What are some strategies to help clients who stutter feel more comfortable during therapy sessions?

Hello, I am Gayle Taylor, an undergraduate senior from CSUF majoring in communication sciences and disorders. I was wondering how SLPs help create a more welcoming environment for PWS, especially upon the first few sessions? I am curious about learning more about how to communicate with PWS in the clinical setting without doing or saying the wrong things to them. I am aware that there are some PWS who are initially embarrassed and ashamed of their own stutter and would like to know about some strategies we can use to make them feel more comfortable and accepting with their stutter when working with them during sessions. Thank you!!

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What are some strategies to help clients who stutter feel more comfortable during therapy sessions? — 2 Comments

  1. Of course there is basic conversational etiquette like not completing the sentence, and being a patient listener. What I observe many beginning clinicians say while demonstrating and practicing speech fluency techniques for reducing core behaviours, is using the words “… try to speak smoothly using this technique..”. This is like putting the onus of ” not stuttering” completely on the PWS. Students do this subconsciously when they are in fact trying to empathize with the fact that stuttering is not in the voluntary control of the PWS. So this phrase, in my opinion, is something that beginning therapists must consciously avoid.

  2. Dear Gayle,

    Excellent question and a very important clinical skill. As Dr. Kelkar pointed out already, important to maintain basic etiquette and consider how you frame some of the therapy activities. There are a couple excellent blog posts on these “microagressions”. One by the American Institute for Stuttering: https://www.stutteringtreatment.org/blog/microaggressions-and-stuttering
    The other by Stuttering Therapy Resources: https://stutteringtherapyresources.com/blogs/blog/the-stigma-of-stuttering-microaggressions-in-society

    I highly encourage reading those.

    My bottom line: always get to know the person, build rapport, build trust in the initial therapy sessions. Make your therapy room a safe space. We all make mistakes and say things we might regret later – open up. If you catch yourself using a “microaggression” talk to your client about it. If you interrupt your client mid-sentence, use that as a teaching/learning moment to demonstrate to your client that you are receptive to feedback from them and changing your style. For me, the most important strategy has been to make myself vulnerable and ensuring my clients feel comfortable sharing how they feel with me.

    I hope this helps.


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