You Are Not Broken, Therapy Was Broken – Chaya Goldstein

Chaya GoldsteinAbout the Author:

Chaya Goldstein M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist who works at the American Institute for Stuttering (AIS) in New York City. Chaya co-leads the NSA Manhattan chapter, coordinates the FRIENDS Stepping Up mentoring program. She hosts the StutterTalk podcast. As a person who stutters, she is passionate about stuttering advocacy, education, support and destigmatization.

This video speaks to the change I wish to see for People Who Stutter and SLP’s Who Work with People Who Stutter.


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You Are Not Broken, Therapy Was Broken – Chaya Goldstein — 58 Comments

  1. Did therapy ever leave you feeling broken? I know for me it did. That’s why I’m excited to share with you a little bit of my story, and hear your comments and questions about it.

  2. Chaya I love this!! The feelings of failure due to not meeting the goals the therapist set out for you resonates with me so much and wondering how all those vowels work were actually going to help me.

    If you could go back in time, what would you have wished your therapy experience was like as a kid and how do you think that would have changed your stuttering experience throughout your life?

    • Thanks for you question and comment Kunal!

      I wish my therapists understood covert stuttering. Understood that I wasn’t ‘cured’ but that I had gone into avoidance and hiding. This would have helped steer clear of putting up walls, putting on masks, and feel more at peace with my authentic myself, stutter and all.

  3. Thank you, Chaya, for that powerful message, and for the encouragement.

    I carried around my sense of failure for almost 50 years, and it’s thanks to people like yourself, who were willing to teach, that I learned that the therapy was flawed. I still find it difficult in many situations, as the shame that was reinforced for all those years comes up very quickly, feeding my almost automatic avoidance behaviours.

    I am thrilled that there are speech therapists like yourself who understand stuttering: the iceberg above and below, the ABCs, and the need to recognize that the problem is the stigma, not the stuttering.

    The big question is then: How do help people who stutter and parents of kids who stutter understand that it’s ok to stutter? Even more, how do we help society understand this? It’s important since when we say “if you have gone to therapy and it hasn’t worked for you ..” we need to first coordinate expectations from therapy for stuttering. We need quietly confident therapists who can explain to people what stuttering cannot be cured by fluency techniques. I read a statement once by a mother of a child who stuttered, who openly blamed her 6-year old (or 7 or 8, doesn’t matter) for still stuttering even though he had learned techniques. She basically called him lazy. This … this is tragic.

    Thank you so much.

    • Dear Chaya, It’s amazing how stories of people around the world are similar.
      My first fluency shaping broke me. And my second fluency shaping forced me to grow so I won’t break again.
      Your message is so important. Thank you for that.

      • Shiran,

        Thank you for your reply. True, there is a universality to the experience of stuttering and the stories are so similar. Thank you for sharing some of yours.

    • Hanan,

      Thank you for your reflections and sharing your personal experience.

      You ask great questions, and I will likely not do justice in answering them, but I will try. In essence I believe the way to effect change is from the top down and from the bottom up. In a clinical sense, top down would mean having more therapists understand the complex nature of stuttering and work with clients to understand their specific needs and meet them there. This may mean recognizing that there are some things they didn’t learn in graduate school and seek additional learning. On a larger scale it would mean having more universities teach about stuttering and the various approaches used to support people who stutter, behaviorally, affectively, and cognitively (there’s much to be said here, but I’ll leave it at that for the sake of this short conversation.) I believe to help society understand this we need loud, bold and impactful individuals who stutter ‘on top’ to stand up for the cause of stuttering and impact change through legislation and media. And then on the ground, having individuals such as you and me, and all the other brave souls humbly identify with and talk about stuttering, just as we are doing now.

  4. Thank you Chaya for sharing your message and speaking from the heart. This is a wonderful reminder that therapy should never add fuel to shame or feeling of brokenness and that there is so much more to what we see on the surface. Thank you for all that you do.

    • Hi Voon,

      Yes, stuttering is so much more than the surface. In large part it’s what we don’t see that matters the most. That’s where true therapy begins.

      Shout out to you and all of your colleauges in New Zealand who are doing great work to bring this message to the therapy world.

  5. “The therapy you received was inherently flawed” – thank you, Chaya, for speaking that out loud! Thank you for urging us to “support your clients in feeling seen and heard on every level and help them become successful as communicators, WITH their stuttering.” YES!!!
    Ana Paula

    • Ana Paula,

      Thank you for your enthusiastic reply. Sending extra appreciation your way for your dedication and support to further the understanding of stuttering and stuttering therapy.

  6. Chaya, many thanks for a great video and message! Having also had failed speech therapy in the past, I can identify with your views. Would you agree that student speech therapists need much better grounding in psychology? My impression is that the area of speech pathology is fundamentally physiological rather than psychological. In physiology, the focus is on scientific exactness and provability, whereas in psychology, wider concepts such as the inexact and unprovable nature of e.g. the unconscious mind, anxiety and stress are also taken into account. Would you say that, where stuttering is concerned, this physiological point of departure is a basic flaw? Would a holistic, “mind-body” approach to stuttering perhaps be more useful?

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your reflection, and for your sharing.

      Therapist benefit tremendously from having a deeper understanding of the human psyche, and thankfully there a greater move toward what you call the ‘mind-body’ approach. Some colleges have counseling as part of the curriculum, and many practitioners themselves do additional learning in counseling. Joseph Sheehan’s ‘Stuttering Iceberg’ brings to light the ABC’s of stuttering therapy, the A=affective, B=behavioral, and C=cognitive components. This ensure the whole person is looked at, and from there good therapy begins. There are still well-meaning therapists who only look at the the physiological part of stuttering, and that is where there is room for growth.

  7. Hello Chaya,
    Thank you for sharing your story here. I am currently taking a fluency class and studying to become an SLP. I am eager to learn more stories like yours, and find ways to better support individuals that I will work with someday.

    I have a question for you:
    What are your thoughts on Voluntary Stuttering?
    From my understanding, this method is used as a tool of desensitization, and is thought to help an individual build confidence, be their authentic self, and not hide their stutter out of fear. After hearing your story this seems like of key importance so I am curious if you have any input.
    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.
    Thank you in advance,
    Jessie Redmon

    • Hi Jessie,

      Thank you for your reflection and your question.

      Voluntary stuttering has the potential to put choice and power back into stuttering. It has the benefits of desensitization, experiencing stuttering without tension, and even experiencing stuttering in a fun, playful manner.

      Note: it important that voluntary stuttering does not become a new trick to take the place of old tricks used to avoid stuttering. The purpose of voluntary stuttering is to SHOW STUTTERING with dignity, choice, and even pride. If it starts to be used as a way to reduce stuttering, or stop stuttering, it’s being used in the wrong way.

      • Thank you for your insight Chaya! I can see how it is important to consider the intentions behind the use of Voluntary Stuttering. I appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective with me.


  8. Hi Chaya,
    A truly wonderful and inspiring video, thank you for sharing your journey for all to learn from. A couple of questions for you,
    1. What therapy or what allowed you to get to the level of self expression that you have today? By listening to you, being a person who has experienced many years of stuttering, I would not know you experience or currently stutter

    2. Today, do you still find yourself actively managing stuttering using various speech therapy strategies or needing to use a certain amount of mental energy to produce the fluid speech like you displayed on the video?

    Thank you for your time and inspiration.
    Isaac DaRowe

    • HI Isaac,

      Great questions:

      1. A lot of seeking and exploring the world of stuttering therapy, and equally a lot of personal growth outside of stuttering therapy too.

      2.No, in line with the principles of avoidance reduction therapy I do not use technique to ‘manage’ stuttering. It’s actually when I offload the demands of needing to be fluent and let go of the tricks and avoidances that are unhelpful (I.e switching words), that a lot of easy stuttering or more spontaneous fluency emerges. However, it’s so important not to make that the goal, because as you chase fluency, it evades you. My stuttering is highly variable and there are other moments that are stutter-filled, and I embrace them with the same principles outlined above.

  9. Thanks Chaya!

    You gave such a wonderful and important message. I hope that this can serve as a wake up call to all speech language pathologists. The language we use with our clients and procedures we introduce can induce shame and dash hope. We need to stay in check. In a recent teen support group I was facilitating and graduate students were attending, I asked the teens if they had any message that they wanted to give to these up and coming professionals who would be working with kids who stutter and one young woman said: “Remember that these children are scared. I remember being so scared when I started stuttering and no one explained it to me, they just seemed to view it as something horrible that they needed to get rid of and that was a very hard message to receive as a little girl.” Those words were powerful…as were yours here. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Rita,

      Thanks for your message.

      Yes, words are SO powerful, and they can build or destroy. I love the message the teens gave to the graduate students. In that case it was what was not said but FELT that left a mark on her heart and soul. The teens and graduate students are truly lucky to have you as their guide. Thank you Rita for all you do!

  10. Wow! This is so incredibly powerful, and I thank you for sharing your perspective and story. As a graduate student studying speech-language pathology, I have come to notice quite a few PWS become SLPs. Having little experience with fluency, I love to hear stories like yours. I want to be able to advocate for PWS and their mental health. I don’t think many people take mental health into consideration, and instead it’s just shoving the different strategies/techniques in their faces. If you have any resources that may be helpful for someone implementing the therapy, I would be very thankful.

    Thank you again,
    Kaitlyn Clark

  11. Hello Chiya,

    Thank you for the information!

    I plan to become an SLP and I’m currently taking a Fluency course. My question to you is:

    1. Do you think that bringing awareness early on in schools is important?

    I worked at an elementary school with kids that were in kinder and I noticed there was a boy who stuttered. His classmates criticized him and I spoke up and educated the other children to stop any harsh comments or rude behavior towards him. I wish that there was an assembly, class, or meetings in school (maybe there’s already something taking place) that could cover this topic.

    • Hi Ellie,

      Congrats on your decision to become an SLP.

      Absolutely. Bringing awareness early on in schools is important.

      You did great by speaking up and educating the kids in classroom.

      I can hear you want to do more. Some ideas include teaming up with administration, guidance counselor, school SLP’s and teachers to educate them about stuttering. From there you can educate the school on ISAD, or National Stuttering Awareness Week. Another idea: discuss stuttering and bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month. You also can think more broadly and make space for stuttering while facilitating discussion relating to other differences.

      Good luck with all!

  12. Chaya,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was very inspiring to stutters and Speech Language Pathologist. I am currently a SLP graduate student working with students who stutter. I want to learn more about stuttering and all the parts of it so my students and future students can be seen, heard, and successful. My question is what advice would you give right now for SLP’s working with a person who stutters?

    • Kelsey,

      It’s so great you are curious and wanting to learn more. My advice would be to give yourself permission not to know everything there is about stuttering therapy. Stay open, curious, and humble and create space for learning in the process. It’s ok to tell your client, “I am learning more and more about stuttering each day, but I’m truly not the expert. You are. Would you be willing to share with me more about your experience? Stay with their experience. Stay with their sharing. Actively listen. Show up with your full heart and with your empathy. Remember they are your greatest teacher. Witnessing their story is powerful. Finding out what it is that they need at this time is invaluable. Do your best to meet them there.

      I would encourage you to explore all modalities of therapy so you can make a wise clinical decision together your clients. I would encourage you to especially study avoidance reduction therapy, trauma informed therapy, and cognitive behavioral approaches. One step at a time. You’ve got this 🙂

  13. Thanks for sharing, Chaya! Every person who stutters has a unique story, but I believe the messaging we receive as kids is unfortunately all very much the same (this is a problem, we need to fix this problem that you have). The feelings of shame that we develop as children as a result of this messaging gets ingrained deep inside our subconscious minds as we grow older resulting in those dangerous avoidance behaviors – which we all know are very challenging and take a lot of courage to break as we grow older. The more people we can educate (particularly those therapists who have a TON of influence on the children/parents of children who they work with) the more we can reshape the stigma that surrounds stuttering. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lj,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m right there with you.

      The more we educate the right people, “the more we can reshape the stigma that surrounds stuttering.” Yes, yes and yes.

  14. Hi Chaya!

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m so sorry for how everything made you feel. I’m currently a graduate student studying speech-language pathology and I would hate to make my future clients feel like their voice is not being heard or make them feel like a failure. I hope as a future SLP, I can be competent enough to be able to serve PWS in the way they deserve. I think a lot of times, most people see being an SLP just as a job and take things session by session rather than focusing on the client themselves and how to better serve them. As an SLP yourself and a PWS, what tips do you have for a studying SLP to better serve the PWS community?

    Thank you,

    • Miranda,

      Your’e reflecting thoughtfully and thinking clinically about how to best approach stuttering. That’s great!

      To better serve the stuttering community: find your local stuttering community, plug in, and ask. Then you’ll know exactly what their needs are, and how you can help. A good way to start is by joining a local NSA chapter meeting: Start as a humble observer, listen/find out the needs, and offer from there.

      More broadly, in addition to becoming allies with the stuttering communities (, find ways to educate society about stuttering. This can be by educating the staff in your neighborhood school, talking about stuttering to your immediate and extended family and circle of friends, and finding ways to have conversation about it in your community.

      Best of luck!

  15. Hi Chaya,
    Thank you for sharing your inspirational story! As an SLP student, I think it is great that you became an SLP and can help educate others through your story. What would you say is the most important thing when working with stuttering clients as an SLP? And what are the most effective methods for helping clients work on the emotional aspect of stuttering?

    • Courtney,

      Great questions! The most important things are to approach stuttering with a beginners mind, an open heart, a lot of empathy, and presence for listening. Understand your client is your greatest teacher, and you the student. Learn about stuttering by actively listening to your clients. Learn all there is about stuttering therapy by exploring the different kinds of therapies out there. Do the best you can to stay up do date with the research. Use your clinical judgement, conversation with your client to determine the best approach.

      There is no one size fits all for effective methods for working with the emotional aspects of stuttering. I cam point you in the direction of some therapeutic modalities that are used in conjunction with stuttering therapy. They include CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) SFBT (Solution Focused Based Therapy.) I would encourage you to explore ARTS (Avoidance Reduction Therapy for Stuttering) which combines the cognitive, emotional and behavioral components of therapy.

      Great, great question. Keep asking them, and keep learning. Rooting for you!

  16. Hi Chaya,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story! As an upcoming SLP, it is helpful to see real-life stories like yours to better show me and others what can go on in a client’s thoughts and how that impacts the rest of their life. Going along with this, what would you think is the most important knowledge or set of knowledge an SLP should have to better help individuals who stutter?

    Thank you again,

    • Abigail,

      Thank you for your reflection and question.

      Your question is a great one. There’s a lot to say on this. The point of that stands out to me with regards to you question is this:It’s not your job to make people who stutter to be fluent. It is your job to help them become empowered communicators. You can do this by reading books, taking classes, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, and staying up to date with research. Stay, open, curious, become an active ally, and you’re on a great path to supporting people who stutter as an SLP.

  17. Hi Chaya,

    I am currently in grad school and seeing two different clients who stutter. I have learned so much about the underlying emotions that come with stuttering just from getting to know my clients. It is heartbreaking to think that so many people experience a broken feeling from therapy because they feel “flawed”. I love your emphasis on the importance of supporting those who stutter, rather than trying to “fix” them. Thank you for spreading awareness on a tough subject PWS face!


    • Jenae,

      Thank you for your reflections and comments.

      It’s great to hear that you are learning so much from your clients. It sounds like you are listening with presence. That is so valuable. Keep showing up with that presence and dedication. I can feel it!

  18. I appreciate your honesty in this. Soon, I will be an SLP, and your willingness to share so openly what other clients may not yet be able to express is invaluable. It sounds like the unaddressed aspects – the more hidden aspects – of stuttering were more impactful on you, but were never addressed in therapy. It just really highlights how important it is that I address those needs in therapy. I have a client in my clinical placement that stutters right now. And what you said about not having the space to express the anger and sadness you were feeling in therapy really stood out to me. I want to make sure there is ‘space’ for my clients to share, and I want to make it so they feel comfortable doing so. Thank you again for sharing, your words were powerful!

    • Katie,

      Thank you for your reflection.

      I’m glad to hear what I shared resonated for you with your client in real time. It’s truly a gift that you desire to make space for your clients. Keep up the great work.

  19. Hello Chaya,
    Thank you for sharing your story. This is such a great message to both PWS and SLPs! I found this very informative as someone who is studying to become an SLP. How would your life be different today, if you had a better experience with speech therapy growing up?

  20. Hi Chaya,

    I appreciate your bravery and honesty in this video. Your message was very informative and created a great insight for a future SLP. When you spoke about hiding in middle school, and then following high school going back to speech, was that something you wanted to do for yourself? I struggle so often with my older kiddos not wanting to come to speech so their performance is heavily impacted.

  21. What a powerful 5 and a half minutes of video. You must have remarkable persistence to be able to continue to try therapy and then become a speech-language pathologist yourself after being left with such negative feelings following your previous therapy experiences. To echo what some others have said already, I am an aspiring SLP who wants to do right by my clients, especially those who stutter. Your story served as a perfect reminder of why we need to look at all the ways stuttering may be affecting someone’s communication, including avoidance and especially the emotional impact. And to educate clients and their families that it’s ok to stutter! I’m proud to say that the fluency class taught at my program (Idaho State University) has a heavy emphasis on treating the invisible aspects of stuttering and empowering everyone to communicate whenever they want, not just getting someone to speak a certain way.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  22. Hi Chaya! Thank you for sharing your story. Your message is very powerful! I can imagine what you went through. I am impressed with your perseverance and that you are a speech language pathologist. I am currently an undergraduate student studying to be a speech language pathologist. What tips do you have for SLPS to help people with stuttering?

  23. Hello Chaya! I really enjoyed your story and the depth in which you used your explanations. I have a few questions for you as well.
    -Although therapy was difficult for you, Is there anything from it that ended up helping you in the long run?
    -What is something that helped you to improve your stuttering that you had learned on your own?
    -How has your mindset helped you in stuttering?

    Thank you so much!

  24. Hi Chaya,
    Thank you for being open about your experiences with speech therapy. What do you think is necessary and important for an SLP to do during therapy to help PWS feel supported throughout the process?

  25. Chaya,
    What a powerful video about yourself and your experiences. I am currently a second year speech pathology graduate student, as well an SLP Assistant in the school setting. I feel like with my oldest child that I work with, he too hides. He loves to talk in speech, but his teachers always speak about how quiet he is. I always want to be more for my children that I work with and better myself to be able to provide the help that they need. I know we learn ways to help children who stutter in school, but I wanted to ask you what are ways that we can expand the tools that we know to use and target what is underneath the surface? The emotional piece with stuttering is such a huge part, and I want to make sure that I am not missing anything with my kiddos, so how do I begin to open therapy up to make it a safe place for them and to target what is underneath?

  26. Hello Chaya!
    Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is so unfortunate that many people who stutter have gone through their whole childhood with such negative views on their stuttering with little to no support. When beginning therapy with someone who stutters, how would you inspire them to have a more positive outlook on their stuttering and their therapy?

  27. Thank you so much for sharing, Chaya. Your words are valuable and powerful. I have recently been learning about how detrimental it can be when therapists focus on fluency rather than self-acceptance and confidence in communication. It seems to me that this focus on strategies and fluency above all else will fairly consistently result in PWS and CWS feeling like failures – just like you described. We need to address the underside of the iceberg in order to, as you said “support clients in feeling seen and heard.” Again, thank you for sharing your video. I hope to establish positive relationships with my future clients who stutter by serving as their ally and helping them see that they are not a failure – rather, the people who made them feel that way failed them.

  28. Hi Chaya,

    This was a great video for a soon to be SLP. This made me realize how imperative it is to take the time with clients who stutter to understand not only the stutter, but everything underneath. One question for you: During your years of therapy, did any of the methods help in making you feel more control over your stuttering? Was this success masked due to the lack of support you were receiving in secondary behaviors?

  29. Hi Chaya,

    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences, your story is truly inspiring. I really enjoyed when you talked about how stuttering is more than just the moment it happens. It includes much more like what the person is feeling, how they are thinking, and the community that is needed for support.

    What are some ways a SLP can make sure that the client feels comfortable during therapy? What do you think are the best ways to educate people on stuttering? How can communities better support those who stutter?

    Thank you!


  30. Hi Chaya,

    Your story is very moving and as someone who is just starting their journey into becoming an SLP I find it very important to be educated on how stuttering affects people and having empathy and kindness can make such a big difference.

    And with that I wanted to ask how can you help someone who stutters more comfortable in therapy especially if they have had bad experiences in therapy before? My goal with being an SLP is to make a safe space for someone to come and feel comfortable with their speech and know that they are never the problem.

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