When Is an Avoidance an Avoidance, When Is it a Therapy Technique?

Does anyone else define different types of avoidances and treat them differently?

  1. If a word is avoided by using different words, phrases , avoiding a person and/or avoiding a situation REBTS (see my paper for definition) calls them word avoidance..
  2. If an avoidance is done in order to hide the fact that you stutter, REBTS calls it  stuttering avoidance (as contrasted to acknowledge stuttering).
  3. If an avoidance is done to escape the discomfort of slogging through a word or situation, REBTS calls it discomfort avoidance.
  4. If an avoidance is done to escape the possibility of failure and, hence, the disapproval of others REBTS calls it a risk avoidance. This term is mostly applied when a person does not  go after a career that he/she might want to pursue, avoiding a social situation, etc.

As you can tell these categories are not exclusive. For example, one could well have an instance of word avoidance that is also a stuttering avoidance, but one could equally have a word avoidance that is a discomfort avoidance.

The above four avoidances usually result in only making us more afraid of stuttering. Our subconscious and conscious mind argues, if it were not for stuttering I would not avoid. We only avoid things that are really bad. Therefore, stuttering must be awful and/or unbearable.

5. But there is also tension avoidance where the speaker uses some belief, attitude, emotion and/or speech management technique to avoid or at least reduce tension.

6. Then there is struggle avoidance where the speaker uses some belief, attitude, emotion. and/or speech management technique to avoid or at least reduce struggle.

7. Finally there is excessive emotion avoidance where the client uses some prescribed belief, attitude, emotion and/or speech management technique to avoid or at least reduce the emotional levels.

8. There is also the loss of control avoidance that results in pauses, insertion or starter phrases, or keeping a sound or repetition voluntarily going until there is a feeling of control.

Many therapies use 5, 6, 7, and 8 to develop forward moving tension free speech. In REBTS we handle this on a case by case basis. We consider 5,6,7, and 8 legitimate if they are not used to hide stuttering.

REBTS uses various techniques from REBT to eliminate word, stuttering, discomfort and risk avoidances. But embraces tension,  struggling, excessive emotion, and loss of control avoidances by calling them stuttering management.


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When Is an Avoidance an Avoidance, When Is it a Therapy Technique? — 4 Comments

  1. Interesting post, Gunnars. I like the descriptions of the various types of word avoidance because I use word avoidance all the time when I can’t spell something or think of a word when I’m typing. So I substitute another word that gets my meaning across. I just did it again “gets my meaning across” rather than checking the correct spelling for “synonym”:-) It is not a “fear” situation. It just “is.”

    I’m not saying that I approve or support word avoidance in stuttering, but I do know one positive outcome for some people who stutter that I know well — they are so good at substituting another word that they have developed enormous vocabularies, and they would beat be in Scrabble any day;-) A Scrabble tournament at an NSA convention would be interesting!

  2. My name is Logan. I used to avoid a stutter by either not speaking or trying to change the subject.It’s like trying to beat a really hard level in a video game.Some words that I stutter on start with S,W,M,N,and R.I hope I can find new techniques to help me to NOT avoid my stuttering and go through it without any mistakes.

  3. This is very nuanced stuff! I find for some people, loss of control avoidance can be dangerous. To me, the act of stopping to pause or inserting a starter phrase until the person feels they have gained control could easily equate with pausing or using a starter until the person feels he will be fluent. Many clients have such a heavy core of internal drives to suppress stuttering, that anything that reinforces how awful it is to not be in control is also reinforcing that it is awful to REALLY stutter. Along similar lines, while one might have a client do some struggle-free voluntary stuttering for desensitization and to experience stuttering without tension, I have seen people start to then see voluntary stuttering as a means of not stuttering! When someone says, “I tried some voluntary stuttering and it didn’t work”,with probing you often find he meant that they stuttered for real in addition to stuttering voluntarily. Of course what is essential is the intention behind the act.
    As for 5, 6, and 7, Since I believe that people who stutter naturally reduce emotional negativity, severity of speech struggle, and levels of tension when they strip away avoidances of words, people, situations, these could be termed under “Avoiding avoidances”

  4. Gunars,

    I am currently completing my masters in speech language pathology and am in a stuttering class. We’ve talked about avoidance in the class. I think it is good to define the different types of avoidance. It develops an understanding of behaviors and emotions. I do have a question about your system: do you find it too narrowly defined? Are patients able to recognize which type of the 8 they are defaulting to?