Can Your Stuttering Be Helped with Hypnosis?
For the person who stutters, the thought of having to speak in a meeting, in a classroom, or in a social situation can be paralyzing and produce incredible anxiety. People who stutter and stammer tend to have greater difficulty as they get older and continue to negatively reinforce the negative loop of stutter, stammer, anxiety, embarrassment, and frustration that ultimately leads to a lowered self-esteem and in some cases, social isolation.
Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the normal flow of speech is disrupted by frequent repetitions or prolongations of speech sounds, syllables or words or by an individual’s inability to start a word. The speech disruptions may be accompanied by rapid eye blinks, tremors of the lips and/or jaw or other struggle behaviors of the face or upper body that a person who stutters may use in an attempt to speak.(htt5)
In a 2009 Australian study by Iverach, et al., concluded “stuttering appears to be associated with a dramatically heightened risk of a range of anxiety disorders.” (Lisa Iverach, 2009). This finding is significant for a number of reasons including understanding of the looping of behaviors that compound one another. I believe it is of particular interest to hypnotherapists because of the number of clinicians that use hypnotic interventions as a modality of reducing stress disorders of clients. When applied to the stutter, it is reasonable to conclude that there will be an improvement in the quality of life in this client population.
The number of credible studies that seek to answer the question “Can Your Stuttering Be Helped with Hypnosis?” has been very small when one considers the acceptance of hypnosis by the professional medical and psychological communities. One particular study (Kaya & Alladin, 2012) did show results in improving outcomes employed hypnosis as part of the treatment protocol. The unfortunate part is that this study was flawed in design. The researchers used a number of methods in concert with one another to achieve their results. Bodson and Roberts, (Roberts, 2014) in their article presented at the 2014 ISAD Conference fault this research and tend to agree with Kaya & Alladin, that “it is impossible to know which aspect of the treatment contributed most to the progress observed (Kaya & Alladin, 2012).” Bodson & Roberts go onto cite claims made by the Banyan Hypnosis Center, either explicit or implied, as being curative for resolving stuttering. In particular, the specifically fault the script entitled “Eliminating Stuttering.” (Banyan, n.d.)
In order to understand and establish realistic expectations for results, it is important for the hypnotist to fully understand the causes of the stuttering and when hypnosis is likely to be effective. It is critical for the clinical hypnotist to not unreasonably raise expectations nor dash hopes and increase frustrations and reinforce the failure cycle that is typical in many other forms of management or remediation.
Generally, there are two distinct causes that result in stuttering/stammering. The first are those conditions which can be characterized as neuro/physiologically based. These are those resulting from conditions such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or anomalies of the structural sound producing mechanism within the face, neck and throat. The second basis are psycho/social causes that are often the result of [i] bullying, physical and/or psychological abuse by a parent, or another authority figure. The emotional relationship is similar to other post-traumatic stress triggering events.
The focus of this article is on the latter as the memories and memory loops reside in the sub-conscious mind and hypnosis has been shown to be a successful intervention strategy in resolving emotional traumas. Further, hypnosis can be characterized as a having similar benefits as solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) in that it results in rapid change without the need to focus on the problem. SFBT is based on a theoretical foundation that the client tends to be restricted in their view of the problem. Their focus of the negative impact reinforces the negative loop responses that are consistent. The language of problems tends to be different from the language of solutions. (Nichols, 2013) And finally, “Problem talk” can be negative and set in the past; solutions is more hopeful and about the future. (htt3)
Alison Nicholas, MSc., in a presentation to the 10th Oxford Dysfluency Conference (ODC), writes about the principles of SFBT as a treatment philosophy to resolve stuttering in children. She notes the importance of establishing goals through a series of questions which focus on future outcomes as opposed to the current problems. Her insight is one that is familiar to hypnotists. “Clients tend to frame their goals negatively” (Nicholas, 2015). As hypnotists, we confront this situation and work to reframe reference and establish positively framed outcomes. Further, we encounter clients who either through prior therapeutic interventions, or their own thinking, magnify the problem by repeatedly anchoring the negative emotions and behaviors.
The goal of the hypnotic intervention is to engage the client’s own resource states to create, reinforce and anchor the positive changes. Stuttering that is based on psycho/social dynamics requires a restructuring of thought and experience that can be traced to the original sensitizing event(s). Nicholas goes on to write a conclusion that could easily have come from a hypnotherapist: “As solutions to a client’s presenting problem are constructed using the client’s own resources, the SFBT approach builds a client’s confidence and provides then with evidence that they have knowledge, resources, strengths, skills and abilities to make the necessary changes in their life. With this perspective, the child and parent are encouraged to take responsibility for change and develop their internal locus of control which has been found to be an important factor in maintaining progress following stuttering therapy for adults who stutter (Craig, Franklin, & Andrews, 1984; De Nil & Kroll 1995).” (emphasis added)
The 2014 ODC also offered another important paper that directly addresses the topic of using hypnosis as a modality for dealing with stuttering. Although presented in abstract form, Zloof and Ezrati-Vinacour’s article Hypnosis as a Technique for the Treatment of Stuttering (Zloof, 2015) examined the impact of hypnosis through a combination implicit and explicit measures to determine whether a hypnotic intervention reduced symptom of stuttering.
The researchers employed an eight-session intervention that focused on ego strengthening, addressing past traumas, and empowering the client by improving their sense of control. Clients’ stuttering was measured at the beginning and end of each session.
The results of this study showed that the severity of the stutter/stammer, when compared to the beginning of the session were reduced. Additionally, the study also showed that some of the improvements were short-lived, while others lasted until the next hypnosis session. The study also indicated that there was an improvement in the client’s feelings about their condition. A broader discussion of these findings can be found in the International Society of Hypnosis’ Newsletter. (htt4)
The challenge for clinical hypnotists in addressing this, as well as other conditions, is in managing client expectations and ensuring that we not promise or imply results that are not supported by research and experience. A review of current research faults the methodology used to support claims of either reduction in symptoms or complete cures.
There are other challenges to the research that needs to be addressed. First, most studies on the subject tend to utilize small sample populations and fail to describe in detail the process employed. The number of adult stutters as a percentage of the population is estimated during the hypnosis session(s). Absent of replication in larger trials, claims of success are likely to be dismissed by the general speech therapy community.
This is not to say there is no benefit from hypnotic intervention. Since research has shown there to be a strong relationship between anxiety disorders, as defined by DSM IV, and stuttering, it would be wise to focus our attention on resolving the anxiety issues through hypnotic intervention. Changing the focus away from the dysfluency stops reinforcing the “problem” and begins to empower the taking back of control.
As with all forms of hypnotic intervention, the clinician should ensure they are functioning within the scope of their professional training. It is helpful for hypnotists working with dysfluency to have an understanding of the mechanics of speech production and know the appropriate questions to ask. Determining if the if the basis is generally neuro/physiological or psycho/social will directly impact the potential for success. Hypnotist should consider working on dysfluency issues collaboratively with Speech Therapists for the greatest benefit of the client.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool to resolve a host of client centered issues that tend to be resistant to other therapies. The greater acceptance of hypnosis as a mechanism to address the challenges of the stutter will require well designed studies with controls and the cessation of unsubstantiated, grandiose claims by hypnotherapists. As hypnotists, we owe it to those who engage our services to be forthcoming, open and honest about what we can and cannot accomplish. This raises the level of the science and practice and helps us to gain greater acceptance by the medical community, along who’s side we work for the benefit of the client.
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About the Author:
Marc uses his skills and talents in a variety of areas that include self-improvement or clinical hypnosis, motivational speaking, and comedy stage hypnosis. He has worked with individuals and corporations throughout the United States to improve outcomes in personal lives and organizations.
As a clinical hypnotist, he has helped people resolve sleep issues, lose weight, stop smoking, deal with long held fears, deal with stress and anxiety, manage pain, improve sports performance, eliminate addictions, and improve sexual function.
His performance resume includes appearances on live shows for Refinery29 Live and Elite Daily’s TrashED. He has performed at comedy clubs, the Monroe County Fair (MI), the Osceola County Fair (Kissimmee, FL), the Red River Valley Fair (Fargo, ND), and for schools, proms, graduations, conferences, conventions and corporations. He was a featured performer for New Jersey’s premier First Night Celebration – First Night Morris for New Year’s Eve 2018.
Marc’s book, “Staying in the Moment – Helping Students Achieve More Through Mindfulness Meditation” helps educators, parents and students get better results in the classroom through the adoption of mindfulness exercises as part of the curriculum.
For more information about, or to book an appointment with Marc visit his website: www.hypnomarc.com or email email@example.com.
Tags: hypnosis for stuttering, stuttering hypnosis, hypnosis stuttering, hypnotherapy for stuttering, stuttering hypnotherapy, hypnotherapy for stammering, stuttering, stammering, marc marshall, hypnomarc, hypnotherapy, nasw, national stuttering awareness week
 SFBT was developed by Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer
Myra S. Lockhart & Alan W. Robertson (2009) Hypnosis and Speech Therapy as a Combined Therapeutic Approach to the Problem of Stammering a Study of Thirty Patients, British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 12:2, 97-108, DOI: 10.3109/13682827709011314
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(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.coloradostutteringtherapy.com/interesting-articles/
Banyan, C. (n.d.). Hypnosis School and Trainigng Center. Retrieved from Hypnosis Center: http://www.hypnosiscenter.com/hypnosis-scripts/hypnosis-script-stuttering-patter.htm
Lisa Iverach, S. O. (2009). Prevalence of anxiety disorders among adults seeking speech therapy for stuttering. Journal of Anxiety Disorders.
Nicholas, A. (2015, July 17-20). Solution focused brief therapy with children who stutter. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences- 193, 209-216.
Nichols, M. (2013). Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. In M. Nichols, Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Roberts, B. &. (2014). ISAD. Retrieved from http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2014/papers-presented-by/therapy-research-and-other-fun-things/the-web-of-false-claims-about-stuttering-cures/
Zloof, A. &.-V. (2015). Hypnosis as a Technique for the Treatment of Stuttering. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 193, 357.