Counseling and Psychotherapy for People who Stutter

July 30, 2021
Carl Herder, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F
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Just like everyone else, it is very common for people who stutter to seek out psychotherapy at some point in their lives. For many, though, it can be challenging to find a therapist who understands the complex, variable, and paradoxical nature of stuttering. Upon reflection, the staff at AIS has come to find that many of our clients have benefitted from regular psychotherapy, but that it is often a struggle to take the first step - researching possible therapists and picking one! 

I've got anxiety and/or depression and I stutter. What kind of therapist will help the most? 

The short answer: it depends. At AIS we are licensed speech-language pathologists with specific expertise in stuttering, and it is very common for us to include cognitive therapy (ACT, REBT, CBT, Motivational Interviewing and more) into our overall approach. Many people find that their anxiety and/or depression is highly related to their experience with stuttering, and the cognitive aspects of their speech therapy are sufficient in addressing those mental health challenges. Others may feel their anxiety/depression is a larger overall problem, and may decide that a psychologist or clinical social worker are more appropriate options. We have also found that many of our clients have benefitted greatly from working with both a speech language pathologist and a psychotherapist at the same time.

Referral networks for finding a therapist

  • Psychology Today has a Find a Therapist Resource
  • National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN) has a directory of therapists, many of whom are trained in working with people with disabilities
  • Private Insurance In-Network - Check your insurance policy and ask for a list of in-network therapists

Questions to ask therapist

Many of our friends in the stuttering community are mental health professionals, and they tend to feel that psychotherapists are presented with a specific type of challenge when working with people who stutter - specifically, there is a desirable balance to be found, in not dismissing the fact that you stutter, but also acknowledging it without over emphasizing it.

Don't be afraid to interview therapists. Ask them about their experience and their approach when working with people who stutter as well as working with people with other disabilities. Consider their understanding of the physiological, emotional, and social impacts that stuttering can have. Many psychotherapists agree that it is not your job to educate them about stuttering, but that it is totally okay to interview them about their experience and approach. Here are some questions you can ask:

Can you share your background and training regarding stuttering? 

Can you be share your level of experience in working with people who stutter? 

What approaches have you taken when working with people who stutter?

Looking for a psychotherapist who also stutters? 

This is by no means a complete list, but we are currently aware of a handful of psychotherapists in the US who happen to stutter themselves: 

Information for Psychotherapists, LCSWs, and other Professionals

In order to best serve your clients who stutter, we encourage you to spend time learning about the variable, complex, and paradoxical nature of stuttering. Our friends at the Northwest Center for Fluency Disorders at Idaho State University published a wonderful article in Counseling Today that provides a detailed summary of stuttering, therapy approaches to consider when working with people who stutter, and more.

Acknowledgements

In preparing this post, we received helpful input from Nina G, Anjali Alimchandani, and Irmgard Balci.

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The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, and Minneapolis, MN, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.

Photos by Danielle MacInnes and Ryan Gagnon on Unsplash