What is Stuttering?
Stuttering, also known as stammering is a speech disorder affecting the normal flow and time of speech. A person dealing with stuttering experiences involuntary repetitions, prolongations or abnormal stoppages (no sound) while talking. Primarily, stuttering is a physical phenomenon, but, with the course of time, it can have serious psychological effects. Inappropriate responses from the people around can make a person fearful to talk and gradually, he/she would develop a fragile personality- low in self-confidence and self-esteem.
In general, stuttering starts at a very young age- 10 or even less. Some kids recover from this speech impediment with time and become almost fluent by the time they become adults. For others, it can be a reverse scenario and they become more conscious about their speech as the time passes. Stuttering is more common among males than females- male to female ratio among stutterers is 4:1.
What causes stuttering
The medical science is yet to pin-point the exact cause behind this speech impediment. The various possible causes are:
- Faulty genes- Around 60% of the stuttering people have a family history or have first degree relatives who stutter.
- Congenital factors- Kids with speech or language problems or other intellectual disabilities are more likely to develop stuttering than others.
- Neurophysiology- There is a general consensus among the researchers that stuttering is a neurological condition that interferes with the manner a person speaks.
- Family dynamics- Too strict parents, high expectations and a constant pressure to excel can make a child fumble while talking which may develop into a habitual stuttering.
Treatment of Stammering
There is no cure for stuttering as such, but, it can be managed quite well so as to make a stuttering person a better communicator who can adequately express his/her views in any condition. There are numerous therapy options to choose from which do help when used properly- speech therapy, hypnotherapy, emotional freedom techniques, mindful meditation, counselling, yoga and many more.
As it is clear from the stuttering iceberg- the speech struggle and secondary behaviors (eyes blinking, leaning forward, pressing lips, moving hands or legs, head movement) that are visible on the surface are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is the negative emotions associated with it. The majority of teenage and adult stutterers find it quite difficult to initiate a conversation during the fearful environments because of the fear of stuttering rather than the actual stuttering itself.
Stuttering is, what you do, not to stutter- Dr Joseph Sheehan, a recovered stutterer and a renowned speech therapist
That’s why it is very important to address the psychological aspect of stuttering rather than just working on the physical speech pattern.
Hypnosis for stammering
Hypnotherapy is not a cure for stuttering, but, it can help the stutterer to change his/her attitude towards stuttering so that it doesn’t affect the life in a negative sense any more.
The American Psychological Association has recognized hypnosis as a tool to treat stuttering. It helps a stutterer to get in terms with stuttering so that he/she can speak with less struggle and tension.
What a hypnotherapist would do:
- A good hypnotherapies would make efforts so that his/her clients can un-learn the faulty thought process and negative behavior pattern and replace them with a positive and sporty attitude towards stuttering. Replacing shame, guilt and self condemnation with self-acceptance and self-love would dramatically reduce the intensity of stuttering.
Stuttering is completely normal. It doesn’t stop a person from engaging in any speech conversation. It is the fear of stuttering that holds back. When a person understands that speaking fluently is not a victory and speaking with stuttering is not a defeat- he/ she doesn’t remain a stutterer anymore- Dr Joseph Sheehan
- A good hypnotherapist would try to identify the triggers that make stuttering worse. The stuttering triggers vary from individual to individual. For example, one person may find it extremely hard to speak normal in front of the parents while the other person considers talking over phone extremely difficult. After identifying the triggers, the next step would be to teach them how to hold the nerves and perform better in those speaking situations. Within a few sessions, the stutterer would feel comfortable and confident enough to speak in a relaxed manner with enhanced fluency in front of the hypnotherapist. The next task would be to carry on this confidence and comfort level while facing the outer world.
Various techniques used during Hypnotherapy for Stuttering
There are several techniques used by the hypnotherapist to reduce the intensity of stammering. Some of the useful ones are underpinned below:
- Visualization: In positive visualization, the power of imagination is used to help a person get rid of all the negative emotions linked to stuttering. During this technique, the individual is trained to create mental images of himself/herself as a relaxed and calm speaker who speaks fluently with confidence in every situation, particularly the feared situations. When a person does this regularly- gradually the subconscious starts to accept these imaginations as reality and it would reflect in the real life situations as well.
- Regression: It is done by taking the individual into a half sub-conscious state. The individual is taken to the stage where he/she started to stammer (mostly childhood). Sense the situation where they were bullied, ignored, and stopped from saying something. Teach them that now the conditions are different. Now, they have more power to express themselves to the outer world. At present, no one is there to bully them and they are self-rulers. Make them understand- it is not required anymore to use stuttering as a defense mechanism as the conditions have taken a 360 degree turnaround making them powerful and free individuals. This technique would help the individual overcome the victim mindset.
- Analysis of Hypnotic Triggers: The hypnotherapist may ask a set of questions repeatedly in different manners to draw the desired information. For instance, if there is a scenario where the client never stutters, then the use of hypnotic triggers can be quite useful here. The hypnotherapist would get the individual stutter in the situation in which they don’t stutter by using hypnotic triggers. The purpose is to create triggers for stuttering as well as not stuttering and then combine the two. At that time, fire off the ability to not stutter and stutter at the same time so that one consumes the other. Build a non-stuttering part in all the imaginative situations to increase the flow of speech.
- Use of Mind Bending Language: It aims at making the brain realize to stop stuttering. The goal is to wash off the mind’s excuses for having stuttering. This is achieved by making the person engaged and confused so as to find out the actual cause of stuttering. Mind bending language uses a series of questions to deal with the problem. For example, questioning about the problem in three different ways and in different tenses. Is this the problem you are having? Was this a problem you were having? So, this is a problem you have had. In these three questions- first refers to the present day problem, second refers to a problem in past and the last question confirms the authenticity of the problem.
Effectiveness of Hypnosis treatment
- A stutterer develops all the negative emotions over a period of time. Hence, it may take more than a few sessions of hypnotherapy to see some significant improvement. Gradually, with the course of time, the individual starts feeling relaxed and calm.
- After a handful of sessions, the individual becomes comfortable with specific words and sound that were once too difficult to articulate.
- Sense of visualization and vocalization become more specific and improved. Left hemisphere of brain directs these functions in a more focussed way.
- Towards the end of sessions, the individual becomes more confident and easily handles different situations. Life becomes more fun and exciting.
Hypnotherapy is quite an effective tool to desensitize a person to the fear of stuttering which would automatically improve the quality of speech. A well qualified hypnotherapist which aims to make the client a better communicator can really bring awesome results so that stuttering doesn’t drive the life of his/her client anymore.
- American Psychological Association (APA). (2014). Hypnosis today – Looking beyond the media portrayal. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/hypnosis/media.aspx
- Moss, G. J., & Oakley, D. A. (1997). Stuttering modification using hypnosis: An experimental single case study. Contemporary Hypnosis, 14(2), 126–131.