A Personal Testimony
June 30, 2007
As a person who stutters (PWS), I entered the field of speech-language pathology in 1993. My main objective was to help kids who stutter so they did not have to face the same obstacles that I had to throughout my childhood and adult life.
As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), my training in helping PWS focused on teaching fluency shaping and modification strategies along with the application desensitization techniques. So, I often wondered as an SLP why did my stuttering persist. I knew all the strategies and techniques inside and out, but the use of desensitization was not changing what I felt inside, and the old debilitating thoughts kept creeping back into my mind. As a PWS, I knew that I was more than my stutter, however why did my fear and anxiety continue to rear its ugly head whenever I had to speak at meetings, use the phone, introduce myself, etc. This problem continued until…
An amazing transformation happened in July, 2006. With the encouragement of Tim Mackesey, a Speech-Language Pathologist (www.stuttering-specialist.com ), I attended a workshop presented by Bob Bodenhamer called Mastering Blocking and Stuttering. This class started what I call my lasting fluency transformation. Bob discussed how we end-up developing our stuttering matrix by the meaning that we give to our stuttering through our mind-body system. He taught us ways to be able to address our old dysfunctional frames of thinking and then change/reframe those thoughts. That’s when the changes start taking place. I am now able to cognitively restructure my thoughts when I feel the fear and anxiety entering my mind-body and apply a state of calm confidence which then “melts away” my fear and anxiety allowing me to fluently say what I want to say. For more information I would recommend Bob’s book: Mastering Blocking and Stuttering, A Cognitive Approach to Achieving Fluency, from Crown Publishing.
My transformation continued throughout the year. I applied these cognitive restructuring strategies in my daily speech and practiced them religiously. As I introduced these concepts with my private practice clients, I started seeing wonderful changes in their speech. They were able to change their thoughts about their stuttering from sheer panic to just getting feedback from their dysfluency. Their toxic thoughts of stuttering had been reframed to self-enhancing thoughts. Cognitive restructuring holds so much promise for people who stutter. But the story doesn’t end here.
Knowing that I had only touched the surface on how to use cognitive restructuring strategies, I took the Meta-NLP Accelerated Training from Bob Bodenhamer and Mike Davis in June, 2007. This workshop helped me gain deeper understanding and insight in making cognitive changes. The training further enhanced my learning and it has given me additional insight in applying them with PWS. As a speech-language pathologist, language is an area of expertise for us. This training helped me gain a much better understanding on how we process language through our sensory based neurological system and develop our thoughts/beliefs which then becomes our individualized map of the world; the meaning that we give to our experiences. Since each person develops their own thoughts and perceptions, these can be changed. This is where the magic begins for a PWS. We no longer need to live by our old ways of thinking which were usually developed as a child and continued into adulthood. During the workshop we learned different patterns to change limiting thoughts and beliefs into ones that are self-enhancing and allow us to gain lasting changes.
In traditional speech therapy for PWS, our approach has been to teach fluency shaping and modification strategies along with addressing emotional issues through desensitization. But for me, this did not get to the core of stuttering; the emotional and cognitive aspects of stuttering. From my own experience, when the fear and anxiety of speaking was so strong, I was unable to use my strategies and desensitizing to stuttering was not enough to make a lasting change. My old frames of previous experiences took over and my stuttering reared its’ ugly head. However, through the use of cognitive restructuring made available through Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Neuro-Semantics (NS), lasting changing can be made for a person who stutters. I am one example of the effectiveness of changing our ways of thinking. I would strongly encourage SLP’s working with PWS to get involved and learn more about the power of cognitive restructuring and the impact it can have on promoting lasting fluency.
For me, this story is not over. I plan to further develop my skills in the cognitive psychology area to assist my clients’ journey for lasting fluency. My life-time learning continues as I plan to work towards a Master Practitioner Certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. To me this process holds the key for promoting fluent speech when you approach it with an open mind and a willingness to allow it to do its magic; great things happen.
(Bold Italics by the Editor)
Brian Heskin, M.A., CCC-SLP
Board Recognized Specialist Fluency Disorders