SLPs and support groups

Hello All

I am currently a graduate student studying speech pathology and would want to learn more about stuttering and the services available to them such as support groups. I am especially interested in the idea of support groups for individuals who stutter and how they may help those individuals. I want to know if there are any benefits to SLPs participating in support groups for people who stutter. In other words should SLPs participate in support groups for people who stutter to gain knowledge and experience with stuttering support groups?



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SLPs and support groups — 3 Comments

  1. Hello! I am so pleased to know that you are interested in support groups for people who stutter. If you haven’t read another question regarding encouraging support group participation, you may want to check out the responses to that question. Your question as to whether or not it is beneficial for SLPs to participate in support groups, I would respond that, yes, it is very helpful for SLPs to learn about stuttering from the perspective of those who stutter. Support groups will differ a bit in structure from group to group. Some are facilitated by SLPs and some are facilitated by those who stutter. The goal of a support group is definitely to provide support to people who live with stuttering, so it is important for anyone interested in attending a support group to contact the group facilitator/leader to ask whether or not SLPs are welcome to attend, and if so, to ask about the ground rules, so that you will know what is expected in terms of participation for all participants, and in particular, for SLPs who may be welcomed to the group.

    I hope that you will be able to attend a support group at some time either now or in the future, as it will increase your knowledge about stuttering.

    Best regards,

    Lynne Shields

  2. Ana,
    In my experience, I have found that my clients who participate in support groups have an easier time to come to terms with stuttering. To wit, they can more readily acknowledge that they stutter and that they can improve their unhealthy emotions and struggling, forced way of speaking. These groups provide additional tools for recovery from stuttering besides undergoing therapy.

  3. Hi. Many thanks for your question.

    Michael P Boyle published some interesting research in 2013 on the benefits of support groups for people who stutter, with the findings suggesting that people who stutter with support group experience demonstrated lower levels of internalized stigma associated with stuttering than those without support group experience. The benefits seemed even greater for those people who stutter who joined support groups in order to help others, with higher levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction reported within this group.

    In my personal and clinical experience, support groups are of great benefit for many people who stutter – the sensation of being with people who “get it”, the sense of group-identity, the opportunities for seeing stuttering as just one small aspect of an individual and then applying that knowledge to oneself, the list goes on and on. Nevertheless, individuals differ and support groups differ, and there will always be people for whom support groups are neither enjoyable nor useful. I feel like it’s been said many times before in this online conference, but it bears repeating – there really is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to stuttering.

    Regarding the participation of SLPs in support groups, I agree that it is a valuable experience for SLPs. There were two interesting presentations on this topic at the One World, Many Voices: Science and Community international congress, held in Japan earlier this year. The work of Jaqueline Carmona and Joana Caldas surveyed opinions of PWS and SLPs regarding collaboration between the Portuguese Stuttering Association and SLPs. The respondents in their survey indicated that they valued “moments of shared experience” between PWS and SLPs. Responses further indicated that PWS and SLPs felt that working together to raise public awareness was easier and more meaningful once relationships between PWS and SLPs had been developed.
    Mitchell Trichon and Erik Raj and their colleagues completed a project exploring very specifically the interaction of SLPs with support groups. They acknowledge that more and more SLPs and students are attending self-help activities with the aim of better understanding stuttering and offering relevant treatment options for people who stutter. The consensus reached through this project included the following recommendations for such interactions:

    • Establishing guidelines: Guidelines are a useful tool for self-help activities and can include explanation of expectations and boundaries for PWS and SLPs. Guidelines can be developed and amended over time.

    • Limiting attendance of SLPs: Where SLPs or students are welcomed to support groups, their numbers should ideally be limited (NB The working group suggest several ways in which this recommendation can be implemented while still providing SLPs and students with opportunities to attend some self-help activities).

    • Training and support for activity leaders: Training for activity leaders to equip them with the skills to facilitate group activities, create a supportive environment for PWS and maintain appropriate boundaries with SLPs.

    • Emphasis on support: The importance of “support” as opposed to “therapy”. The point of the support group is that individuals with an experience in common are coming together to support one another.

    • When to talk and when to listen: SLPs attending a support group are there primarily to listen, rather than talk, to learn from the group rather than give to the group.

    In summary, I believe that support groups can bring huge benefits for many people who stutter. I believe there are also benefits for SLPs in attending support groups, so that they can learn more about stuttering and the lived experience of stuttering for different people. However, the idea of PWS supporting PWS is the central pillar of support groups, and SLP attendance at such groups should be secondary to this aim. Where SLPs do attend groups, they can seek clarification from the group leader regarding expectations, guidelines and boundaries. In general, an SLP should avoid offering unsolicited advice in a support group setting.

    Having sounded these cautions, the work of Carmona & Caldas suggests that, where relationships between support groups and SLPs have developed over time, they can lead to positive, collaborative working.

    Best wishes,