Stress is an important topic in speech therapy for stuttering. Some children, teens and adults who stutter discover that stressful thoughts, feelings and situations can change the way they stutter. It is within "the scope of practice" of a Speech Language Pathologist to talk about the basics of what stress is and how a family might begin to reduce stress in their lives. These discussions can be guided by a student's interests, for example, many paperback books related to sports will address how players cope with the stress related to performance anxiety.

In the book Hockey Tough: A winning mental game by Saul L. Miller (Human Kinetics, 2003), Mark Messier writes in the Foreword, "To be consistently successful, he (the hockey player) must be able to summon the energy, courage, and will to complete game after game and to maintain focus and composure in the heat of a real physical battle." The title of chapter 4 is Controlling Emotions. This chapter teaches the hockey player a "simple breathing process that is basic to emotional control and right feelings." (p. 49) When I read: "Part of managing feelings has to do with being able to release feelings such as tension and negativity. Fear is the great limiter..." I can't help but think that this sounds like stuttering therapy. For persons who stutter, speaking can require energy, courage and will. And so, some persons who stutter may find that the advice of sports professionals applies to speaking situations. Whether the client's goal is more fluency, less avoidance, increased self-confidence or other communication skill, successful role models in a variety of life arenas, can offer helpful guidance.

It's not rocket science - fear is an integral part of stuttering. "People who stutter can build up intense fears in response to the loss of control that they feel or in response to the penalty that they experience from listeners. Avoidance behaviors may constitute the largest group of behaviors developed in response to fear. People who stutter will do a variety of things to avoid..." (http://www.d.umn.edu/~cspiller/stutteringpage/phenomenology.html).
The stress resulting from fear can be paralizing and lead to avoidance, or, it can be energizing and lead to assertiveness. Publications about stress management can be found on-line and in any bookstore or library. For teens, I recommend Fighting Invisible Tigers: A Stress Management Guide for Teens by Earl Hipp (Free Spirit, 1995). A humorous quick read for adults is the thin book How to Stay Stressed, by Douglas Stewart (InWord Press, 1994).

An SLP can guide a conversation to assist a teen, adult or family list and prioritize new ways to go about managing stress as it relates to stuttering. Improving quality of life, not just increased fluency, is a valid goal of speech therapy. However, other professionals are more qualified to deal with serious emotional, psychologial, or medical issues that may also be creating stress for the person who stutters. It is the client's responsibility to pursue the topic of stress reduction outside of speech therapy. Improvements in diet, exercise, social support systems, medical status, and mental health can all contribute to a lifestyle that supports more effective communication.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.