|About the authors: Dr. Scott Palasik has been a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist for fifteen years. He’s an Assistant Professor at the University of Akron (UA) where he teacher graduate Fluency Disorders course (on campus and distance learning), Voice Disorders and Cleft Palate, and Support Systems for Families and Individuals with Communication Disorders, along with supervising graduate students in clinical Education. He also is the director of the Mindfulness ACT Somatic Stuttering Lab, and performs research with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), unconscious and conscious attitudes about stuttering, and environmental and social effects pertaining to dysphagia. He has presented at many local, regional, state, and national conventions about mindfulness and ACT. He has been a member of the ACBS (Association of Contextual Behavioral Sciences) for eight years and is the President of the Ohio ACBS Chapter. He is also the co-founder of the UA Campus walk for Suicide Prevention.|
|About the authors: Dan Hudock, Ph.D., Certificate of Clinical Competence of Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), is an Assistant Professor at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho, USA. As a person who stutters himself, he is very passionate about fluency disorders and helping those with fluency disorders. One aspect of his research interests resides in exploring effective collaborations between Speech-Language Pathologists and Mental Health Professionals for the treatment of people who stutter. He is also Director of the Northwest Center for Fluency Disorders, which hosts a two-week interprofessional intensive clinic that uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). For more information about research, clinical, or support opportunities please visit http://www.northwestfluency.org/.|
Note this submission is presented in two parts by video within the transcript shown below.
Stuttering Pride; Respect, Dignity, Recognition. These terms, with the overarching theme of stuttering pride means something drastically different to each of us. As Scott and I were discussing a possible topic that aligns to this year’s theme, we talked about how the idea of self-empowerment really connects these topics.
Empowerment: Empowerment…What a unique and fantastic word. It means to give authority to or permit. Self-empowerment, well, that means to permit ourselves to do what they belief based on their own thoughts in order to be the best they can be. Dan and I wanted to explain how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also called ACT, can self-empower yourself to live a values based life and also develop a flexible mind as a person who stutters.
You may ask what is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT. Well it can be a way of life to develop our thoughts and actions and have them connect.
Acceptance and Willingness: The first principles I started with as a person who stutters is acceptance and willingness. I spent most of my childhood avoiding my stuttering. And I got so angry about this that it led to a very dark place in my life, I had suicidal thoughts and actions. Psychology lets us know that the more we try to avoid a thought, the more it comes back. So for all those years I spend experientially avoiding my stuttering both mentally and physically, I was holding on to it that much more. The first step I learned was being WILLING to look at my thoughts. To be WILLING to my own stutter. That took time, because, it’s hard being willing to do or see things that we don’t like. Acceptance itself does not mean that you have to like something. It just means that you can be able to walk with it. Not like it, but be with it with as little judgment as possible, and for me, just being able to listen to myself stutter and see those negative thoughts and not needing to hang onto them, judge them, was moving towards acceptance and that idea of being willing to do it.
Being Present: The next principle I learned from ACT was being present. The moment is such an important part of our lives, don’t you think? I learned this right before I started a PhD. I lost a cousin to suicide and a friend to cancer and I realized in that moment how important every moment really, really is and how worrying about things just didn’t fit me anymore and so I learned mindfulness and how to be present and for me, meditation. That’s not a religion, it’s just a practice of being present. This has helped me allow my stuttering to come and just happen. I am self-empowering my own speech, my own thoughts about my speech, because I’m not spending as much time worrying about it anymore.
Thought Defusion: The next principle of ACT I’ve been working on is called thought defusion. Language is a powerful thing, and if we keep creating negative thoughts in our mind, it fosters and feeds those negative thoughts. For me, being willing to see those thoughts as just language, just words, just sounds and being present in that moment of seeing those thoughts with as little judgment as I can, I’m then able to play with those words and thoughts, and not hang onto them so much. Those thoughts held me back from talking on the phone to a friend, or meeting new people. By seeing these thoughts as just words and language, options that I could think, I’m then empowering myself to move forward into the person I want to be.
Self as context: For many years I believed that I was a stutterer. This is to say I held the negative belief that my stuttering was all of me. It was what people knew of me and what I knew of myself. Every thought, action, and belief was guided by my stuttering. It was all consuming. Through time, experience, and being open to other perspectives of potential realities I began to re-conceptualize my stuttering as just a part of me, not the entirety of who I was. I began stepping outside of my thinking, analyzing, and critical self to experience my observing self by changing the words and language I was using to describe me in the context I was in. The more I did this the more I noticed that I was enjoying these newly described aspects of myself. I began directing my internal monologue to see the full context of most situations. For example, yeah I may have stuttered a lot while ordering my meal, but I said was important and I got my meal how I wanted, so I framed that as a success.
Defining values: Understanding your values and value system will help you know what really drives you and what makes your life worth living for you. Values are individualized to you and they are not the same from person to person. They are different than objects we want or choices that we make due to a variety of situations or reasons. For example if you make a choice that is easy, let’s say not disclosing the fact that you stutter when you talk to someone new, instead of openly talking about your stuttering and maybe even pseudostuttering. It may increase the thoughts of self-judgment you have. Whereas if you clearly understand your values and your value system, you can choose live a value guided life by making choices that will lead you closer to what is most meaningful to you and the direction you choose your life to take.
Committed Actions: Living a value guided life requires committed actions. Planning and enacting change in our behaviors, which could include thoughts or actions, likely includes willingness, discomfort, motivation, determination, and perseverance. Changing from the known to unknown is very difficult.
Scott’s closing: Life is a series of choices. What choices we make is up to us. The thoughts that we choose are up to us. The actions that we choose are really up to us. For me, being present in the moment, being willing to see my thoughts as just words while stepping outside of myself and connecting my values with everyday life has been the most rewarding journey of my life. This process has kept me alive, both mentally and physically. It has been a way of life, a constant line of growth. Now you don’t have to use every principle in ACT, you can use just one or more than one. It’s up to you. Again, the choice is yours. Make choices for you, so that you can live a values-based life and empower you to be you!
Dan’s closing: Seeing the potential benefit through increased cognitively flexibility that we’ve obtained via ACT may help us lean into discomfort and start living our lives the way we want to.
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