Wasting Time as Therapy

April 29, 2022
Margaret Miller, M.A., CCC-SLP
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To prove that our time is our own, we’re posting this Therapy Thursday on a Friday. Read on for the reasons…

Many people who stutter experience a lot of time pressure when speaking. “I have to get the word out or the other person will get impatient!” “I can see that they’re waiting for me.” “I don’t want to take longer than everyone else!” But rushing to speak can often lead to more struggled stuttering, paradoxically causing the speaker to take even longer to convey their message.

Who decides how long we get to take to talk? Read this wonderful blog post by guest contributor Elizabeth Wislar for a personal story about the different ways people take up time - and how noticing those differences helped her think differently about her own tendency to hurry.

How To Do It

Working on time pressure in speech therapy is, like much of what we do, an exercise in learning to tolerate discomfort. In a structured way, you can help clients expose themselves to the feeling that they’re wasting someone’s time. You might begin by playing a turn-taking game but adding deliberate pauses before each person’s turn. Or, you could make phone calls but wait until the other person repeats their “hello?” before starting to talk, or take data on how long it takes to get hung up on. Did that feel uncomfortable? Good! Tolerating that feeling is the way to desensitize.

Most important, though, is to help your client find opportunities to find real-world opportunities to practice. Not all practice has to be related to speech. Could they sit at every stop light for an extra second? Pay with cash instead of credit and take the time to count out exact change? Take off their shoes extra carefully in the TSA line? Each client’s life will present different opportunities to experience the dreaded “they’re waiting for me” feeling, and build evidence that impatience - both ours and others’ - can be tolerated. Don’t forget to check in on comfort level, and be ready to discuss and dispute any gremlin thoughts that arise during practice.


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 Los Angeles, CA, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.

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