City Lit Blog

Expert advice for people with interiorised/covert stammering…

Story added 22nd Nov 2018

Our speech therapy department at City Lit often receive enquiries about a type of stammering called interiorised or covert stammering. This isn’t surprising given (as far as we know) we’re the only specialist centre offering a course uniquely for people with this type of stammering. 

Here are some frequently asked questions answered by Carolyn Cheasman, one of the members of our speech therapy team: 

What is interiorised stammering?

It’s a type of stammering which is classically characterised by someone having high levels of fluency, strong negative feelings about stammering and high levels of avoidance. Whilst the level of observable stammering varies, some people with interiorised stammering hide it so much that few if any people know, so it is often a big secret in people’s lives.

What would be your best advice to someone with interiorised stammering who is starting to think about having therapy?

I would say go and talk to someone and get some specialist advice. If you are starting to think about having some therapy then it is likely that you’ve reached the stage of realising that the disadvantages of your hiding strategies are starting to outweigh the advantages. Just take that first step of talking to a speech and language therapist and take it from there. You can get advice without committing to anything else but if you don’t take that first step change is less likely to happen.

What do people work on if they join one of your courses?

Our courses cover a wide range of topics including stammering therapy, mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy. Broadly speaking you work on really getting to know all aspects of your stammering – not just the physical behaviours but you learn about the thoughts, feelings and avoidance behaviours that with interiorised stammering often form the bigger part of the difficulty. Stammering is often likened to an iceberg with a smaller observable/audible tip.  This is the overt part that other people can see and hear and a much bigger hidden or covert part which includes thoughts, feelings and avoidance. With interiorised stammering it is often just the very tip that shows and the vast majority is internalised. Having got to know your stammering you then work on the thoughts, feelings and avoidances – this is done in a very gradual manner and we call it desensitisation. The aim of desensitisation is reduce difficult thoughts and feelings and increase openness and acceptance. The final part of the course, modification, is where you learn strategies to help you to reduce the physical tension you have when you stammer. 

Why do you think group therapy is valuable for people with interiorised stammering?

I think that group work is helpful to many people who stammer whether it is interiorised in nature or not.  It is extremely therapeutic to meet with and work with others who share many of your experiences. Groups also enable people to practise new skills in front of more than one person and it is easier to replicate situations that you are likely to find outside of therapy. City Lit is the only centre in the world, to our knowledge, that provides groups specifically for people with interiorised stammering and I think this is especially powerful. People with interiorised stammering often don’t identify with people who stammer more obviously and yet at the same time they know that they are not fluent speakers. So, although they might appear fluent for much of the time they don’t identify with this group either. So, to finally meet others who they really do identify with immediately enables them to feel less different and more empowered to take up the challenge of therapy. 


We are running our next interiorised stammering course in January:

Feedback from our students...

Matt – Interiorised stammer course

'The thought of sitting in a room full of people talking about my stammer was terrifying, and I spent a long time coming up with all manner of good reasons why I didn't have to do the course. Thankfully I eventually signed up, and I can honestly say it has changed my life.

It helped me admit to myself I had a stammer, and for the first time in my life I could share my experiences with people who genuinely understood what I had been through. I also learned some useful things about stammering, about the world of speech and language therapy and about how to understand and manage my own emotional and physiological reaction to my stammer.

The course is very challenging, but it is easily one of the most valuable things I have ever done in my life.'


Rebecca – Stammering therapy evening course – freedom to speak

'I have benefitted enormously from the Interiorised Stammering 24-week course. I wasn’t sure in the first session, because of my fear of speaking in groups, but I am so glad I did it. This fear itself began to diminish during the course, as I became more comfortable speaking up in the group, and enjoyed it too.'