Weekend Wrap-ups

Bringing together all of our thoughts into how we view ourselves as therapists, our contributions to the professional mental health and speech language world.  In this segment we will be introducing:

  1. Road to becoming a therapist
  2. How we became therapists, members of the stuttering community, and the connections

Road to becoming a therapist

In third grade I read a biography on Jane Adams who was a pioneer American settlement social worker. I knew at that age that this focus on the world was important to me and an essential part of the direction I wanted to take in my life. So when I started doing community organizing, it felt right. When I realized that I wanted to become a Clinical Social Worker and develop into a therapist, it felt right again.

I started as weekly volunteer working with adults with terminal illness. By my late teen years I started community organizing for other causes from clean air, food access, economic parity, and peace activism. My undergraduate degree was in Community Organizing with a specialty in aging populations. During those years I focused on food parity and worked on local gleaning projects in area farms, and working with the Gray Panthers. After graduating I focused on organizing within communities dealing with the AIDS crisis. I worked in the food business and volunteered on Fridays delivering food to homebound people living with AIDS.

Eventually I moved to New York City where my career continued and developed over several industries from the food industry, small business development, community organizing, to the technology business. So when did I become a therapist?

Over a decade ago I began working with a career psychotherapist. Over  time I realized that I wanted to merge all of my vocational and avocational work together.  So, I went back to school and completed my graduate degree and became a clinical social worker.

Road to finding the stuttering community

I discovered the stuttering support world in my late 20’s. It was by chance via an article in the Washington Post I was stunned to find regarding the National Stuttering Project. From there I went to my first National Stuttering Project workshop at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. There Annie Glen, wife of astronaut John Glen, spoke of her life experiences as a stutterer. I met other stutterers for the first time. I joined the DC local chapter of the NSP that was run by Mara Schlimm.

I spent two years in the chapter, meeting fellow stutters and learning about “voluntary stuttering” and “stuttering with grace.” Alongside this experience I worked with a psychotherapist for two years. In this work I uncovered the negative impact that stuttering had over my life and worked to turn it around.  Mara and the chapter guided and supported me through some rough and amazing experiences of self and community exploration.

Alas, I moved to Manhattan where there was no local NSP chapter. So, I pulled in my community organizing skills and called up the NSP. I talked to John Albach, who guided me on how to start a chapter. Armed with Michael Sugarman’s Peer Support book, I started the work on getting a chapter going. There at my first meeting I met fellow stutterer Jeff Shames. Together with Joseph Tegtmier we formed the Manhattan Stuttering Group.

Eventually I attended my first convention of the National Stuttering Project. There I met Michael Sugarman, John Albach, Barry Yeoman, and Nora O’Connor. From that meeting Barry Yeoman and I launched Passing Twice (www.passingtwice.com).

 

Question: What is your story with being a stutterer and joining the Speech Language and/or Mental Health Professional community?

 

Elizabeth Kapstein

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Comments

Weekend Wrap-ups — 4 Comments

  1. Due to my stutter. I grew up listening more than talking. When I went to college I found a career that would encourage me to enhance my listening skills. And I learned to focus on what my client was saying rather than me concerning myself with my speech. And was able to verbally communicate with or without my stutter to address his or her concerns.

    • Michael,

      What a great connection to listening well. I had a similar but a bit different experience. As the youngest of five I wanted to get my words in – so interrupt, interrupt, interrupt and then I was heard. Good skill for 1 of 5 kids, definitely not one I use as a therapist.

  2. Hmm great question! There are so many twists and turns to my journey. As I leaned into the mental health community, attending the MSW program at Hunter, I realized that I had to personally grow before I could be of service to anyone else. The question was – how could I do this? Hunter required us to be “in therapy” to learn about therapy. So there I went, seeking a therapist to help me “absorb” and “digest” my role as an intern learning about folks and their problems and communities in need. What came to fruition was my need to talk about my stuttering. This came about because during this time, I blocked severely and it was pretty obvious that stuttering had to be addressed. Ultimately my therapist shared with me that “the reason I stuttered was because in some way, out in the world, I didn’t feel safe.” I tried to connect this statement through the years – what was it in my past? Was there a developmental stage I failed?? Did I have PTSD from stuttering?? I am still figuring out – in the company of devoted friends who are therapists.
    Mendez

    • Elizabeth,

      Beautiful tale of your story. I really appreciate the self care and journey through therapy.

      Elizabeth K