The Web of false claims about stuttering cures

Note from ISAD Online Conference Committee:  Many of the websites linked in this paper are French language.  If you do not speak French and would like to gain some understanding of the content of the site, we recommend you use the Google Chrome browser, which should offer an automatic translation of the page content when loaded.

About the authors:

bodsonHélène Bodson has a Master’s degree in linguistics where her thesis focused on First Nations children’s language. She is completing her MHSc in speech-language pathology at the University of Ottawa. Stuttering, speech sound disorders and bilingualism are among her interests.
Pat Roberts has been a professor in speech-language pathology at the University of Ottawa since 1995. Stuttering is one of her areas of interest, both in her clinical work, and her research.


Stuttering is probably as old as speech itself (Wingate, 1997). Aristotle’s theory on the equilibrium of the humors may be out of date, but the quest for a cure certainly isn’t. Online, one can find many websites offering solutions. However, websites do not always have reliable information (Scullard, Peacock, & Davies, 2010). People who stutter (PWS) and the parents of children who stutter increasingly look to the internet for medical information and base their opinion about therapies on what they find online. It is therefore relevant to ask: how accurate is what the internet says about stuttering?

This paper is a brief attempt to answer this question. Two aspects of the cures for stuttering found online will be evaluated: (1) treatments for anxiety, and (2) treatments and advice to consult or buy online.


Only the most accessible websites claiming to cure or diminish stuttering were used in the current paper. The research was conducted online from May to July 2014. Using Google’s search engine, we searched the Web for key words related to stuttering, cure, and solution. The first 30 sites found in French and in English were analysed.

The claims made online were then compared to what the scientific literature says (i.e. the PsycINFO database, Google Scholar). The themes retained for analysis met the following two criteria: (1) the existence of a scientific (peer-reviewed) literature on the topic; (2) a risk of financial or psychological damage to people who stutter (PWS) who follow the online advice.


In this paper, we will discuss the accuracy of the information found online about therapies that aim at anxiety reduction and, finally, programs and advice that can be found for free or bought online. Each website mentioned is identified by number in the text.  Each number relates to the list at the end of the article and also hyperlinks directly to the website. Journal articles and books are listed by author’s name in the list of references.

Three approaches to reduce anxiety

Communication situations can be stressful for PWS. While stuttering is not caused by anxiety (Craig, 1990; Guitar, 2014; Ingham, 1984), anxiety can influence stuttering in ways that seem complex and are not yet fully understood (Craig, Hancock, Tran, & Craig, 2003; Craig, 1990; Helgadóttir, Menzies, Onslow, Packman, & O’Brian, 2014). There is no guarantee that a reduction of anxiety will reduce stuttering severity in adults.

What the Internet says

Amongst the most popular sites are those claiming to reduce or cure stuttering through hypnosis, yoga, or meditation.

Hypnosis. Some websites promoting hypnosis promise a cure for stuttering or have ambiguous statements that do not explicitly promise a cure, but imply a reduction of stuttering (4). However, the confident tone seems to encourage readers to believe that hypnosis can cure stuttering. Other sites are bolder (and ethically worse): they explicitly promise a cure (9).

Yoga. Some yoga schools claim that yoga can be used for any condition. Unsurprisingly, it has also been considered as a stuttering treatment. Some claim daily yoga practice can help control or even cure stuttering. Some yoga websites mistakenly describe stuttering as a secondary effect of anxiety (11). Others state boldly (and falsely) that yoga is a remedy for stuttering. This is notably the case in Balakrishnan’s book: Yoga for Stuttering (12). Written by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) holding ASHA certification, this book was written for the PWS who have not been helped by other therapies. The book proposes yoga (including some meditation) as a way to achieve fluent speech.

Meditation. Some websites suggest meditation as a solution for stuttering. Unlike most websites proposing hypnosis or yoga, meditation websites rarely promise a cure. On some websites, “cure” is redefined. It does not mean stopping the stuttering, but being able to do anything one wants despite the stuttering (14). Similarly to yoga, an SLP, Silverman published a book in 2012: Mindfulness and Stuttering (16). A paper on this topic was also part of the 2011 ISAD (15). Based on her personal experience, Silverman proposes that Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can help stuttering by reducing the amount of stress and negative self-talk. The author writes that constant practice of MBSR can improve quality of life and help with fluency. She does not promise a cure; instead, she presents meditation as an aid.

What the science says

Relaxation methods, such as breathing control, have traditionally been used in stuttering therapy (Gilman & Yaruss, 2000). These can reduce anxiety and sometimes secondary behaviours. We will now briefly review what science has to say about hypnosis, yoga, and meditation.

Hypnosis. The American Psychological Association (APA, 2014) has recognized hypnosis as a procedure that can induce a state of relaxation. Many authors promote hypnosis because relaxation can diminish fearfulness in communication situations (Ingham, 1984). Barker, Cegala, Kibler, and Wahlers (1970) considered hypnosis to be preferable to desensitisation, because it requires less effort from the PWS. However, there is no evidence that hypnosis has long-term effects (Bloodstein & Bernstein Ratner, 2008; Van Riper, 1973).

As with all stuttering treatments, transfer and maintenance are challenges faced by hypnotherapy (Bloodstein & Bernstein Ratner, 2008; Van Riper, 1973). Studies demonstrating the efficacy of hypnosis as a treatment for stuttering are flawed. In most, stuttering severity pre- and post-treatment and long-term outcomes are not measured at all or are measured in ways that do not meet basic reliability standards (e.g. Lockhart & Robertson, 1977; Moss & Oakley, 1997). In two recent studies, PWS who received hypnotherapy reported no long-term benefits and low levels of satisfaction (Euler, Lange, Schroeder, & Neumann, 2014; Yaruss et al., 2002).

One study claims hypnosis can help reduce stuttering severity after just 8 sessions (Kaya & Alladin, 2012). The study, unlike many, includes a detailed description of the method, which involves abdominal weightlifting to improve breath control, slowed speech (learned in a single session), hypnotic suggestion, and prayer. One year after the treatment, most participants (55 out of 59) reported they still had fluent speech. No speech samples were analysed at follow-up. Although the results are encouraging, the authors note that it is impossible to know which aspect of the treatment contributed most to the progress observed (Kaya & Alladin, 2012). A placebo effect cannot be ruled out in this very weak, single-group study.

Knowledge about stuttering and hypnosis is incomplete. It seems that hypnosis can be helpful for anxiety (Mairs-Houghton, 2012). However, does hypnosis cure stuttering? Given the current, available information, our reply is the same as Van Riper’s in 1973: “No!”.

Yoga. Unfortunately we have been unable to obtain a copy of Yoga for Stuttering (12) (if anyone has a copy, please contact one of us!). One review of the book says it states that “stuttering [is] caused by a disorder in the brain’s right hemisphere” (12). The description of the book, as shown online (on Amazon and the publisher’s website), proposes yoga as an alternative to medication and electronic devices. This could be interpreted as meaning that these are the two main approaches offered by speech language pathologists or other professionals. Yet there is no effective medication for stuttering (Caveney, Giordani, & Haig, 2008) and electronic devices are not often used by clinicians treating PWS (Ramig, Ellis, & Polland, 2010). The back cover of Yoga for Stuttering suggests that fluency will be achieved with yoga through relaxation. As with hypnosis, the claim that yoga can cure stuttering seems to be based on the incorrect assumption that anxiety causes stuttering.

One study on the relationship between yoga and stuttering observed a reduction of participants’ stuttering severity and anxiety level after yoga classes (Kauffman, Molden, Hailperin, & Klein, 2010). These results are encouraging, but await confirmation (repeating the study with a larger group and with a suitable control group, for example). Therefore, as of today there does not seem to be convincing evidence that yoga could be an effective treatment for stuttering.

Despite the common belief that yoga reduces anxiety, the evidence on this is mixed. Some authors remain skeptical and conclude that this benefit of yoga has yet to be proven (Kirkwood, Rampes, Tuffrey, Richardson, & Pilkington, 2005; Li & Goldsmith, 2012; Saeed, Antonacci, & Bloch, 2010). Other authors report decreased anxiety measured both by self-report (Rao et al., 2009; Streeter et al., 2010) and by physical changes, such as changes in levels of neurotransmitters (Streeter et al., 2010). Although many studies have flaws such as lack of randomisation (Field, 2011), recent studies have shown yoga to be effective for anxiety reduction in healthy adults (Streeter et al., 2010) and in those with some medical conditions (Field, 2011; Rao et al., 2009). Interestingly, many yoga classes include a period of meditation, making it impossible to separate the contribution of the physical postures from the period of meditation.

Meditation. Different forms of meditation, including MBSR, have been shown to reduce anxiety in a variety of contexts (DeBerry, 1982; Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004). Transcendental meditation and MBSR can reduce the anxiety of PWS (de Veer, Brouwers, Evers, & Tomic, 2009; Mc Intyre, Silverman, & Trotter, 1974). MBSR can also help with the desensitization process in PWS (Boyle, 2011; Plexico & Sandage, 2011).

MBSR influences the autonomic nervous system (Greeson, 2009; Tang et al., 2009). Meditation also affects the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (Ditto, Eclache, & Goldman, 2006) and increases control over stress (Tang et al., 2007). Moreover, many benefits for mental health and quality of life have been observed (Grossman et al., 2004).

 Stress can make motor control more difficult, especially fine motor movements. This is something we all see in daily life. It seems logical, therefore, that lowering stress levels might help PWS reduce some moments of stuttering. Meditation and relaxation techniques might help improve quality of life of PWS.

A misunderstanding of the relationship between stuttering and anxiety seems common in the explanations presented by websites, especially those that propose hypnosis or yoga. The promoters of meditation advise it for anxiety reduction in PWS. Everyone can benefit from reducing stress and anxiety levels. Critically, however, there is no clear evidence that anxiety causes the disorder of stuttering. Moreover, these interventions and the related merchandise (e.g. DVDs) cost money.

Treatment programs and advice for people who stutter

Online, other than the treatments for anxiety, videos, recommendations and programs are offered to the PWS looking for a solution.

What the Internet says

A wide array of websites offer solutions to stop stuttering or control it. Quite a few of these websites are written by PWS. Blogs contain messages, videos, and programs to cure stuttering (18a, 18b, 18c, 19a, 19b, 20, 21a, 21b). The resources offered can also help PWS deal with negative emotions related to stuttering. While some blogs redefine “cure” as talking without fear of shame rather than perfect, fluent speech (18a, 18b, 18c), other blogs have ambiguous statements, speaking of “getting rid of stuttering” and then stating that no cure exists (19a, 19b). Some blogs offer novel methods (20) or adaptations and variations from speech-language pathology methods (19a, 19b, 21a, 21b, 26a, 26b). Some offer guarantees (20), while others offer testimonials about techniques (18a, 18b, 18c).

Life coaches and associations also offer programs to PWS. With no more credentials than being PWS themselves (27, 29), some offer advice for free (22a, 22b, 23, 29) others for a fee (24, 26a, 26b, 27). Some websites claim relaxation or staying below a threshold of laryngeal tension can cure stuttering (22a, 22b, 25). Others propose articulation exercises to relax the speech mechanism (23). Some claim stuttering can be treated by exhibiting confidence (29) or that PWS chose to stutter and, therefore, can decide to stop stuttering (30). Such claims can be harmful for PWS since they give unrealistic hope. Sites claiming that stuttering is a choice place a heavy burden of blame on PWS.

Another resource found online is the McGuire program. Run by PWS, this program promises acceptance of stuttering, psychological wellbeing, deep breathing and “eloquence”. Its founder claims that fluency comes naturally with acceptance and eloquence (26a, 26b). Little research supports the program despite its 20 years of existence and relapses are known to occur (26a, 26b). Whilst the opinions of SLPs are welcome, they are advised to not use the program (26a, 26b).

What the science says

None of the previously mentioned programs and advice would pass the twelve tests mentioned by Bloodstein and Bernstein Ratner (2008) to demonstrate the effectiveness of stuttering treatments. Only the Valsalva program website has data (25) and websites generally don’t mention drawbacks or failures. Only the McGuire program mentions maintenance and relapses (26a, 26b).

Many websites propose desensitisation or tips to deal with psychological aspects of stuttering (18a, 18b, 18c, 19a, 19b, 20, 24, 26a, 26b, 27, 28). Although it is an essential part of many therapies, by itself, desensitisation has a very limited short- and long-term impact (Andrews, Guitar et Howie, 1980).

Some websites propose methods based on stuttering modification or fluency shaping techniques (18a, 18b, 18c, 19a, 19b). These adaptations are not always accurate (18a, 18b, 18c), but their authors generally mention disclaimers (18a, 18b, 18c, 20).

Some sites state – incorrectly – that tension in the larynx is the cause of stuttering (20, 25). While some PWS experience blocks due to laryngeal tension, others do not. The larynx cannot be considered as the primary source of stuttering.

Support groups can be helpful for PWS (Yaruss et al., 2002) and some websites (18a, 18b, 18c, 19a, 19b, 20, 26a, 26b, 27) offer a supportive environment. Nevertheless, the inaccurate information found in cyberspace can mislead PWS into false hope, expensive ventures, or both.


One must be cautious when consulting websites about stuttering treatment. The solutions found online are sometimes supported, to some degree, by science, though more often, not. However, none can offer reliable information about long-term effects of the techniques and products they recommend. Some can be expensive. Many make promises that are unrealistic and misleading. Several websites misrepresent the methods used by SLPs (e.g. medication).

Clinicians, PWS and their relatives should be cautious about information found on the Internet. It would be helpful to have a list of reliable sites or pages available on-line, although given how websites appear and disappear, this might not be feasible. Websites claiming there is one key, one cause, or one remedy to stuttering should raise a red flag in the reader’s mind: a warning sign that a website’s information is likely incorrect.

We invite readers to share their thoughts and to comment on this paper. We are currently working on a more detailed report on what the Internet says about stuttering.

Examples of websites and resources available online

(All websites were consulted in May and July 2014)

Three approaches to reduce anxiety


  1. Forum: L’hypnose comme solution pour vaincre le bégaiement? (Hypnosis as a solution to conquer stuttering):
  2. Hypnotherapy clinic: Traitement du bégaiement en hypnothérapie (Treatment of stuttering in hypnotherapy):
    1. Article:
    2. Testimony:
  3. Blog: Vaincs ton bégaiement et accomplis tes rêves – Mon Histoire (Conquer your stutter and realise your dreams – My story):
    1. Stop stuttering with hypnotherapy:
    2. Hypnosis for stuttering (or stammer):
  4. Hypnotherapy directory:
  5. Can hypnotherapy assist people who stammer?:
  6. Enfants, bégaiement, hypnose (children, stuttering, hypnosis):
  7. Video: Séance hypnose pour diminuer le bégaiement (hypnosis session to reduce stuttering):
  8. Benyan hypnosis center:


  9. Online book: Yoga et psychothérapie (yoga and psychotherapy):
  10. How Yoga Helps Control Stuttering:
    1. Balakrishnan, J. M. (2009). Yoga for Stuttering: Unifying the Voice, Breath, Mind et Body to Achieve Fluent Speech. North Atlantic Books.
    2. Review of the book:
  11. Yoga for curing stammering:


  12. Newsreport: Thomas, guéri du bégaiement grâce à la méditation (Thomas, cured from stuttering with meditation) :
  13. ISAD paper: Silverman, E.-M. (2011). What to expect from mindfulness. International Stuttering Awareness Day.
  14. Silverman, E.-M. (2012). Mindfulness et stuttering: Using eastern strategies to speak with greater ease. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace.
  15. Mindfulness and Stuttering: How can mindfulness help?:

    Programs and recommendations for PWS

  16. Blog: Je bégaie (I stutter):
    2. About a cure for stuttering:
    3. About techniques to control stuttering:
  17. Blog: Goodbye bégaiement (goodbye stuttering):
    1. About stopping stuttering in 1 week:
    2. About voluntary stuttering:
  19. Free method to stop stuttering:
    1. Blog:
    2. Forum:
  20. Websites about the threshold hypothesis of stuttering:
  21. Report: Guérir du bégaiement (Stuttering cure):
  22. Program: Association vaincre le bégaiement (Conquer stuttering association):
  23. About the valsalva hypothesis of stuttering:
  24. The McGuire Program:
    1. Newspaper article about the McGuire Program:
    2. The McGuire Program’s official website:
  25. The PRO9OD Speech System:
  26. Wikihow: How to stop stuttering:
  27. Video: How to stop stuttering – 3 tips to start speaking fluently:
  28. Video: Tony Robbins – 30 years of stuttering, cured in 7 minutes!:


American Psychological Association (APA). (2014). Hypnosis today – Looking beyond the media portrayal. Washington, DC. Retrieved from

Andrews, G., Guitar, B., & Howie, P. (1980). Meta-analysis of the effects of stuttering treatment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 45(3), 287–307.

Barker, L. L., Cegala, D. J., Kibler, R. J., & Wahlers, K. J. (1970). Hypnosis and the reduction of speech anxiety. In Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association. New Orleans.

Bloodstein, O., & Bernstein Ratner, N. (2008). A handbook on stuttering (6th ed.). Clifton Park, N.Y.: Delmar.

Boyle, M. P. (2011). Mindfulness training in stuttering therapy: a tutorial for speech-language pathologists. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 36(2), 122–129. doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2011.04.005

Caveney, A. F., Giordani, B., & Haig, G. M. (2008). Preliminary effects of pagoclone, a partial GABA(A) agonist, on neuropsychological performance. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 4(1), 277–282.

Craig, A. (1990). An investigation into the relationship between anxiety and stuttering. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 55(2), 290–294. doi:10.1044/jshd.5502.290

Craig, A., Hancock, K., Tran, Y., & Craig, M. (2003). Anxiety levels in people who stutter: A randomized population study. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 46, 1197–1207. doi:1092-4388/03/4605-1197

De Veer, S., Brouwers, A., Evers, W., & Tomic, W. (2009). A pilot study of the psychological impact of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program on persons who stutter. European Psychotherapy, 9(1), 39–56.

DeBerry, S. (1982). The effects of meditation-relaxation on anxiety and depression in a geriatric population. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 19(4), 512–521.

Ditto, B., Eclache, M., & Goldman, N. (2006). Short-term autonomic and cardiovascular effects of mindfulness body scan meditation. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 32(3), 227–234. doi:10.1207/s15324796abm3203_9

Euler, H. A., Lange, B. P., Schroeder, S., & Neumann, K. (2014). The effectiveness of stuttering treatments in Germany. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 39, 1–11. doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2014.01.002

Field, T. (2011). Yoga clinical research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17(1), 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.09.007

Gilman, M., & Yaruss, J. S. (2000). Stuttering and relaxation: Applications for somatic education in stuttering treatment. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 25(2), 59–76.

Greeson, J. M. (2009). Mindfulness research update: 2008. Complementary Health Practice Review, 14(1), 1–8. doi:10.1177/1533210108329862.Mindfulness

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 35–43. doi:10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7

Guitar, B. (2014). Stuttering: An integrated approach to its nature and treatment (4th ed.). Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Helgadóttir, F. D., Menzies, R. G., Onslow, M., Packman, A., & O’Brian, S. (2014). A standalone Internet cognitive behavior therapy treatment for social anxiety in adults who stutter: CBTpsych. Journal of Fluency Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2014.04.001

Ingham, R. J. (1984). Stuttering and behavior therapy : Current status and experimental foundations. San Diego, CA: College-Hill Press.

Kauffman, H., Molden, B., Hailperin, W., & Klein, E. (2010). Yoga: An alternative method in stuttering treatment. Poster presented at the ASHA Convention, Philadelphia, PA.

Kaya, Y., & Alladin, A. (2012). Hypnotically assisted diaphragmatic exercises in the treatment of stuttering: a preliminary investigation. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 60(2), 175–205. doi:10.1080/00207144.2012.648063

Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., Tuffrey, V., Richardson, J., & Pilkington, K. (2005). Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review of the research evidence. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(12), 884–891. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2005.018069

Li, A. W., & Goldsmith, C.-A. W. (2012). The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Alternative Medicine Review, 17(1), 21–35.

Lockhart, M. S., & Robertson, A. W. (1977). Hypnosis and speech therapy as a combined therapeutic approach to the problem of stammering. British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 12(2), 97–108.

Mairs-Houghton, D. (2012). Hypnotherapy and anxiety. In M. Heap (Ed.), Hypnotherapy. A Handbook (2nd ed., pp. 39–60). Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Open University Press.

Mc Intyre, M. E., Silverman, F. H., & Trotter, W. D. (1974). Transcendental Meditation and stuttering: A preliminary report. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 39(1), 294.

Moss, G. J., & Oakley, D. A. (1997). Stuttering modification using hypnosis: An experimental single case study. Contemporary Hypnosis, 14(2), 126–131.

Plexico, L. W., & Sandage, M. J. (2011). A mindful approach to stuttering intervention. SIG 4 Perspectives on Fluency and Fluency Disorders, 21(2), 43–49. doi:10.1044/ffd21.2.43

Ramig, P. R., Ellis, J. B., & Polland, R. (2010). Application of the SpeechEasy to stuttering treatment: Introduction, background, and preliminary observations. In B. Guitar & R. McCauley (Eds.), Treatment of stuttering: Established and emerging interventions (1st ed., pp. 312–328). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Rao, M. R., Raghuram, N., Nagendra, H. R., Gopinath, K. S., Srinath, B. S., Diwakar, R. B., … Varambally, S. (2009). Anxiolytic effects of a yoga program in early breast cancer patients undergoing conventional treatment: A randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 17(1), 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2008.05.005

Saeed, S., Antonacci, D., & Bloch, R. (2010). Exercise, yoga, and meditation for depressive and anxiety disorders. American Family Physician, 81(8), 981–985.

Scullard, P., Peacock, C., & Davies, P. (2010). Googling children’s health: Reliability of medical advice on the Internet. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 95(8), 580–582. doi:10.1136/adc.2009.168856

Streeter, C. C., Whitfield, T. H., Owen, L., Rein, T., Karri, S. K., Yakhkind, A., … Jensen, J. E. (2010). Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(11), 1145–1152. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007

Tang, Y.-Y., Ma, Y., Fan, Y., Feng, H., Wang, J., Feng, S., … Fan, M. (2009). Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(22), 8865–8870. doi:10.1073/pnas.0904031106

Tang, Y.-Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., … Posner, M. I. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152–17156. doi:10.1073/pnas.0707678104

Van Riper, C. (1973). The treatment of stuttering. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Wingate, M. E. (1997). Stuttering : A short history of a curious disorder. Westport, CT.: Bergin & Garvey.

Yaruss, J. S., Quesal, R. W., Reeves, L., Molt, L. F., Kluetz, B., Caruso, A. J., … Lewis, F. (2002). Speech treatment and support group experiences of people who participate in the National Stuttering Association. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 27(2), 115–134.

 19,069 total views,  2 views today


The Web of false claims about stuttering cures — 34 Comments

  1. As a result of taking an MBSR course and practicing mindfulness meditation I’ve become much more focused on what I do when I stutter. This often includes holding my breath during a block. I’ve learnt to focus on continuous exhalation while speaking and gentle onsets that helps get me through feared speaking situations. Thanks for the article.

    • Thanks for writing this comment. MBSR seems like an interesting way to help people become aware of what they do in many ways, including stuttering moments.

  2. You mention my Stuttersense blog and my free online book “Coping with Stuttering” as part of the “web of false claims about stuttering cures”. A careful reading of both will show that I do not claim a “cure”, but only describe possible procedures for management and control of stuttering. Some people, however, seem to manage their stuttering so well that they could be regarded as cured for all practical purposes. You seem to object to the idea of a “stuttering threshold” which, when exceeded, results in stuttering. I do not think that this idea is far-fetched at all, and many PWS will attest that it applies to them. That does not mean that, when one is below that threshold, a permanent cure will result. Being below your threshold means that your base-level tension (“stress level”) is not high enough to result in stuttering. This explains the fluent periods that PWS often have. My book contains diagrams showing the relationship between “speech tension”, “base-level tension” (“stress”) and “stuttering threshold”. These concepts are crucial for an understanding of how stress impacts on stuttering as a contributory cause.

    • Yes, your websites do not explicitly state that it is a cure for stuttering, thank you for pointing this out.

  3. Hello Hélène, very interesting paper. I would have to start of by saying that “One must be cautious when consulting websites about…” any medical and health related treatments. The freedom of the WWW is both dangerous and empowering. I would really like to see you one day build an evaluation framework for PWS to judge the worth of stuttering-related websites. Quick question.

    I myself am firmly evidence-based in how I view programmes. Why do you think that some non-professional programs that advertise online, for example McGuire, have little evidence to support their claims and yet have been around a long time?

    • That’s a good question. The hope of curing stuttering has been around for centuries, hasn’t it?

      The fact that there are no studies doesn’t mean that the method doesn’t work, which is a key part of the challenge facing PWS or anyone looking for advice online. Why do methods with only testimonials to back them up endure? We think it speaks to how much emotional power personal stories have (as advertisers and political campaign managers well know!).

      A framework for evaluating websites and their promises is a worthy goal – but harder to do than it appears. We hope this paper is a small step in that direction.

  4. Dear Hélène,

    In today’s info age people tend to try and self treat than seek help. I have once or twice succumbed to webmding something and coming up with the worst case scenario. I am a SLP graduate student just learning about the complexity of stuttering but wanted to know. If you could form a website to give hope/help to parents of PWS and clients with stutters what would it entail?

  5. Hello,
    While we all need to be SO very cautious when we are exploring the web we know almost everyone does it before seeking any form of help or treatment. I think many search the web because we want some background information before we meet with the different professionals. (Even though many professionals especially MDs tell us to stay off the web!) It is simply too tempting, it is immediate, it is free, it requires no office visit, and it give us something to work off…and you are right how many of truly go beyond the first 30 links which google provides us?

    With that– the common theme of yoga/ meditation/ and hypnosis seems to be relaxation to assist the person who stutters.

    I think the person who stutters might want to use some of these practices AND also use evidence based research and strategies to assist them with fluency. Would you agree? Or do you feel traditional practice should be the single mode of therapy to assist the person who stutters?

    Thank you! Allegra
    I especially like that you included all the web links!

  6. This was a very interesting presentation. I am currently a graduate student and am working with my first clients who stutter this semester. I have learned about the integration of speech tools, as well as the counseling aspect that usually goes along with treatment of people who stutter. However, I had never considered incorporating relaxation techniques into a therapy program before. While you have pointed out that stuttering is not caused by anxiety, you also mentioned that anxiety does affect one’s speech, which makes a great deal of sense to me. I don’t know much about hypnosis, but I have had some experience with yoga and meditation. While yoga and mediation have brought about calmness and muscle relaxation, I have also noticed that I feel more attuned to my body afterwards. I am more conscious of my breathing pattern, my heartbeat, and my thoughts. I also have the added benefit of feeling more in control of my body as a result, since I am actively working to slow down my body and be present in that moment. Maybe the increase in fluency is due to these changes in the mind, more so than the physical relaxation of one’s muscles. Do you feel that the relaxation of one’s mental state and emotions is as important as the reduction of physical tension for promoting fluency? Also, based on your research, is meditation or relaxation something you would want to incorporate into clinical practice? Or is this something you might just recommend a client to do at home, to supplement all the speech tools and treatment they currently receive from you? I am curious to see how relaxation techniques might work out in practice.

    • Do we recommend meditation or hypnosis or yoga as part of stuttering treatment? No.
      But is meditation helpful for many people to help reduce and to manage stress? Yes, whether stuttering is present or not.

  7. My question is: have you personally experienced a client or parent wanting to do yoga as a treatment/cure? and if so, how did you handle the situation.
    Anne Dvorsky

    • No, we haven’t…
      If anyone else has, it would be interesting to hear about their experience.

      • The very small number of people who hope yoga cures stuttering are – probably — unlikely to come to a SLP for help.
        Pat Roberts

  8. Dear Hélène,
    Thank you for such an interesting article! I was not aware that there were so many different ideas out there for how to “cure” stuttering, but I suppose with any disorder there will be a multitude of people trying to find an easy fix. I am currently enrolled as a first year grad student for Speech Language Pathology, so I’m learning about the more traditional approaches to fluency treatment, and the complex nature behind stuttering.
    I thought it was interesting that most of the techniques falsely assumed that stuttering is caused by stress and anxiety and aimed to eliminate those causes. It makes me weary of any “cures” when the people suggesting the cures do not seem to understand even the basic fundamentals of the causes of stuttering. As you say, reducing one’s overall stress and anxiety through yoga or meditation often yields positive results in one’s life, whether they stutter or not.
    I had a few questions for you. Did you find anything surprising or really unexpected in your research? Perhaps a new technique, or one you had never heard off before that you wish to do more research on? I am very curious about non-traditional approaches to fluency therapy, though as a student, I also want concrete scientific evidence that these approaches work. Keith Boss, posted an article for this conference (“Conscious Avoidance or Better Communication”) about his experience with stuttering and mediation, and has had a lot of success with “Technical meditation”, which looks very interesting. Again, one person’s experience does not prove something works for everyone.
    Did you do any research on “technical mediation” or mostly stick to more traditional meditation techniques? Also did you discover anyone using yoga techniques (or the other techniques you mentioned) as a part of fluency therapy? Perhaps using deep yoga breathing, or some basic poses in addition to a more traditional proven approach to fluency therapy?
    Thank you again for such an thought-provoking article!

  9. These methods may be extremely beneficial in therapy in conjunction with evidence based methods. Many times meditation and yoga help decrease anxiety. We need to educate the public regarding the evidence based therapy provided by an SLP as well as the methods that are not a cure for stuttering but may be an option to supplement their therapy to help treat the negative emotions and anxiety that may be present.

  10. I am a second year graduate student in North Carolina studying Speech Language Pathology. I was wondering if you have any solutions for what to do if a client thinks they don’t need therapy because they have found one of these ‘cure’ sites? Thanks.


    • Thank you for your question. Unfortunatly, PWS who believe they have found a cure online are unlikely to come to SLPs for help.

  11. In your practice, do clients frequently inquire about alternative methods and/or strategies to help reduce anxiety? Or are they normally satisfied with the traditional strategies used by most SLPs?

    As an SLP, would you wait until a client expressed interest in yoga and/or meditation before suggesting it as a means to combat anxiety, etc.? I’m assuming the most that could be offered to a client would be anecdotal evidence (since recommending an exercise program would be out of our scope of practice).

  12. Hello Hélène and Pat!

    Thank you for a concise and necessary look into the vast world of potentially erroneous and misleading information available on the internet! It is completely appreciated. As a future SLP, I am perturbed by the huge amount of false “cures” to various ails and issues, so your work is incredibly valuable and warmly welcomed. There is potential use in some or potentially all of these techniques, but profit corrupts, so it is important to separate the science from the profit-gaining attempts of those that use blanket statements and assumptions to make money. This information should be shared by every clinician that provides fluency therapy! An information sheet comes to mind… Is that a potential plan of yours so as to disseminate this very valuable information across the field to any/all potential future therapy participants and their families? Thank you again for your great work!

    • Thank you for your interest in our article. Yes, we plan to submit the full study to a journal.

  13. Thank you so much for providing this overview of online resources for stuttering advice and treatment. It seems that some of the treatments that target anxiety could be effective but simply lack sufficient research. Like some of the above posters, I am interested in the use of yoga and meditation in therapy but agree that more evidence is needed before these techniques can be integrated into stuttering therapy (except for general stress-relief). Given all the studies that contradict or discredit many of the other stuttering treatment programs and advice available on the web, it is clear that such programs cannot be integrated into any evidence-based practice. However, are there any websites or online support groups that you would recommend to clinicians, PWS, and their families? Obviously the ISA website is a great place to start! Thank you!

    • Thank you for your comment. The websites of associations, professional colleges and healthcare services can generally provide information about support groups in one’s area. We do not know of any official online support groups – if anyone does, it would be great to hear of them!

      • Yes there are on-line support groups. The Stuttering Home Page is a good place to start. So is the ISA, the National Stuttering Association and the American Institute for Stuttering (in the USA), The British Stammering Association and many other national associations include self-help group links on their web sites, including on-line support groups.
        Pat Roberts

  14. This was a really interesting article, and I thank you for sharing it. I find this to be a reflection of the way information in general is disseminated throughout the Internet, with popular opinions and self-proclaimed “experts” drowning out the results of research and evidence-based practice. I am also a graduate student studying to become an SLP, and I have realized that we will often be faced with clients and families who have been bombarded with these false claims and unrealistic expectations for unproven methods. You made it clear in this article that methods targeted at anxiety reduction like yoga or meditation simply lack evidence to be effective treatments for stuttering. Are you interested in doing any research yourself in the effects of these methods independently or in conjunction with other, more traditional treatment methods? I certainly would be interested in those results. Thank you again for sharing, and I will continually look for your detailed report from the Internet research.

    Claire Richards

  15. We would like to thank all readers. Your comments and questions are most appreciated.

    Our reply to Allegra Greeley, LysandraS, Deborah Broughton and Philip Williams:

    Yoga and meditation are very popular these days. But it seems to us that it is a huge leap from “these activities make me feel better” to “they help PWS in a way that relates specifically to their stuttering” and an even larger leap to “a speech language pathologist can ethically recommend these practices”. Learning to dance also makes people feel more confident and releases tension. So does knitting and horseback riding. None of these have anything to do with evidence-based practice in speech-language pathology.

    We will add the “Technical meditation” website to the list of sites that make bold, completely unverifiable, highly improbable claims and ask for money.

    There is a large body of credible research showing that MBSR is a highly effective practice for reducing stress and changing negative self-talk. It should be taught to people seeking help for any medical or psychological condition only by a qualified practitioner (usually a psychologist). We hope to see SLPs and psychologists publishing studies in the future testing its benefits and limitations for adolescents and adults who stutter.

    SLPs have used variations of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as part of an integrated approach to treating stuttering at least since the 1980s. This integrated approach for adolescents and adults who stutter is by far the most respected method and the one with the best evidence supporting it (part stuttering modification, part fluency enhancing behaviours (which include better breathing) and part supportive counselling using CBT principles.

  16. Just another example of why SLPs must educate their clients and client’s family group about stuttering. It would be wise as a clinician to have a pamphlet with a list of reputable websites listed for parents to peruse.

  17. Hello,

    Thank you so much for presenting this information in such a clear, understandable way. I really enjoyed reading the differences between what the internet claims and what has truly been discovered by research.
    I am currently a graduate student in the area of speech-language pathology. I have done a lot of my own searching on the internet about stuttering and what treatments seem to work for people who stutter, but this brought many things together for me. This paper helped me think about the critical thinking skills I need to use when discussing what my future clients may find on the internet as well. I am, however, wondering what types of treatment techniques you recommend? Traditional speech therapy techniques?

    Thank you again for your insight,


  18. Hi,
    I’m currently a graduate student and I’m happy about how strongly evidence-based practice in incorporated into my training and this article adds to my ability to use EBP as a future clinician. I’m glad you took the time to venture out to the internet and explore what is out there. I feel like the internet is often a first stop for many people these days, so it’s important for us to know what people may have encountered and have a response ready if and when clients approach us about what they’ve found.

  19. What a wonderful article that lays out what is easily accessible and what (possibly) many clients will find and the evidence that correlates. Have you used this research with clients? Does it work as a way to educate about what is on the web versus what we actually have evidence for? I would think it was be a nonthreatening way to educate since the research does point out what is right about the web based information, but then links to what evidence actually provides us.

  20. Thank you for presenting your paper, it was a very interesting and relevant topic. Especially when the increase in technology has resulted in hearing ignorant comments such as ‘you can replace an SLP with an app.’ As a soon to be graduate in SLP, it’s great to have resources on what is out there for our clients to see that might mislead them, and be able to apply the evidence and science we do have, to rationalize why something on the internet might or might not work. Even though a yoga teacher might try to sell the idea that yoga can cure stuttering in order to get more clients, it’s only the trained professionals that can really look at the big picture of everything together to help clients improve fluency. Thanks again for sharing your findings.

  21. The amount of information on possible cures for stuttering demonstrates just how difficult this disorder is for PWS. There are many conventional, research-based treatment techniques but they don’t all work for all people. I would think it would be very frustrating to spend years in therapy without the degree of improvement expected. I think SLPs should remember this when talking to clients about these alternative methods and be careful to not be overly judgmental on their motivation to seek a cure.
    Thank you for investigating this issue!

  22. I am also a graduate student in the field of Speech Language Pathology. Thank you for sharing this clinically relevant topic. As a student in this field I am continuously seeking EBP that includes research for how I approach therapy with clients. The internet can be resourceful for activity ideas for therapy sessions with certain communication disorders (i.e. articulation), but I would never rely on the internet for therapy goals. Do you think that sources such as ASHA would interest individuals who stutter and their families, or would these types of website resources be externally perceived as too technical?