The use of hypnotherapy for stuttering has a rather impressive history. In fact some may actually define it more appropriately as fantastic. In fact one of the often seen and awe inspiring aspects of hypnotherapy is that people who stutter will be able to converse normally and without difficulty while in the hypnotic state. Interesting demonstrations of its effectiveness go far beyond this however.
Over half a century ago the late Dave Elman travelled throughout the country each year training doctors and dentists in the application of hypnosis. The classes were held in large meeting rooms and at times one of the doctors would bring in a patient for Mr. Elman to work with live in front of the class. In some of these sessions which were recorded, you can listen to Mr. Elman skillfully work with a patient who suffered from stuttering before the session, and no longer have the problem afterward. Mr. Elman achieved this by using an age old hypnotic tool called age regression, wherein he took the doctor’s patient back in time to locate the starting point of the stuttering, and then resolve it.
Today we no longer use age regression as the first tool of choice in hypnotherapy due to various concerns. While it is still no doubt a very powerful tool, and has its place in certain aspects of hypnosis, it’s not encouraged to use for what we might refer to as fishing expeditions in the mind. It’s one thing to take someone back to remember where they left their car keys, or read the license plate number on the car that fled from a murder scene, but taking someone back to a potentially traumatic event that their mind has blocked out as a defense mechanism is something totally different.
The good news is that the well trained hypnotherapist has many other tools to achieve the same effect, and even in instances where only the most basic of these tools such as anxiety management and self-hypnosis techniques are utilized, clinical research has documented very favorable results (Moss and Oakley, 1997). In fact in more progressive areas of the world hypnotherapy has become a front line modality of choice for dealing with challenges such as stuttering. Moss and Oakley went on to address this as follows:
Recognition of the potential usefulness of hypnosis in the context of disorders of communication in the early 1980s led to the foundation of the British Society for the Practice of Hypnosis in Speech and Language Therapy, which is recognized by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. A survey of speech therapists using hypnosis in the UK by Macfarlane and Duckworth (1990) suggested that the major use hypnosis in fluency disorders was as a means of achieving rapid, deep relaxation, reducing physical tension and anxiety and encouraging self-esteem in the patient (1997).
Additional good news is that hypnosis has been shown to work well with variously defined causes for the impediment. Madison, (1954) found that in an 8 year old boy who presented with symptoms of both stuttering and articulation disorder, tonic spasms such as when long pauses occur at the beginning or middle of a word (b-all, loc-omotive, etc.) entirely disappeared within three weeks, and rapid strides were made in speech rehabilitation. In this case it’s interesting to note that no direct attack was made on the speech blocks, other than hypnotic suggestions to relieve tension and some environmental modifications. On the opposite end of the scale, Dempsey and Granich, (1978) used hypnosis to aid in rehabilitation of a 41 year old war veteran with a severe stuttering problem which began suddenly following a traumatic accident while serving. His issue had persisted for 19 years afterward.
This is not to say that hypnosis will always necessarily be the sole path to perfect speech. Other issues such as physical defects might be present that require the intervention of a surgeon, or other issues could also exist requiring the skills of a speech therapist. In situations such as these however hypnotherapy can still be a complementary adjunct to treatment as was outlined in a larger study conducted by Lockhart and Robertson, (1977). In the Lockhart study which addressed stuttering/stammering in both mild and more severe cases, the participants were divided into groups. The mild group was treated by hypnosis alone, and participants were given suggestions for building self-esteem and anxiety reduction as well as training in self-hypnosis. The participants with more severe symptoms were tested using a complementary regimen of speech therapy exercises in addition to the hypnotic procedure. In these cases where speech therapy was warranted, the researchers cited favorable results by utilizing a combined therapy which provided a unified approach.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a stuttering challenge and would like more information, contact us online or call the office at 469-225-9040.
|William Carpenter holds a certification in Healing the Inner Child with Hypnosis from the American Hypnosis Association.|
Dempsey, G. L., & Granich, M. (1978). Hypno-behavioral therapy in the case of a traumatic stutterer: a case study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26(3), 125-133.
Lockhart, M. S., & Robertson, A. W. (1977). Hypnosis and speech therapy as a combined therapeutic approach to the problem of stammering. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 12(2), 97-108.
Macfarlane, F. K., & Duckworth, M. (1990). The use of hypnosis in speech therapy: a questionnaire study. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 25(2), 227-246.
Madison, L. (1954). The use of hypnosis in the differential diagnosis of a speech disorder. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 2(2), 140-144.
Moss, G. J., & Oakley, D. A. (1997). Stuttering modification using hypnosis: an experimental single‐case study. Contemporary Hypnosis, 14(2), 126-131.