This little exercise comes in handy when trying to help clients understand how their relationships with others interact with their stuttering. To do it, create a simple diagram of five rings of color, from dark green (inside) to red (outside). Explain that the middle ring is the people who are easiest to talk to, with whom you feel really comfortable and don’t worry about your stuttering. The outside ring is people you feel so worried about talking to that you would rather not talk to them at all!
Then invite your client to place all the people they interact with in the appropriate circle. If they can’t think of many, you can offer suggestions of common conversation partners (cashiers, teachers, coworkers), or help them think through everyone they’ve talked to today or in the past week.
Next, talk with your client about the diagram they’ve created. Ask questions that are focused on the positive: “What makes your teachers easier to talk to than your doctors?” Listen for themes that will help you and your client create a list of qualities that are important in a trusted conversation partner. For example, if your client says “they already know I stutter” about several people in their inner circle, it can provide a jumping off point for discussing advertising. It can also lead to creative problem solving: How can we move people closer to the middle?
This diagram can also be useful later when designing communication challenges: first try a challenge with someone in the safe zone, then move on to more difficult partners. As always, check your client’s comfort level with any challenge!
Photo by August de Richelieu: https://www.pexels.com/photo/family-taking-a-group-photo-4262414/
Margaret Miller, M.A., CCC-SLP
Margaret is a speech therapist at the AIS Atlanta office. A strong advocate for client-centered therapy, Margaret works with each individual to craft a personalized treatment approach.