What Women Who Stutter Want To Talk About

mertzAbout the author: Pamela Mertz is a woman who stutters from Albany, NY, USA. She is the founder and host of the podcast “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories” and writes the blog “Make Room For The Stuttering” found at www.stutterrockstar.com. Pam is actively involved in the stuttering community and recently became a host with Stutter Social.  She is also an active Toastmaster. During her spare time, Pam enjoys Community Theater and music, and also works fulltime in Adult Education.

Women who stutter want to talk about stuttering. With each other.  And sometimes without men around. There, I said it. It’s true. How do I know? Because I’m a woman who stutters and I’ve asked other women who stutter. Many of us like the opportunity to talk about the feelings and thoughts we have about stuttering just with other women. It’s not that we don’t appreciate men who stutter, or their insights. No, that’s not it at all. It’s just simply that women need to talk amongst themselves to feel better and to realize that they are not alone in their feelings.

In John Gray’s 1992 classic book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”  we learn about the differences in communication between men and women. Dr. Gray tells us the difference between “Martians and Venusians.”  Men – “Martians” – define their sense of self through their ability to achieve results. Men are very solution oriented and want to fix things. Women – “Venusians” – define their sense of self through their feelings and the quality of relationships. They want to talk about things.

When “Martians” are stressed, they retreat to their caves to think about the problem and figure out a solution. Men feel better when they’ve figured out how to “fix the problem.” When “Venusians” are stressed, they want to find other women and talk. Women feel better talking about and sharing their problems. Dr. Gray tells us that “Martians” and “Venusians” – men and women – need to understand that there are innate differences in how men and women and communicate. It’s OK to communicate differently. The key is to acknowledge that. Acknowledging the differences in communicating makes communicating easier.

Twenty + years later, much of this remains true, in my humble opinion. When men and women acknowledge that we communicate differently, we communicate better.  And the same applies in the stuttering community.

How many women who stutter do you know who have had the experience of attending stuttering support groups and find themselves to be the only woman there, with 12-15 men who stutter? I have, numerous times, and always felt like the “odd man out.” No pun intended!  Of course, this plays to the statistical breakdown of stuttering, where it’s said that 4 of 5 people who stutter are men. So, women who stutter are a minority within a minority, as only approximately 1% of the population at large stutters.  So 20% of 1% is a miniscule number and can indeed feel like living alone on an isolated planet.

I felt uncomfortable when I attended stuttering support groups where I was the only woman, or one of only two women in a group dominated by men. I often felt that the men were focusing on finding fluency, or trying techniques, or looking for a solution, where I was more interested in talking about how I felt. Talking about how it felt to feel less attractive, talking about how my self-esteem had been affected, talking about my confidence being eroded, talking about how it felt to try and hide my stuttering for so long and slowly coming to terms that trying to hide it wasn’t working anymore. The mostly male group didn’t seem to want to talk about feelings and attitudes about stuttering.

To be transparent, this group I attended for a while was a clinic based stuttering support group, so I learned that it was indeed largely fluency based. But the group did advertise that acceptance was also part of the group goals and that discussion of feelings was welcome. But it never seemed that way to me, and I never felt comfortable discussing real feelings. On the one or two occasions I did venture to share, a couple of the guys in the group would seize the opportunity to talk about how if I worked harder on managing fluency, I wouldn’t have those feelings of low self-esteem or not feeling confident, etc. I didn’t attend this group for too very long.

I’ve thought a lot about this for the past several years, as I have become more involved in the stuttering community at large and met so many women who stutter at annual stuttering conferences and through social media.  I have often thought I’d like to chat with just women about some of the issues we wrestle with as we go through life as women who stutter. I’ve had the chance to do that one-on-one with women in the podcast I host called “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.”  Here, I invite women to tell their stories and we often explore the feelings of shame, fear, denial, lack of confidence, etc. It is often quite healing for both of us, as we very often touch on very deep and personal feelings.

But my podcast forum is really to give the female “guest” a chance to do just what the podcast says – to share her story, which women who stutter rarely get the chance to, because, as said, we’re a minority within a minority. And frankly, we’re hardly ever asked to tell our story. Media portrayals of people who stutter  almost always feature men. I have wanted a chance myself to talk in groups of just women about how it feels to be a woman who stutters and to just really put those feelings out there and have other women grab on, respond, discuss and share.

I found that chance recently. I have had the opportunity to co-facilitate three workshops in the last two years on issues related to women who stutter and what we want to talk about with each other. Two of the workshops were at the National Stuttering Association (NSA) annual conferences in 2012 and 2013. The workshops were about women’s issues, but men were welcome to attend. In 2012, one man attended the workshop with about 30 women. In 2013, 15 men attended with about 50 women.

The other workshop that I was fortunate enough to co-facilitate was a “for women only” workshop at the 2013 World Congress for People Who Stutter in The Netherlands. I was lucky to be present at the workshop through Skype and co-facilitated with three other women who were physically present at the conference. That was a great experience to be able to use technology to attend a conference workshop and still feel very much a part of it. I was able to see, hear and interact with the workshop participants, as if I was in the room with them.

All three of the workshops were powerful learning experiences – both for the participants and the facilitators.

I learned that women appreciate having a safe space created for them to talk about our feelings and thoughts about navigating through life as women who stutter. When we first held the workshop at the NSA conference in 2012, we broke the participants into three groups who had the opportunity to talk about such topics as esteem, confidence, socializing and dating, vulnerability, parenting and work.

The facilitators moved among the groups and saw raw emotion being shared – confessions, tears, hugs, laughter and relief. The relief seemed most important to share. Women felt relieved to know that they weren’t the only ones wanting to share deep emotions about stuttering with other women and that it was very healing to be able to do so. How do I know that? Because women shared that at our large group brief-out before the workshop was over. Women shared that they valued having a space of their own to talk about deep feelings relating to their stuttering experience and that it was important to them to be able to do so without men there. Women expressed relief knowing they weren’t alone in feeling that it was OK to want to talk with just other women.

Many women at that 2012 NSA workshop also shared that the workshop had been their favorite, and they requested we hold it again in 2013. So we did! We titled the workshop “What Women Want,” and described it as an opportunity for women to come together to talk about issues important to them as women who stutter. We included in the workshop description that men were welcome and encouraged to attend, not really expecting that men would be interested. Boy, were we wrong!

About 15 men came to the 2013 workshop, and we facilitators did a double take. We had planned to break the women up into three groups again like last year and give the opportunity and space to talk about women’s issues, this year focusing a bit more on issues that had come up at last year’s groups: confidence, dignity and the space we take up as women (or don’t take up!) We decided to form a 4th group, of the men only, and give them an opportunity to talk about what kind of issues were important to them as men who stutter, and see what the experience would be like for them to have this space with just men.

It turned out that both men and women learned something very important that day. There needs to be opportunities created for men (Martians) to talk just with each other and the same for women (Venusians.) The men’s group had a buzz and energy just like the women’s groups did, for different but similar reasons. The men were huddled closely together and were talking about emotions with each other. We had asked a friend to facilitate the men’s group at the last minute and another guy helped out too.

Walking around the groups and seeing the emotions and energy was uplifting. Again, women in their groups were emotional – one group was in tears and supporting a woman who had shared a very personal story with her group, strangers until that moment. Another group of diverse ages were having a spirited discussion about dating. And it was obvious that the men’s group was creating a buzz among the group at large. I think the women wanted to know what the men were talking about.

At the large group break-out, we learned that most of the men who came to the workshop really wanted to learn what women who stutter need and want, so that men could know and be more supportive. The men also shared that they had a great experience at this workshop – most reported that they had never had the chance to talk on such a deep and personal level with other men who stutter in a space created for just that. The men reported that they’d love to have their own workshop next year called “What Men Want” to do this deep talking again. And in further sharing, all of us as a group thought it would be great to have both a men’s and women’s group going on at the same time in adjacent rooms and then gather together for the last half hour or so of the workshop time, for a mutual sharing of ideas and support.

The women’s workshop at the World Congress in The Netherlands was for women only. We had sought permission to advertise the group that way and give women from all different countries and backgrounds the experience of talking in just a women’s space. The groups talked about confidence, parenting, hormonal issues, self-esteem and how it feels to be a woman who stutters. As at the NSA conferences, I saw and heard raw emotion, tears, laughter, hugs and relief. The international gathering of women reported unanimously that this was a favorite workshop – that it is important to create safe space where women who stutter can talk about the feelings we have about stuttering without necessarily also having to talk about finding solutions. Just talking and sharing is/was sometimes enough.

Women who stutter like to, and need to, talk about the experiences and feelings of stuttering, free of agendas and solutions. Creating such safe spaces for women to talk with each other is important and valuable.

And we learned that men support that and want to know what women who stutter want to talk about.

Who knew that Martians and Venusians could be on the same page . . . .  er, planet?

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Comments

What Women Who Stutter Want To Talk About — 176 Comments

  1. Hi Pam,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I’m a speech-language pathology graduate student, and although we learn a lot about how often stuttering affects men vs. women, and how stutterers feel, we have never discussed the differences between men and women in facing their own stuttering. Although I, myself, am a woman, I never considered for one second that my professor’s or textbook’s viewpoint on stuttering might have a uniquely male perspective. Thanks for the insight. I hope that I can remember that each person (regardless of gender, race, etc.) approaches these kinds of struggles differently.
    Thanks gain!

    Rachel Theofanis
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Hi Rachel, I’m so glad you enjoyed the paper and left with some take-aways. It’s always so helpful at these confernces to get so much feedback. It means we met our objective with our paper.
      Therapy has to be individualistic and in my opinion, that includes considering gender.
      Best of luck in your career journey.
      -Pam

  2. Hi Pam,

    Thank you for contributing another interesting and thought-provoking paper to this year’s conference. I always very much enjoy what you write.

    Over the years, numerous members of the opposite sex have approached/contacted me to discuss various aspects of their stuttering. At one event that I attended, I recall sitting in the hotel lobby chatting (individually) with a group of women about a wide range of personal issues that were affecting their lives. The conversations continued into the small hours of the morning. :-)

    I like to think that my approachability is due to the empathetic nature that I have developed as a result of the diverse difficulties I have encountered in my life. Whilst that might be the case, I suspect that some may simply view me as a “father figure”. :-) Maybe I could earn a living as an “Agony Aunt (or Agony Uncle)” in one of the popular magazines. :-) (I’m not sure if you use such terminology on your side of the Atlantic.)

    I never fail to be impressed by your unceasing efforts to improve the lives of those who stutter. Your podcasts have afforded so many Venusians the opportunity to tell a story that would, otherwise, have remained untold. I’m delighted that your equally caring nature subsequently caused you to relent and allow Martians to also have their say. I thoroughly enjoyed being interviewed by you in the inaugural episode of ‘HIStories’. As I told you at the time, it was, indeed, a privilege to explore new frontiers and ‘BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE’. 🙂

    Pam, we once met (very briefly) at a National Stuttering Association annual conference several years ago. I look forward to our paths crossing again in the not too distant future.

    In the meantime, I know that you will continue to speak and write passionately about a subject that is so close to your heart.

    Kindest regards

    Alan

    • Thanks for the very kind remarks Alan. I too look forward to when our paths cross again. I am thinking very serioulsy about trying to get to the BSA Conference next year, which I hear is being considered for Glasgow. I would love to experience another country’s conference, and get a chance to experience the culture as well. My ideal would be to spend 2 days visiting a friend in Ireland and then getting over to Glasgow for the conference.
      It would be great if that works out, and if we had a chance to meet and interact again.
      I can certainly see why many people would feel comfortable talking with you – you’re very appoachable indeed.
      -Pam

  3. Hi Pamela,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your story. As a speech-language pathology graduate student,we have discussed many different aspects of stuttering. One of those aspects being the feelings a person who stutters may experience. Until now, I had never given it much thought about how men and women’s feelings and attitudes toward stuttering may differ. As a woman, when I am in a difficult situation it makes me feel better to talk about my worries or concerns. I do not always want a solution. Like you said it is comforting knowing you are not alone. This applies to many different areas. I am happy you created a space for woman who stutter to share their feelings. I know how important this is for me when I am in a difficult situation; I cannot even imagine how important it must be for women who stutter.

    Lisa Singer
    University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
    Graduate Student

  4. Pam,
    Thank you for sharing your story and the unique perspective on stuttering. In my fluency course we have been discussing how an individual may feel about their stuttering and how it has affected them, but I had never thought that men and women would take a different approach. Of course women and men who stutter come across similar demands, (i.e., finding a job and going on dates) but their thought process and reactions are different.
    I have never attended a support group for people who stutter but it would be interesting to see if the overall session was different depending on if a man was running it or a women. Would it be more focused on talking about thoughts and feelings or would it be focused on various techniques that could be used as a solution? I would like to think that people are more aware of these differences and would provide an all-in compassing approach.
    Thank you for addressing this viewpoint and reminding me that as an SLP I may need to change my therapy approach based on gender.

    Jenna Ebben
    UWSP Graduate Student

    • Hi Jenna – I don’t think the stuttering support group would be more feelings focuised if run by a female or more solution focused if run by a male. I really think it has to do more with the participants of the group, as oppposed to the leader/facilitator style. Unless the leader has a pretty dominating style, which then would not really be good for a support group setting, right?
      Thanks for the insights and for reading.
      -Pam

  5. Hi Pam,
    I am a SLP grad student and was very interested in your article for a couple of reasons.
    First, as you may be well aware, the field of Speech Pathology is dominated by women. What, if any impact do you think the gender of the therapist has on the feeling of safety or acceptance felt by male clients? Do you think, just as you felt intimidated to enter a room of men that our male clients feel the same way when they enter our treatment facilities? Like they cannot open up and share their deepest emotions?
    Second, I was curious if you noticed any difference in the women’s willingness to share given the male presence in the same room. Did their physical presence somehow alter the dynamics significantly enough to make you wish you had not invited them into that space?

    Thanks for such a unique and thought provoking article.
    Kim

    • Hi Kim – great questions. When the men started “pouring” into the room, me and one of my co-facilitators looked at one another, with that “Oh, no” look. I worried just that – that perhaps women wouldn’t feel as open and safe to share with men in the same room. That turned out to be absolutely not a problem. With 15 men and about 45 women, we created 4 groups, one of just men and 3 women’s groups. There was so much buzz and conversation going on in each group, that no one was paying attention to any other groups.
      Except at one point, the men were laughing loudly and some women joked that they wondered what was going on over there.
      I do wonder if men wish that there were more men in the SLP profession. Going into a female dominated profession as a male client can quite possibly be intimidating. Especially in a clinic setting, where there might be 20 female SLP students observing/participating in group with the predominately males who stutter.
      I know that when I attended my group at a clinic, it was usually anywhere between 12-15 men and me, with the clinical staff, the SLP students and the clinical supervisor. The supervisor was a male. I think he did a good job creating a space where all the guys felt comfortable to share, but I don’t recall the guys ever sharing their deepest, personal emotions in the group setting. Perhaps this was done on an individual basis with the clinician in individual therapy.
      Good questions and good thoughts to ponder as you begin working with people who stutter. The counseling approach must consider gender, I believe.
      -Pam

  6. Pam,

    You have given me an entirely new way to look at stuttering. I am a SLP graduate student and never realized that communication differences between men and women can (and should) be brought into the therapy room. By providing safe and supportive environments, you have allowed individuals to share what they truly need to. By providing male and female support groups nationwide or using chat rooms, people who stutter (PWS) can connect with others of the same gender.

    As a woman, I definitely talk about my feelings and attitudes more than anything else so I see how women support groups would be beneficial. I was wondering, do you think SLPs should treat men and women differently in the therapy room? Should SLPs work more with men to find “solutions” to their stuttering and more with women about the internal struggles they face/their feelings? Also, do you think that PWS would be more comfortable working with an SLP who is the same gender?

    Thanks for your time and contribution,

    Katie
    SLP Graduate Student

  7. Hi Katie – I don’t think therapists should treat men and women differently in the therapy room. I do think that the therapist needs to be keenly aware that women are “wired” to want to talk and explore emotions more, and men tend to be more solution based.
    I think it’s important to have this in the back of your mind as you approach therapy goals with a client, because they obviously cannot be generic and should take the whole person into account, which includes background, family, gender, strengths, etc.
    As to your second question, I don’t think clients would be more comfortable working with a same gender therapist. Men would be out of luck if that was the case. I think the key is considering the person holistically, remembering that they are more than data and that the client HAS to help formulate the goals, otherwise, client needs may go unmet.
    Thanks for the good questions and insights. -Pam

  8. Dear Pam,

    Thank you for your paper and your contributions of the stuttering community. It presents a thoughtful and interesting adaptation of the theme of a classic piece of literature. Could there be a Martian Venusian? Consider it like the case of having two passports. The person is a Venusian by heritage but is a Martian by birth. This person has been to Venus and has many Veniusian friends but was dismayed and discouraged by a culture that emphasized expression of feelings, acceptance of difference and empathy rather than a results orientation and survival of the fittest. Therefore, the person stayed a Martian because Martians emphasize achievement, survival, and independence. Three of the most prominent and most cited examples of overcoming stuttering are by Martians, James Earl Jones, John Stossel, and Jack Welch. Likewise, many of the non-SLP leaders in the stuttering community are Martians. Should overcoming stuttering be a goal and if so what role does being a Martian (either native or naturalized) play in one’s ability to do so? What is the role of the stuttering community in teaching Venusians Martian-like behaviors to become a leader and thereby overcome stuttering? Also, as you rightly point out, there are Martians who feel more comfortable with a Venusian existence. Should that be encouraged at the expense of achievement?

    Best,
    Michelle

    • Hi Michelle,
      It sounds like you are suggesting that women need to be taught to be more like men in order to become leaders and overcome stuttering. That’s what I interpret this question as:
      “What is the role of the stuttering community in teaching Venusians Martian-like behaviors to become a leader and thereby overcome stuttering?”
      I believe that women who stutter can be leaders and role models and not necessarily “overcome” stuttering. For most people who stutter, stuttering won’t be truly overcome as there is no known cure. Stuttering can be managed so that speaking is not fraught with struggle, effort and negative emotions. I think that’s what “overcoming” means.
      I’m a Venusian and consider myself to be an achiever, independent and a survivor and I stutter every day.
      It’s unfortunate that the role models held up to the stuttering community happen to be mostly men (like those you noted) and that women who stutter are very seldom heard of, or viewed, in the media as success stories.
      I think it is also a mixed message to send to people who stutter that they need to strive for “survival of the fittest” aka fluency, because in not doing so, failure is implied.
      It would sadden me to think of young people considering themselves as failures if they don’t “overcome their stuttering.”
      Are you an aspiring SLP?
      -Pam

  9. Hi Pam,

    I am also a graduate student and currently studying fluency. I enjoyed your paper and it definitely opened my eyes about the different experiences and approaches males and females have about stuttering. I never thought about women feeling so differently about stuttering and just wanting to talk about it! This paper will come in handy if I come across a female who stutters. I will refer her to your workshops as well. Lastly, do you think there will be more men wanting to talk about their feelings as time goes on? Thank you! 🙂

    Kelly Highland
    CSUF Graduate Student

    • Hi Kelly, I think men do talk about their feelings, but in my experience, not in groups. Maybe they are comfortable discussing feelings one on one in the therapy room with a clinician. Perhaps it has to do with the stereotypical beliefs we have that men look weak when allowing themselves to be vulnerable, which they would be if discussing feelings in a group setting. Make sense?
      -Pam

  10. Hi Pam,

    I enjoyed reading your story. I found it to be educational and provided an insight on how women who stutter truly feel. It is a wonderful to know that there are support groups for women who stutter. For those women, I am sure that it is comforting knowing that there are women feeling the same exact way as they do about certain topics and issues concerning their stuttering. Having these support groups and podcasts, gives women who stutter a voice in society to speak out and empowers them to move forward.

    Your article made me think about future clients (especially women who stutter) and how I can be an active listener to them during their moments of venting or just needing someone to “listen” to them for a couple of minutes. As a future SLP, I believe that the client’s emotions and feelings are the most significant component of therapy and that SLPs should not only be a therapist but an “active listener” as well. I hope to always be an active listener for my client and to be able to provide my future clients with the best approaches possible.

    – Monica

    • Hi Monica – yes, I agree. Listening is 90% (if not more) of communication. We have to listen in order to be truly present with an individual, and fidn out what their needs and goals are.
      If you spend most of your time listening, I’m confident you’ll be a good clinician. Good luck on your career journey.
      -Pam

  11. Hi Pam,

    What a great story!! Hearing this story as a graduate student really has opened my eyes as a future clinician. You have showed me that addressing the stutter emotionally first seems to be the larger issue, rather than receiving techniques to help the stutter initially. It is so important to consider the patient’s feelings as a primary goal. It really does not surprise me that men are more reserved about their feelings than women only because men want the stutter to go away as quick as possible and not have to deal with the emotional aspect at all. In retrospect, I believe women might come out of the situation stronger and more resilient, simply because they are open to speak about their feelings with one another rather than hide their feelings. Great job!

    Barbara Iandiorio

    • Hi Barbara – thanks for reading and commenting. Addressing the emotional aspects of stuttering may not always be first with every individual. That’s where you as a clinician, with good listening and counseling skills, comes in to figure out how to proceed with goals for the therapy relationship.
      Incidentally, you use the word “patient.” I never considered myself a patient when I participated in speech therapy. I always considered myself a person who stutters.
      Good luck with your career journey.
      -Pam

  12. I thought this article was very insightful, I had never before thought of stuttering in the differences of how men deal with it vs. how women do. It makes sense to me, but I have to admit my curiosity is peaked. I think I can identify what might be difficult in a dating situation, but as a woman who stutters… I wonder if you could tell me what were your top 2 or 3 biggest struggles when beginning to date? I am an SLP student, and have recently worked with a pre-teen girl who stutters, and I think it would be beneficial to get a glimpse of what it is she will be heading into, and how I could help. Also, do you have any advice for SLP’s when helping to treat a PWS, in regards to gender-specific differences you would have preferred in your own therapy?

    • Hi Laura – my top 2-3 struggles when beginning to date? Hmmmmm . . . .
      I have to say I didn’t date much – I was painfully self-conscious of my weight, my acne, my family background and I tried to hide my stuttering.
      Dating involves talking and socializing, which I didn’t do much of because I was afraid I’d be found out about my stuttering.
      All of my other adolescent self-esteem issues, coupled with stuttering, made dating very hard, almost non-existent.
      In college, at an all women’s school, we had mixer dances, where guys came. In group settings, I felt ok about socializing with guys, but I kept talking to a minimum, as I did not want to risk stuttering and being made vulnerable.
      I had a hard time with my stuttering for years – largely tried to stay covert and “pretended” to be fluent. Not a healthy way to live.
      I think what would help a pre-teen girl who stutters the most would be to meet an older teen or adult who stutters, so that the expereince can be normalized for her. That would have made all the difference for me. -Pam

      • Hi Pam-

        Thank you for sharing your story and candid experiences as a woman who stutters. This article illuminated the power of listening as well as gains that can be made for women who stutter in vocalizing their struggles. As an SLP graduate student, I will apply these ideas for therapy with both women and men who stutter. I am curious after reading this post- while receiving therapy services as a young woman, did therapists ever pursue uncovering these deep emotional issues in a one on one setting? If so, did you have reservations? How would you suggest clinicians break down the wall so that teenagers who stutter would feel more comfortable engaging in these conversations? I think this could serve as a great segue into the many benefits of group therapy.

        Thanks!
        Kaylen Alford

  13. Hi Pam,

    I absolutely loved reading your paper. It provided such a great insight regarding the differences between men and women who stutter. It is a topic that is not really discussed in the fluency classes I have taken in the past(including the one I am currently enrolled in now), which is why I am so intrigued by it. Moat of the time we are learning about fluency enhancing techniques and therapy strategies, which after reading your paper, has made me realized it is geared more towards men who stutter. Like you mentioned, we are taught to help PWS “fix the problem” instead of sharing their feelings. Although the majority of PWS are men, it is very important to learn strategies to help women as well; and I feel that your workshops are increasing this awareness. Your paper has made me want to further research on how effective speech therapy is for women versus men. Do you have any comments regarding whether or not a speech-language pathologist’s gender affects the dynamic of therapy?

    Vickie Woodall, Graduate Student
    California State University, Fullerton

    • Hi Vickie
      I answered something similar in a previous readers question. I don’t think the SLP’s gender has a real impact on the dynamics of therapy, unless it’s just not a “right relationship” period.
      Most SLPs are women, and most clients are men – so there is always going to be that different gender dynamic. I think the SLP clinician need to bring a genuine openness to the therapy relationship and be willing to delve into whatever it is that the client needs and wants.
      I think presence and therapeutic alliance are more critical than gender of the SLP.
      Good luck. I do hope you do further research on gender dynamics in therapy. It is definitely needed.
      -Pam

  14. Hello Ms. Mertz,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and for implementing women’s stuttering groups. That is a very good idea! Women are minorities within a minority group and it can be difficult sharing experiences with others who don’t necessarily share the same life experiences. I mean it is a unique experience to be a woman who stutters.

    I am a graduate student studying speech language pathology and I have thought about incorporating stuttering group therapy in my professional life, but I have never thought about a women’s group before. Groups are very beneficial because it is a place for people to share their experiences and perhaps even use what they learned in therapy. Because stuttering has so many components affecting it’s severity and recovery including emotional and psychological thinking, it is great to create something that deals with those areas. Group therapy is great for that.

    When you run women’s groups, do you also incorporate therapy exercises or is it more of a social event? Maybe a little of both.

    Thank you for your insight.

    Sincerely,
    Wa Yang
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Hello – I am not a clinician so I didn’t incorporate therapy exercises into the groups we ran. I don’t think the women would have wanted that.
      But the workshops were not just a social event either. Giving women who stutter a safe place to talk about deep feelings, messy feelings – of shame, guilt, inferiority – is extremely important. Women who stutter need to know they are not alone – in numbers or feelings. Providing space both at conferences and virtually, through the internet, blogs and podcasts, provides reassurance, normalcy and hope.
      Here’s the link to my women’s podcast if you’d ever like to listen:
      http://stutterrockstar.com/category/women-who-stutter-podcast/
      Best of luck to you.
      -Pam

  15. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to a new aspect of stuttering. I am, like many other posters, a speech-language pathology graduate student. We have studied the visible factors of stuttering as well as emotional factors. But the unique group of women who stutter is something I have never heard discussed. As you put it, “a minority within a minority”, is something that really helped me realize how the small community is. I had never considered that women who stutter were dealing with the emotional factors of stuttering differently. Your post will definitely make an impact on me as a future clinician. You have helped show me new ways to approach a person who stutters in therapy. I realize now that women like you need to talk to others who stutter to truly feel comfortable. Is there anything else you wish previous SLP’s would have done for you?
    I really enjoyed hearing about the different conferences and Podcasts you have mentioned, and plan to highly suggest these to future clients. Listening to the rich interactions that occurred at these events made me realize that this could be a life changing event for a future client. I thank you so much for sharing your story and experience in the stuttering world.

    Thank you,
    Sara

    • Hi Sara, Here’s the link to my podcast Women Who Stutter: Our Stories
      http://stutterrockstar.com/category/women-who-stutter-podcast/

      I didn’t have therapy for long – for about two years, from 2007-2009, I worked with graduate SLP students in a clinic setting. The goal was primarily fluency shaping – but that wasn’t my goal, it was more the student’s goal. I was grappling to come to terms with stuttering and to truly accept it as a part of what makes me a unique individual.

      I wish more of the student SLP’s had an interest in counseling and helping me explore messy feelings. It seemed that some of the students were very uncomfortable with anything beyond teaching fluency techniques.

      Good luck on your journey.

      -Pam

      • Pam-

        Thanks for your reply! I will keep in mind the counseling aspect of therapy. It really helps to hear from a person who stutters what would have been more beneficial for them. Thanks for being open and sharing your feelings on the subject!

        Thank you for the link to the Podcast, too! I have saved it as a bookmark and will definitely be using it in the future!

        Sara

  16. Hi Pam,

    I am so glad that I cam across your paper. As a graduate student and future SLP I am aware of the statistic that stuttering occurs more often in men than women but until I read your piece I really had not given the fact much attention. I now am aware how troubling it is that women are such a minority for stuttering. As a woman, I see how you would want to discuss and relate with other women who are facing a similar situation. I am very excited to hear that not only do you provide a podcast, (which I am looking forward to listening to) but that you also provide all of those workshops! I am surprised that there has not been more support for women who stutter but I am happy to walk away after reading your paper with knowledge for future clients who stutter about all of the support oppurtunities you have come up with. I am also interested about the men’s support seminar at NSA. I hope to see more groupe like yours out there soon!
    Best,
    Amy Hawes

    • Hi Amy,
      I hope you do take the time to listen to one (or more) of my podcast episodes. Here’s the link: http://stutterrockstar.com/category/women-who-stutter-podcast/
      I just spoke with two women yesterday and recorded 2 new episodes for the show. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to actually listen to people who stutter and get a sense of what’s important to us. So much more enriching than just reading about stuttering.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your comments.
      -Pam

  17. Hi Pam!

    Thank you for sharing your story, I loved reading it! I am an SLP graduate student, and haven’t had much experience with adults who stutter, but I do think it is important to talk about your feelings (the good and the bad) and work through our issues by talking it out. Do you think it would be beneficial for SLP’s to facilitate group therapy that focuses on both therapy techniques and discussion about issues and feelings? Or do you feel it would be better to keep them separate and focus on one thing at a time? Thank you again for sharing!

    Ferren

    • Ferren,
      Absolutely, both should be incorporated. One can’t work on stuttering without touching on the feelings involved. When I worked with graduate students in therapy, I needed to talk about why I felt resistant to some of the fluency shaping techniques they were suggesting I try.
      Feelings and attitudes go hand in hand with comfortable speech. You also should be aware that many times clients feel failure if they can’t achieve the therapy goals outside of the therapy room and very often that sense of failure adds to increased stuttering. Those feelings are real and can’t be avoided. Find ways to do both in therapy – but make sure you find out what is important to the individual that stutters.
      -Pam

  18. Hi Pam,

    I am a talker. I always am expressing my emotions and trying to get my feelings out, because letting out my feelings is the way I relieve stress. I love the idea of women speaking with other women, because I am sure it is a huge stress reliever for them. I do not blame you for feeling slightly left out in all-men support groups, because I imagine I would feel that way, too. It is certainly harder to let loose in a group of men then it is in a group of fellow women. It is simply human nature. I admire you for hosting multiple workshops that emphasize this, and I admire you for allowing men to attend 2/3 of them. Men, too, need to shed some emotion from time to time, and I am sure that you’re particular workshop encouraged them to do that. Bravo.

    Megan

  19. Hi Pam,
    Great story, I found it be very insightful. I’m an SLP graduate student at Touro College.I currently have a 30 year old female client who stutters. She is very unintelligible and demonstrates severe disfluencies characterized by laryngeal speech blocks. It’s very difficult for her to get her words out. After reading your article, I can’t help but wonder how I can incorporate addressing her feelings into therapy to let her know her feelings and emotions aren’t being ignored. Any ideas? Would appreciate your feedback. Thank you!

    • Hi madihasheikh,
      Of course you should talk about and address her feelings. If she thinks she is very unintelligible even to you, she may be feeling huge shame and anxiety and may not have anyone to talk to about that.
      Stuttering, blocking and secondary behaviors can be very embarrassing for the person who stutters, and can made to be even more so if no one ever addresses how it feels.
      I do not stutter severely, and only block on occasion, but even then, it feels like falling off a cliff, very lonely and very humbling. To feel no one even notices me when I’ve fallen is such an isolating feeling.
      I can imagine how your client feels – begin talking to her about it, show her how to talk about her feelings. Encourage her maybe to write about her feelings – to give her blocks a name, to yell at them, to identify anger and shame. I know for me it is has been hugely therapeutic to write – I have been blogging about stuttering since Feb. 2009, and I very often write about feelings.
      Does she know any other women who stutter? Maybe she feels incredibly alone. Let her know there are other women out there who stutter and can relate. Don’t be afraid to address her feelings – if you are, or are hesitant, she can probably sense that, and that might add to her shame.
      I always had good radar when it came to the clinicians I worked with. I could tell if they were uncomfortable or had never worked with someone who stutters. I wish her well.
      And I hope you find success in helping to make her feel comfortable in her own skin. That is so critical in any successful therapy outcome.
      -Pam

  20. Pam,
    I very much enjoyed reading your article. I can absolutely see how the innate differences between men and women can pose a problem for those who stutter. I agree with you and think that women just understand each other better, and having a male presence when sharing your emotions can sometimes feel like too much pressure or judgement. I am a female Speech Pathology graduate student at Appalachian State and I have a growing interest in the area of stuttering. I intend to work in the school system with young children. We often hear that SLPs in school think that fluency kids are the hardest to work with, simply because we as clinicians do not feel prepared or knowledgeable enough to adequately serve them. This makes me want to strive to be the “expert” on fluency in the schools that I will (hopefully) work in. I am still learning so much about the different therapy approaches, and I believe that much of the direction I will go in as a clinician will depend on the person who stutter’s goals and opinions. Elementary school is a hard time for kids regardless as they grow older (and inevitably, more awkward). Kids so young already feel so much pressure to fit in and I cannot image what a child who stutters must feel.

    My question for you is how much or how beneficial do you think that “counseling” and talking about the feelings of stuttering is or would be in the school speech therapy setting? In a sense, I can see how starting their awareness and acceptance young can be beneficial, but at the same time, I can also see how it may be difficult considering children may not understand or be as in touch with their emotions as an adult.

    Again, I enjoyed reading your article on the woman’s perspective and look forward to exploring your website as well!

    Thank you,
    Ansley McSwain
    Appalachian State University Graduate Student

  21. Hi Ansley,
    Thanks for comments and question. First of all, please tell Dr. Klein that you read and commented on my paper. Joe is one of my good friends and I visited him at spoke to his class at Appalachian State a couple of years ago. I hope you know him.
    I think counseling and talking about stuttering in school based therapy is hugely important. When I was a kid, no one EVER talked about my stuttering, which left me to believe it was something bad and to be ashamed of. I longed to talk about it with someone, as I felt so different. I am sure many kids who stutter would welcome the chance to talk with a kind and caring adult about his/her feelings, especially if the child is the only one in the school who stutters. Feelings of isolation can lead to shame very quickly.
    I am aware that school therapy is limited sometimes to only 15 or 20 minutes at a time – even giving the child 5 minutes of that time to talk about how she feels would make a big difference.
    And include the parents/siblings in such conversations as well. Teach families “how to” talk about stuttering, so the experience is normalized and de-awfulized for the child.
    Good luck with your studies and career path.
    -Pam

  22. Pam,
    Thank you for your insight. I am a speech-language pathology graduate student at Idaho State University. We discuss the importance of looking at the person who stutters as a whole and taking into consideration the emotional impact of stuttering. Until reading your article, I had never considered that women would have different feelings/concerns. It makes sense that we would considering we have different reactions to every other aspect in life. Thank you for opening my eyes. You have made me consider a whole new area of stuttering therapy. I would like to know if there was one aspect of therapy that you felt was missing that could have made a difference for you, what would it be? What would you want to tell a future clinician, like me, that would help me be a better clinician?
    Teresa Young
    ISU SLP Graduate Student

  23. Teresa,
    It’s good to hear that you are learning about the whole person in your classes and that you see the need for considering the feelings and attitudes of individuals you will serve.
    I remember when I was in therapy several years ago and was seeing a different graduate SLP student every semester for 2 years. At one point, I felt I was no more than data for the student to collect. The students were counting dysfluencies. There is nothing worse than to think you are just a check mark on a piece of paper that will be tallied up later.
    I spoke to the students about the need to be present with the individual and, at least for me, to figure out a way to collect the data they needed without reducing me to feel like I was the data.
    I wrote a paper for ISAD in 2009, that shares things I learned in therapy and what I think students need to know as they prepare for a career as SLPs. Perhaps you’ll find it useful. Here’s the link: http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/mertz122.html
    I remember writing it as if it was directed towards future clinicians.
    Thanks for reading and sharing your comments.
    -Pam

  24. Pam,

    Thanks for writing such a wonderful article addressing the feelings and emotional side of stuttering, particularly for women. I am currently in a fluency class and much of the focus is on addressing feelings rather than taking such a direct therapeutic approach as is the case with many other communication disorders. I love the phrase that you use to describe women who stutter, “a minority within a minority”– such an accurate representation that really highlights how these women must feel. I know that most of your conferences have targeted women but I’m wondering if you think the same type of approach would be successful with younger girls (say, older elementary school age)? I’m currently working with an elementary school population and was wondering if these young girls would benefit from being in groups only with other girls. Curious to see what your thoughts would be.

    Thanks,
    Maralee

    • Hi Maralee,
      Yes, I think young girls could benefit from being in a girls only group, but will you find enough young girls who stutter to make a group?
      Do you have youth who stutter on your caseload?
      It would be surprising to me if you had more than one girl who stutters.
      But yes, it would be highly beneficial. Something like that would have been so helpful to me as a young girl/teen/young adult. No one ever talked about with stuttering with me, so I felt it was very taboo and a subject NOT to be talked about.
      -Pam

  25. Hi Pamela,

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I felt that you words were very empowering. Although I do not stutter, I feel that I can relate. I never really thought about this until you had mentioned it but I completely agree that the way men and women deal with certain things are so very different. I had a chance to check out your blog on stutterrockstar.com and I thought it was amazing that you motivate so many people thru expressing your own feelings and advice. Do you have an advice for a future speech pathologist working with a client who stutters?

    Kim

  26. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am a speech-language pathology graduate student and it was so refreshing to hear the perspective of a woman on this topic. As I have been learning about stuttering I have not stopped to think about how it is different for a male versus a female. I feel that so much of what is taught focusses on enhancing fluency and fixing the problem, which is a very male oriented perspective. However, like you pointed out, women often don’t want a solution but simply want to talk about their feelings. Your story has helped me to understand that stuttering is not the same for everyone. The approach I need to take with clients who stutter should vary greatly based on gender and individual personality. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Hello Pam, I like that you give us women who stutter a ‘visible’ voice. With the 4 to 1 ratio women can feel very isolated and particularly in Ireland when we have a small population ( 4.5 million in total!) the population of women who stutter can be quite far flung. Since I did the podcast with you, the Irish Stammering Association started a monthly phone group for women who stutter which is on the go about a year and a half now. The great thing about the group is everyone is so willing to share, and there isn’t the same level of competitiveness that can often be found among men. We talk about our speech and also about things that are going on in our lives. One time one of our members had recently been bereaved and we had a good discussion about bereavement and how the sense of isolation can be similar to the isolation we feel about our stuttering. Thanks for an enjoyable articlt

    • Hi Veronica
      Nice to hear from you. I think the monthly phone group is a great idea. How wonderful that it’s been holding steady for a year and a half now.
      I like how you called it a “visible voice.” We need to have a place to talk and share and vent and listen and have those conversations morph into other facets of life as well.
      And your right about the competitiveness of men – I can’t see a monthly phone group working well with the competitive nature playing out.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I am tentatively planning a visit to Ireland next year – I may call upon you for some travel tips!
      All the best – Pam

      • Would love to meet up with you if you come over. Contact me about your travel plans & I can give you some pointers, Veronica

        • Do you live in Dublin? That’s where I plan to go, to meet up with a friend. From there, if all works out, I plan to fly to Glasgow, for the BSA conference. I hear its there next year and I really want to go, Pam

  28. GO WOMEN! Thank you very much for sharing this paper with this conference Pamela. I am a graduate student studying Communicative Disorders and I find this paper very fascinating. As a future SLP, it is good to know that yes men and women are different and this will make my therapy approach look different with them. As you discussed, women want to talk about their feelings while men want to find a solution. I think this is such a valuable piece of information because women are the minority in the minority of stuttering, so I don’t think we think about this counseling piece of our therapy as much. As a future woman SLP, I know I can’t completely acknowledge my clients feelings because I never have and never will be in their shoes as an individual who stutters, but I hope I can be a judgment free listening zone for my clients! Thank you again for sharing this insight.

  29. Hi Pam, I am currently a graduate student at Illinois State University. I am enrolled in my second stuttering course this semester. Fluency fascinates me and I really enjoyed your insights and efforts your efforts in going women a voice. I think that it is very vital to pint out that mean and women are very different in handling situations and stuttering is no different. I have learned that throughout my courses in fluency that counseling can be a huge part of stuttering therapy depending on the clients’ goals and how much the emotion of stuttering has interfered with their lives/happiness. As you stated, the emotional toll of stuttering tends to take a much greater toll on women that it does men. I think that it is great that you stated this social group so that women can simply talk out their feeling with one another and support each other along the way. I thought it was very interesting that so many men took an interest to your workshop. I think that it shows they are not afraid to reach out and look for more support in order to be comfortable in their own skin, even though it is not considered “manly” to talk about feelings. It was also nice that they cared about the women’s feelings and also wanted to combine their thoughts. Group therapy in this case is a great way to come together and relate thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Great work, and thank you for the enjoyable article!

    -Allie Zuercher
    Illinois State University Graduate Student

  30. What a great point! This article actually reminded me of a book I read called, “Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget” by Marianne J. Legato, MD, FACP. She describes the neurological differences between male and female brains and why we communicate differently and handle stress differently. Girls can provide so much comfort and a unique kind of support for each other that men might not be able to provide. Very interesting article and I highly recommend “Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget.” Thanks Pam! Girl power 🙂

    • Thanks Amy – I’m definitiely going to check out that book. Always looking for resources I can use for my blog or podcast, and now, one of these groups that we facilitate at the conferences.
      -Pam

  31. Hi Pam,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your paper regarding the differences between how men and women communicate about their feelings in relation to their stuttering. As a second year graduate student I am glad that I read this eye opening information as I start my career. As I am learning different fluency shaping strategies I often forget that part of the treatment process should address the emotional impact that stuttering has on an individual. I know we are not psychologist, but I think it is important that speech-language pathologist find time in each session to allow the client to communicate current emotions/feelings… Based on your experience do you feel the same?

    Your podcast is a great resource that I am excited to be able to pass on to future clients. What are the ages that you feel will benefit from your podcast the most? Can it be downloaded for listening off of iTunes? When does it air?

    Thank you once again for sharing this valuable information!

    Elizabeth
    Graduate Student

    • Hi Elizabeth – thanks for reading and asking about the podcast. I always hope that SLP students find it, listen and pass it along as a resource.
      I have had teen age girls on the show as guests – telling their stories, as young as 16. So I think young girls 12 and up can benefit from listening.
      For me, it would have made a huge difference growing up if I had known or heard another woman who stuttered and sounded like me. I wouldn’t have felt so alone.
      The episodes can be found on my blog at http://www.stutterrockstar.com and are also freely available for download on iTunes. They don’t air live – they are recorded, then I edit them and upload them. I usually upload 2 or 3 episodes a month. I’ve been doing the show since May 2010, so there are 108 episodes to choose from and listen too.
      All of them chronicle a part of a woman’s story that might otherwise not be told. I feel lucky to be part of this opportunity for women who stutter to have their voices heard.
      Best of luck in your career.
      -Pam

  32. This was a wonderful article to read and full of insight. I am currently a graduate student and look forward to having an opportunity to work with people who stutter. This information will be very useful when working with women who stutter. Thank you for your information!

  33. Hi Pam,

    Thank you for sharing your experience as a woman who stutters. I think it is fantastic that you were able to hold a workshop focused on women who stutter. Also, I like that you have a podcast – it’s going on my list! Our fluency disorders class is taught by a man who stutters; he is very good about talking about the emotional aspects of stuttering, but we have not discussed how it affects men and women differently. I wonder if you are able to create some sort of online community for women who stutter? Or perhaps a Skype support group? Ideally, you would be able to have a support group for women who stutter, but realistically, there are simply more men than women who stutter. Thank you for sharing your story!

    Gina
    SLP Graduate Student
    Idaho State University

    • Hi Gina – I have a facebook group for my podcast “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories” and many women (and some men) join and chat and pose questions there. I host one of the Stutter Social hangout support groups every other Sunday night (7:30pm NY time)and keep hoping that more women will brave it and come into the group. But it is usually me and 6 or 7 men. We still have great discussions, but they are predominately male.
      I would like to host a special “women’s only” google hang out one day, but it probably won’t be through Stutter Social, as they don’t want to “discriminate.”
      You’re right – its hard to form a real-time women’s only group in my area, as there just aren’t enough of us.

      Good lick to you! -Pam

  34. Hello Pam,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I knew that stuttering is more prevalent for men than women, but I have never considered how much harder emotionally it would be for a woman who stutters since you are, like you said, a minority within a minority. Do you find that you are more fluent when speaking with women opposed to men because of this different level of comfort?

    Your story was very eye opening. Thanks again for sharing!
    Bianca
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Hi Bianca – good question. I find my fluency is variable no matter who I’m talking to – men or women! I find myself most comfortable around people who know me and know that I stutter. Others – gender probably doesn’t really matter. But I feel more comfortable talking about feelings and personal matters relating to stuttering with other women who stutter.
      Men don’t seem to really want to go there.
      -Pam

  35. Pamela,
    Thank you for your post and for your service to the stuttering community, both women and men. As a person who does not stutter I still absolutely relate on a personal level as far as the difference in communication modes and needs of women versus men, the just needing to talk versus the need to find a solution. Being able to seek that communication with other women is crucial. I can’t imagine having these additional emotions that come along with being a person who stutters and feeling that there is such a small population to relate to. It is amazing what technology, with online forums and chats, has aloud us to do in closing the physical distance between this small population.

    These NSA workshops being provided and evolved to fit the needs of both women and men who stutter are so important. I am curious if these workshops are only for people who stutter themselves or if they are also open to people who may have a person who stutters in their life and would like to learn how to better communicate with and understand that person’s emotions. As a current SLP graduate student it is also crucial for us to understand the feelings of our clients and know the best way to communicate with them

    Again, thank you for your service and providing these opportunities for people who stutter to share their feelings.

    Christy Baltazor
    Idaho State University, Graduate Student

    • Hi Christy, these workshops would be open to anyone who wants to come. Family member, spouse, friend, SLP – I believe in last years workshop (this past July 2013) we had two female SLPs who do not stutter who were part of the groups. It is a valuable learning experience to hear from women who stutter talk about stuttering while actually stuttering.
      -Pam

  36. Hi Pam,
    I am a first year graduate student and this year is my first time studying fluency. I have really enjoyed the class so far as it is discussion based and I feel like students can be active learners. However, I was amazed that in a class full of women this subject never came up. Your article was very interesting to me because it presented a whole new perspective. We focus a lot on the emotional impact of stuttering and we have been educated on incidence and prevalence in males vs. females, but I never stopped to think about how gender differences impact communication and counseling. I discovered that in addition to having a male professor, I’ve only heard male guest speakers, and the books and journals I have read about people who stutter have been primarily authored by men. I would love to be able to attend a women’s only conference and witness the impact you described in your article. I hope to bring this topic up in class and see where the discussion goes.
    Thank you for the food for thought!
    Breanna
    Idaho State University, Graduate Student

    • Hi Breanna – interesting point. In a room full of women, gender differences never came up. I hope it does now, and hope your class has a discussion on, based on this paper. I’d love to hear about it if you do wind up having a dialogue about it. You or someone in the class can always email me to let me know how it went! 🙂 pamela.mertz@gmail.com
      You also make a good point about males being the predominant authors and guest speakers. It is important to hear the woman’s perspective. I’d love it if your class listened to one of my podcast episodes during class or as an assignment. Here’s the link: http://stutterrockstar.com/category/women-who-stutter-podcast/
      Also, your professor could easily invite women who stutter in as a guest speaker, virtually, via Skype. I’ve done that with a couple of colleges that I can’t get to physically. I know the professors; they asked me and arranged the Skype set-up. I’d be happy to speak to your class sometime if there was any interest, even just maybe being available for questions.
      Best of luck and thanks for the great insights.
      -Pam

  37. Pam,

    Thank you so much for sharing part of who you are through this story. As an aspiring clinician, I think we can get caught up in “fixing it”, rather than addressing all sides of the situation. Your story really opened my eyes to the emotional side of stuttering. That stuttering doesn’t just necessarily need to be fixed, but that our jobs as clinicians is to support our client where they are, on all levels.

    It is so interesting to hear you talk about the differences between men and women. Studies these differences has always been fascinating to me, but I have never applied these concepts to speech therapy. Thank you for sharing and making my view broader than giving therapy.

    If a woman who stutters came to me for therapy, but really needs comfort and support before being able to apply therapy techniques, would you recommend pausing therapy to attend support groups?

    Thank you for sharing,

    Haley Lounsbury
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Haley, I would suggest that the individual attend a support group at the same time as individual therapy. I think that would be very beneficial.
      Of course, talk to the individual and see how she feels about that. If the support group happens to be mostly male, she may not want to attend such a group, but talking about stuttering is often as beneficial, if not more in some cases, than focusing on therapy techniques.
      -Pam

  38. Hi Ms. Mertz,

    I really enjoyed your article. As you expressed, the fact that women who stutter are a “minority within a minority” is an important consideration in support groups settings. In reading about this idea of double-minority status, I saw some correlation with women who have Asperger’s. A therapist friend of mine has said that, because of the low female to male ratio of individuals on the spectrum, women sometimes have a hard time finding a support group that they feel comfortable in. Thanks for sharing your experience as a woman who stutters. I think that it’s important for us future SLPs to remember that, like so many defining factors that shape an individual, gender may influence the way a person experiences the world.

    Breanna

  39. Hello Pam!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a first year graduate student in speech-language pathology, currently enrolled in a Fluency course. After reading your article I began thinking, throughout our courses we always seem to address every type of diversity variable with the exception of gender! It is so interesting to read your insight and realize how men and women are truly different and as therapists we should therefore (on a case by case basis) take this variable into consideration in terms of the way it could affect our client’s goals and objectives. It is interesting to me to consider how my own gender may come to have an impact on the therapy I will one day provide in terms of how the client could respond to me. As a female clinician working with a female client who stutters, it would be an innate aspect of our conversation to acknowledge deeper feelings about stuttering; I would ask my female client various questions about how stuttering makes her feel and we would delve deep into this information in a very typical-for-women kind of way. This would most definitely not be the same for me as a clinician when working with a male client. I would not want to try and delve as deep as, like you mentioned, men simply communicate differently (especially when speaking to a woman and not another man) and may not want to share deeper parts of their feelings with me. As a clinician, this will become an important variable, and it is something that I feel would never be discussed in the classroom!

    It is obvious that you have a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and I appreciate the perspective you provide. Thank you for reminding me to be aware of these potential differences.

    Jena