning, reduced substance use and improved quality of life among participants (Klein, Cnaan & Whitecraft, 1998).
- Widows and widowers over age 50 who participated in bereavement and self help groups experienced less depression and grief than nonparticipants when participated in groups for longer than 8 weeks (Caserta & Lund 1993).
- Four bereaved mothers, who had a child died, used an internet discussion group and received emotional, cognitive and community support. These mothers developed a strong sense of community and lasting friendship (Aho, Paavilainen & Kaunonen 2012).
- Highly involved members of Recovery, a self help group for former mental health patients, reported no more anxiety about their health than did the general population. Members who had participated for two years or more had the lowest levels of worry and highest levels of satisfaction with their health (Raiff 1984).
- A 2009 survey by the National Stuttering Association (NSA), found that stuttering support makes a difference. 1,235 people responded, including 686 adults and 31 teens who stutter, 164 parents of children who stutter and 354 speech language pathologists. People who participate in NSA Association local chapters or national conferences report fewer negative effects of stuttering and more successful speech therapy than those who do not. Support groups help people improve self-confidence and develop positive attitudes about speaking and stuttering. (McClure & Tetnowski, 2010)
- Twelve participants were studied who attended self-help conference(s) to learn the potential utility in stuttering management. The experience by having attended a self help conference(s) for PWS helped minimize negative impact that stuttering can have on daily functions and helped to communicate more easily, increase social activity and promoted ‘openness ‘ on stuttering.(Trichon & Tetnowski 2011).
Conclusion and Benefits of Peer2Peer Support
The focus of peer2peer is to build a relationship of trust, reduce stigma, and increase acceptance and coping strategies. Often people who live with stuttering participate in groups to find fluency. This single purpose can mask the potential greater benefits of peer2peer groups and interactions — a better quality of life. More studies about the positive effects of peer2peer interactions are needed. In addition, PWS may want to look at peer2peer ideas used in other fields to see if there are effective techniques from which to learn.
Aho, A., Paavilainen, E., Kaaunonen, M. (2012) “Mothers’ experiences of peer support via an internet discussion forum after the death of a child.” Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences. Vol. 26. Issue 3.
Caserta, M.S. and Lund D.A. (1993). Intrapersonal Resources and the Effectiveness of Self help groups for Bereaved Older Adults. Gerontologist 33 (5) 619 – 629.
Chamberlin, J. Rogers, E.S. & Ellison, M.L. (1996) Self help programs: A description of their characteristics and their members. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 19, 33 -42.
Davidson, L. Chinman, M. M. Kloos, B., Weingarten, R. Stayner, D. & Tebes, and J.K. (1990 Peer support among individuals among individiuduals with severe mental illness: A review of evidence. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 6 (2) 165 – 187.
Humphreys, K. (1997) Individual and social benefits of mutual aid self help groups. Social Policy, 27, 13 – 19.
Klein, A.R., Cnaan, R.A. & Whitecraft, J. (1998). Significance of peer social support with dually diagnosed clients: Findings from a pilot study. Research on Social Work Practice. 8, 529 – 551.
McClure, J. & Tetnowski, J.A. (2010) Experience of people who stutter- National Stuttering Association 2009 survey. Poster presentation at the annual conference of the American Speech-Language- Hearing Association, Philadelphia, PA. Online http//www.westutter.org/assets/NSAsurveyMay09.pdf
Mowbray, C.T. & Tan, C. (1993). Consumer-operated drop in centers run by and for psychiatric consumers: Evaluation of operations and impact. Journal of Mental Health Administration, 20, 8 -19.
Mead, S., MacNeil, C. (2006) “Peer Support: What makes it Unique?” International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation 10 (2) 29 – 37
Raiff, N.R. (1984) “Some health related outcomes of Self help participation.” Chapter 14 in The Self Help Revolution, edited by Alan Gartner and Frank Riessman. New York: Human Science Press.
Trichon, M., & Tetnowski, J.A. (2011). Self help conferences for people who stutter. A qualitative investigation. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 39, 290 – 295.
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