Reframing the Stuttering Iceberg
As a mental health counselor who stutters, I believe I have insights that I don’t always see represented in counseling theories that are supposed to describe the stuttering experience. I have always found Dr. Joseph Sheehan’s description of the stuttering iceberg to be helpful, that the stuttering itself is the biggest issue but really the issues are underneath: shame denial, fear, shame, anxiety, isolation, guilt, and hopelessness.
In graduate school I learned that you should really look at a problem from every perspective. If you examine something from different perspectives it can give you insights. The more that I became involved in the stuttering community, the less I felt that Sheehan’s iceberg fit me. Was my iceberg suffering from a global warming of self-acceptance and shrinking? No, that didn’t seem to be it. It felt like it was the same shape and depth but it felt like there was something else under the surface.
The iceberg on the right represents this change. Denial has been replaced by acceptance, fear with courage, shame with pride, anxiety with comfort, isolation with community (and what a community it is!!), guilt with kindness and hopelessness with hope. It isn’t enough to name the psycho-social difficulties we experience because of stuttering. We must know what the alternatives to these problems are. What does it look like if we don’t feel guilt? Are not isolated? For the ourselves, people we counsel, and the outreach we do, I think it is important to demonstrate what icebergs can look like and how to best empower people to shape their icebergs the ways that fit them best.
Weekend, October 17 & 18, 2015
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