Adult Client who Stutters

Hello! I wanted to get your opinion of how to approach the stuttering aspect with a client who thinks stuttering resolves itself completely. He acknowledges that his stutter went away in his native language, but is now struggling to “correct” it when speaking English. He believes it will be cured and go away, but I know he will go through times of fluency and disfluency. What are your thoughts?

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Adult Client who Stutters — 8 Comments

  1. I guess I would ask a couple of questions (which you might have already). How exactly did it “resolve” initially? In other words, what was process that he went through? Any therapy or other strategies employed? How long did it take to it resolve?

    As far as stuttering in one language as opposed to another, that is not uncommon. Sometimes, the speaker stutters more so in the native language, sometimes more so in the second language. I would ask how his language skills are in the second language. Could this be related to the increased disfluency level? I wonder if the disfluencies he’s exhibiting in the second language are truly “stuttered-like” (i.e., prolongations, blocks, part-word repetitions) or closer to normal disfluencies. The latter type often manifests when learning a second language.

  2. I’d second everything that Paul has written and add that it is common (second language or not) for people who stutter to want their stuttering to just go away. That’s understandable. It can be very hard for all of us to accept our differences (whether stuttering or any other) – especially if that difference is stigmatized. You may be able to help this individual cope with stuttering more easily through work on acceptance (which is not contrary to working also on fluency or management). There are an increasing number of resources about how we can work acceptance into our therapy with individuals who stutter – encouraging your client to read some of the posts from people who stutter here on the ISAD list may be a wonderful first step in that direction.

  3. Hi Trisha-
    Thanks for your question. I agree with Paul and Scott and have a few more thoughts. How much does your client know about stuttering? I’m wondering if having him learn about stuttering or do some self-guided research about what stuttering is or isn’t may help. Then, the two of you could talk about what he has learned. I’m wondering also what your client values – and what are the most important things to him. Does he feel that stuttering holds him back from being him in any way? In what ways does he feel his life would be different if he didn’t stutter? Or if his stuttering was able to be corrected? These types of questions may help guide some powerful conversations.

    I would agree that it is totally normal to want something that can cause us pain and struggle to “go away.” No one enjoys struggling – and yet, it is something that we all do in one way or another. I’m wondering what “correct it” means to your client? Perhaps it’s more about talking in an easier way or not letting his stuttering impact his role in speaking situations. Those are all areas that he could work on in therapy if he wanted to.

    These are just some questions to think about – and possibly discuss with your client.

    Feel to ask any additional or follow-up questions too!

  4. Although I work primarily with school-age students, I’d like to add to the terrific comments here. I find it helpful to ground conversations around stuttering and communication in what we know about stuttering at any given age. In adults, stuttering is 1) chronic, 2) variable, and 3) complex. It is perfectly understandable to want stuttering to go away, and perfectly understandable to view the variability of stuttering as evidence that is in fact going, or has gone, away. Gaining a deep understanding of the nature of stuttering can provide a stable platform from which to gain a measure of acceptance (not necessarily endorsement, but acknowledgement) and launch oneself toward valued outcomes.

  5. Trisha,
    HI! Thank you for asking questions and being an advocate for your clients and your profession.
    The responses above are priceless and very important to read and take with you and pass on to your client. I want to echo what they said and also add to their great information.
    Acceptance is a process. Learning more about that process, like Scott said above, is a wonderful practice and time well spent with our clients who stutter, or any client or person struggling. Encouraging them to see that who they are and what matters to them is how they will make choices about roles in life (e.g., jobs, hobbies, friendships, and actions) are the driving forces to living. Whenever anyone struggles with something they wish to change, they struggle partially because they are wishing it away, bargaining for it to go (mentally or with their actions). They can show anger and even deny the realities of the challenge. We know these behaviors as the grief cycle. So what is happening with your client is same process as any other person struggling, it just has a different stimuli (in this case stuttering).
    By helping him recognize and acknowledge the words his holding onto and if he is seeing these thoughts as “Facts” or “fiction”, he might be able to start down the road to discovering optional thoughts that can be more in line with how he wants to live long term. And eventually move through the process of “acceptance.”
    Great questions. Great people above with wonderfully thoughtful answers.
    Enjoy the conference!
    With compassion and kindness,

  6. Thank you for this question and kudos to all the wonderful minds that have chimed in. I agree with all of this!

    When Scott mentioned, “encouraging your client to read some of the posts from people who stutter here on the ISAD list may be a wonderful first step in that direction.” – it made me think of something that I’ve started to do with some of my adult clients who stutter. Recently, I’ve been “assigning” some podcast homework to them, in an attempt to, perhaps, educate them and explore new ways of thinking about things that relate to communication. The overall assignment is simple.
    He or she just needs to listen to the given podcast episode link that I share with him or her. I’m not sure if you are familiar with some of the terrific stuttering podcasts out there, but here’s a few worth checking out:

    An example of a StutterTalk episode that I’ve used with an adult client is:

    Once he shares with me that he listened to the episode, I started off the session saying things like, “In your own words, could you give me your interpretation of that episode. What stuck out most to you? Why? Did any of this remind you of something?”

    You’d be surprised how sometimes simple probing questions like that can trigger such robust and worthwhile conversations. And from these probing questions, new knowledge can be gained and, at times, therapeutic change can start to occur.

    I hope that my “podcast homework assignment” was able to give you some ideas for the future. Thanks, again, for the question. Keep up the good work.

    Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

  7. Great ideas have been shared by others. I do not try to convince a client that he or she cannot be ‘cured’ of stuttering. First, I do not know what the specific outcome will be for any given person, and second, as others have stated so well, the process of coming to terms with stuttering evolves over time through education, talking about goals and values, and so forth.I believe that is important to focus on the issues at the present time. I engage them in conversation around how, specifically, stuttering is impacting their daily life; about what sorts of things they or others would notice if there were small changes in those areas; brainstorming ways to bring about those changes and choosing which of those they would like to try out. So, engaging them in making the little changes that lead to bigger changes is, in my mind, the most effective way to help someone move forward in very practical ways to improve their ability to communicate effectively. Thanks for asking this important question.



  8. Thank you so much for all of your VERY helpful responses. I will apply as much as I can to my new knowledge about stuttering. I truly appreciate all the feedback given, and I plan to start with educating myself a little more through the podcasts and this online conference.