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Our approach for people who stammer

Most speech therapy in the UK takes place within the NHS, but provision is highly variable. We believe there are advantages to providing speech therapy within an educational environment. Stammering is not an illness and we do not see people who stammer as 'patients' in need of 'treatment'...

Our approach

Our stammering therapy clients enrol as students who engage in a process of learning. We believe that this encourages an active approach to change which is essential to successful stammering therapy. Also, working in education means that we are able to offer group work, and for most people who stammer we see this as a positive choice.

Our beliefs about stammering and therapy

People who stammer often avoid speaking in a number of situations and often change words or swap sentences around in a bid to avoid stammering. As a rule, the more you avoid stammering, the more you fear it. Stuttering behaviours may develop and change over time in an attempt to gain control of speech, but often this can result in increased tension-struggle.

It is important in therapy to address the psychological aspects of stuttering as well as the speech itself. Change is a process and takes time.

Therapy is a partnership, but ultimately people only change by doing something different, not just by thinking or reading about it. Group therapy is often particularly beneficial.

Our philosophy

Unlike some other stuttering therapy programmes, our therapy is not a 'quick fix'. Whilst it is possible to gain fluency relatively quickly, it is usually hard to maintain unless work is done also on the psychological aspects of stammering.

Our approach to therapy is holistic and is designed to address all aspects of stammering - the feelings and attitudes as well as the speech - leading to more lasting change. We believe that trying to 'fight' your stammering is unhelpful and can be damaging in the long run. Working on acceptance and openness leads to greater ease of speech.

We believe it is important that each client becomes their own therapist, so that by the end of a course they have a variety of tools for managing stammering.

Our therapy programme

Our approach at City Lit is what is known as stammering management and is based on the work of two American speech and language therapists who also stammered, Charles Van Riper and Joseph Sheehan. 

By the end of the course our aims are for you to:

  • use strategies to manage your stammering more easily
  • reduce the tension that accompanies stuttering
  • have a clear understanding of stammering and its causes
  • have identified your own particular pattern of stammering
  • have identified and worked on reducing unhelpful thoughts, feelings and avoidance strategies
  • say what you want
  • speak up in situations you may previously have avoided
  • feel more comfortable in yourself and your speech
  • be a more confident and assertive communicator

Interiorised stammering therapy

We also offer courses that we feel are more suitable for people with interiorised or covert stammering. These courses are part of our weekly evening class programme.

As the term suggests, interiorised or covert stammering is hidden inside the speaker and is often unknown to the listener. Numerous and often ingenious avoidance strategies are used to conceal the stammer. There are often strong negative feelings about stammering.

We believe that therapy for people with more covert stammering is most effective when:

  • the therapy approach is about managing your stammering more easily
  • the therapy is offered in a group
  • the group consists of people with interiorised stammering
  • the therapy is weekly rather than intensive

These courses particularly address  the more emotional and psychological aspects of stammering. They aim to help people to reduce negative feelings, learn strategies to modify or manage their stammer and increase confidence in themselves and their communication.

Intensive courses

We have found that working intensively can be a most effective way for people who stammer to achieve change, and we view therapy as a journey with people making changes along the way. These types of changes are likely to be longer lasting.

While people make many significant changes on an intensive course, it is not a 'quick fix', and we believe follow-up therapy and support over time is essential in order to help maintain and develop the changes each individual has made. We offer a variety of follow-up courses to accommodate the different needs of our clients and we refer people who live outside of the London area for follow-up therapy close to where they live.

Evening classes

The evening class programme consists of weekly two hour classes of up to 24. Shorter follow-up classes run for up to 10 weeks.

Group therapy

Our groups vary in size, but are generally between 6-10 students.

We believe that for most people, group therapy is the most effective way to work on stammering because:

  • it provides a realistic setting to work on interpersonal communication
  • it offers valuable support from other people who stamme
  • it leads to feedback and help from a range of people - not just the therapist
  • in a group there is a greater range of skills and ideas to draw on
  • it provides positive role models
  • people grow in confidence through experiencing some challenge in a supportive situation
  • it is possible to develop greater confidence in talking to groups through participating in group therapy
  • it provides exciting opportunities for real talking situations

Participants are from a wide range of backgrounds. There is pair- and small-group work as well as whole-group discussion. Each individual sets their own personal aims at the start of a course, and personal goals are revisited at all stages of the course. Most courses also include some individual time with the therapist to discuss any individual issues.

Whilst many people initially express some concern about being in a group, often at the end of a course our clients tell us that the group experience has been one of the most positive and valuable aspects of their therapy.

'Stuttering is one thing that gets a lot easier if you don't try to hide it' 

- Barry Guitar