If you’re a person who stutters, or stammers (PWS) and are looking for ways to help yourself to overcome challenges around speaking, you may have come across Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as a form of therapy. There are a number of great articles and resources about NLP and stuttering on the Internet. In this article, I’ve selected ten articles about NLP and stuttering you should read if you’re serious about using NLP to help you with your stutter, or stammer.
Written by Alan Badmington, this article gives an initial account of Alan’s experiences with stuttering, or stammering. He then writes about his use of tools that helped him to create control over his speech, however, Alan also explains his realisation that his inner world in the form of what he believed about himself remained fragile. Hence, he began to look at ways to change his internal chatter and concept of self-image. Alan gives an excellent overview of how limiting beliefs are created and how they can continue to torture us for years, unless we recognise them for what they are, and explains how they can be challenged. He also writes about how visualisation helped him alter his self-image and take control of what movies he created in his mind.
Dr L. Michael Hall and Dr Bobby G. Bodenhamer in their article, look at stuttering and how states contribute to the actual behaviour of stuttering, where a state of stress kicks things off. This state of stress is then meta-stated with what people who stutter say to themselves, which negates their stuttering (e.g. “I must not stutter”) and creates anticipatory anxiety that precedes the stutter. Dr Hall and Dr Bodenhamer explain the opposite to stuttering, which they define as speaking in a relaxed manner – states associated with this relaxed speaking could be feeling calm without self-consciousness. The article also includes an interesting case study where Dr Bodenhamer talks a person who stutters through the Drop Down Through Pattern, a powerful NLP technique for stuttering; the result of which is the person who stutters speaking fluently and calmly afterwards.
This article is written by Nigel Wilson who shares his views on stuttering, or stammering and his experiences of applying NLP and Neuro-Semantics (a field, which is an extension of NLP and formalised by Dr L. Michael Hall and Dr Bobby G. Bodenhamer) to his own stutter. Nigel shares some interesting questions around why people who stutter can speak fluently in certain contexts (e.g. talking to oneself or to a pet), yet stutter in other situations. He continues to discuss how as people who stutter, we need to address the learned responses (in the form of unhelpful thoughts, meanings and beliefs), in order to create a sustained relief from stuttering.
This piece is actually an inspirational keynote speech John C. Harrison delivered in 2002 at the Annual Meeting of the British Stammering Association. In it, John talks about his perspective of stuttering as a system and introduces his famous Stuttering Hexagon model, which consists of components including the following working in an interactive way: emotions, behaviours, perceptions, beliefs, intentions and physiological responses. He also talks about many other things such as when he started stuttering and how his stuttering impacted him as a child. He explains how factors such as being highly sensitive, being a perfectionist and wanting to please others and conforming to other’s expectations, contributed to his own stuttering.
What really stood out for me is what John comments about in relation to his own recovery, and what he identified was that stuttering is a problem with the experience of speaking with others. It isn’t a problem with the way speech is produced. Another key takeaway for me is when John talks about the importance of learning to observe, so that a person who stutters can watch oneself and ask questions about why he/she is stuttering in any particular situation and what could be the underlying beliefs, which contributes to what John calls as ‘blocking’. John also shares some wonderful tips for people who stutter, which among others include starting to read and becoming knowledgeable about being a human, journaling, and interacting with other people over the Internet and learning from their experiences.
Underlying the NLP model is what is known as patterns. Each pattern is made of a set of steps, which enable people to do various things like overcome phobias, destroy excuses that hold a person back, remove negative memories and create empowering states to help deal with stuttering. The Swish Pattern is one of the most famous NLP patterns and it is my favourite. In The Swish Pattern article, Tim Mackesey, Speech Language Pathologist has written a step-by-step adaptation of the Swish Pattern, which makes use of your left and right hand. Go read the steps and start using the Swish today!
In this article I explain two ways in which NLP techniques for stuttering can help you – one through observing negative thoughts, and their structures and two, how these thoughts can be changed into more resourceful ones. In the article, I give an example of how you can change how you feel about a thought about stuttering and how you can replace a stuttering thought with an empowering thought or state (meta-stating as defined by Dr L. Michael Hall and Dr Bobby G. Bodenhamer).
Ruth Mead in this article shares some inspirational ideas of how to look at speech and stuttering. One of Ruth’s key premises around stuttering is the working of two systems in our brains – one is the unconscious brain, which is responsible for spontaneity and effortless actions such as speaking. The other is the part of the brain, which wants to control consciously everything around it. Ruth discovered her belief that she had to control the way she spoke triggered the conscious brain to do what it isn’t intended to do; namely produce speech. She found that by trying to control speech, the spontaneous, involuntary speech was gone. Ruth also describes a wonderful metaphor about a mockingbird, which helped her to relinquish the need to control her speech and contributed to her recovering from stuttering. You can learn more about Ruth’s recovery from stuttering in her book entitled Speech is a River.
This article written by Hazel Percy is a fantastic read. Hazel shares her life story and writes about how stuttering held her back in life; such as through limiting the jobs she went for and remaining quiet during social situations. She also talks about the positive experience she had from joining the McGuire programme, which enabled her for the first time to experience what it was like without stuttering, and allowed her to proceed to greater achievements such as public speaking. However, after the course, Hazel still had unanswered questions about using the technique she had learnt in certain situations. Her quest for solutions led her to finding John Harrison’s book How to Conquer Your Fears of Speaking Before People and learning about his Stuttering Hexagon model, which she could resonate with. This then led Hazel to finding about Neuro-Semantics, learning about the field, seeking therapy in this area, uncovering unconscious beliefs and finding out ways to change what she believed about herself and others. Subsequently, Hazel also attended another McGuire course, which gave her the encouragement to deliberately stutter in front of others; doing so gave Hazel a great sense of empowerment!
Although this article isn’t totally about NLP, it does explain how I got into NLP in my own journey in addressing stuttering, or stammering. I’m including the article in this list, as some of you may not know about my background and might be curious in finding out more. I have to admit, NLP, along with meditation have been central in helping me overcome the fear and anxiety of stuttering.
In this particular article, Tim Mackesey explains how internal states such as being anxious about the anticipation of stuttering can create external behaviours such as the physical behaviour of stuttering, and behaviours associated with the stuttering such as avoidance of eye contact, or blinking. Tim explains that in treatment, by only addressing external behaviours, SLPs helping an adolescent or adult who stutters will notice a plateau in the treatment given, which will then result in relapse. He emphasises the importance of ensuring SLPs help a person who stutters or stammers to tackle any major internal state issues (such as avoidance, or anxiety) as well as the physical aspects of speaking. Tim’s article makes a number of references to children who stutter, and his article offers useful guidance for parents who are seeking to understand their children’s stuttering better, and want to learn how they can help their youngsters.