Pseudostuttering is a powerful tool .
You have tried not to stutter all your life.
And it’s not working.
You have typed into google: “How to stop stuttering” “How to cure stuttering” “Help fix my stutter,” but you’ve run into dead end after dead end.
So we can agree, then: Y-y-you are always going to stutter! Finally, you admitted it to yourself! Welcome to the club!
In fact, what if I told you that voluntarily stuttering, or stuttering on purpose, could help you fix that stuttering problem? (And, by the way, it’s not a problem.)
I can see you are skeptical. Most people are at first (Byrd, Gkalitsiou, Donaher, Stergiou, 2016) ! But this skepticism melts away for most after trying this strategy (Byrd et al., 2016).
In this post, I’ll provide a compelling argument outlining how voluntary stuttering / pseudostuttering / fake stuttering / stuttering on purpose / whatever you want to call it can help change how you feel about stuttering and maybe even how you stutter.
And I’ll tell you how to voluntary stutter for best results.
Why voluntarily stutter?
Many people feel anxious about showing their stutter. They nervously talk on thin ice (Manning, Dilollo 2018), fearful of when stuttering will show itself.
That’s why some people find voluntary stuttering so liberating
(Plexico, Manning, Dilollo, 2005). They use it as a means of self-disclosure or telling others that they stutter.
These stutterers don’t have to nervously wait – and dread – for stuttering to happen.
They can show stuttering on their own terms.
They are not hiding and avoiding anymore, and that is liberating!
In fact, using pseudostuttering has been linked with less speaking-related fear and anxiety ( Byrd et al., 2016; Reitzes 2005).
If we choose to stutter, that fear that it’s going to happen to us evaporates.
Are you following?
Also, for some stutterers, pretending to be a fluent person is exhausting, frustrating work. These folks may use voluntary stuttering to help create a new self-image for themselves, a self-image that includes stuttering (Reitzes 2005).
Accepting this new self-image (or role (e.g. Sheehan, 1998)) of a person who stutters takes an enormous weight off the shoulders of someone who has been expending a huge amount of mental energy trying to hide stuttering.
The unpredictability of when stuttering will happen causes fear and anxiety. Producing voluntary stuttering removes this unpredictability.
Also, stuttering on purpose can help us form a new – more accurate – self-image:
Of a person who stutters!
Catch the theme here? :
Openness leads to happiness. Hiding and avoidance is linked with fear and anxiety.
How to voluntary stutter
There’s a caveat, though:
How you voluntarily stutter hugely impacts the benefits you’ll reap from this practice (Byrd et al, 2016).
If you stutter easily, lightly bouncing through the stutter, you might enjoy some benefits. But empirical research has shown that stuttering very closely to how you really stutter has a more powerful impact (Byrd et al., 2016).
Now this may come as a disappointment.
You were fantasizing creating soft, bouncing, struggle-free stutters. That sounds almost painless!
But bouncing easily and effortlessly through stuttering is a crutch. It makes you used to easy, effortless stuttering.
You will still fear those real life stutters, filled with helplessness.
There’s no other option:
You have to confront your stuttering. Your real stuttering.
But it’s worth it! Here’s why:
Research has shown those who pseudostutter much like their real stutter are more likely than those who voluntarily stutter in an easier manner to report the following (Byrd et al., 2016):
- Voluntary stuttering is fear- and anxiety- reducing and confidence boosting
- This practice helps reduce stuttering frequency, secondary behaviors (like heavy blinking, head jerking, any physical behaviors people engage in while stuttering), and physical tension
- Voluntary stuttering helps change speech-related thoughts and improves quality of life.
But WHY you ask!
This study uncovers a correlation; its results cannot speak to causation. But I think this correlation all boils down to being open about stuttering.
Giving yourself permission to just be feels great! Hiding behind an easy repetition or prolongation instills the sentiment that only some types of stuttering are acceptable.
When to start voluntary stuttering:
In order to have the courage to imitate your real stutter, you will probably have spent a long time monitoring your stutter during real moments of stuttering.
At the beginning of their stuttering journey, most people have no idea what they are doing while they stutter.
They mentally escape to somewhere else while they push through these moments
I used to have no idea what I did during stuttering.
On the first day of graduate school, my new classmates and I went around the room and introduced ourselves, stating our name, where we were from, and our undergraduate major. I was happy with my introduction – I didn’t stutter!
Only later, my friend told me that when she watched me introduce myself, she thought I had Tourette syndrome.
Yeah, I hadn’t overtly stuttered.
But I had blinked and twitched heavily throughout my introduction in an effort not to stutter. These secondary behaviors were much more distracting than disfluencies would have been.
The point is:
At this time in my life, I had no idea what was going on while I was stuttering.
Only later on did I learn what I was doing while I stuttered. And that learning was hard. Really hard. I had such an emotional reaction, a repulsion really, to my stuttering that it took a long time to see objectively what was going on while I was doing it.
Based on the research findings by Byrd et al (2016), in order to get the most out of voluntary stuttering, people must be in a place where they know what they do when they really stutter and are ok imitating this real stutter. This may be further on in the therapy or self-therapy experience than previously thought.
Once people are in a place where they can imitate their real stuttering, voluntary stuttering can help them become even more used to the fact that they stutter and decrease their emotional reaction to their stutter even more (Manning et al., 2017).
Another reason why people may want to wait to try voluntarily stuttering is because early on in our stuttering journey, our stuttering patterns may be so full of avoidance behaviors and secondary behaviors that they may not even know what their true stuttering sounds like!
Some people may disagree with me. But I don’t think I would have benefited much from voluntarily stuttering in a way that mirrored my graduate school introduction.
That wasn’t me stuttering. It was me trying really hard not to stutter. Self-monitoring helped me realize that I was engagingly in these secondary behaviors and helped me change them.
Once my true stutter shone through—complete with some secondaries (and I was ok with that) — I was able to monitor it and learn to imitate it in voluntary stuttering.
I think there is one perfectly acceptable time to voluntarily stutter right at the start of therapy:
When you are working on moving forward through a block. (I’ve written a whole post about moving through stuttering blocks. Check it out!)
Simply put, you can get through a moment of stuttering in which you are stuck, without airflow, without vocalization by simply getting on the first sound of the word on which you are blocking…
And staying on this sound until it can be easily released and you can say the rest of the word. This is kind of like making a voluntary prolongation.
Or, you could make a voluntary repetition. That is, getting on the first sound of the word on which you are blocking and repeating it until you can release the stutter.
Without getting into it too much, this kind of voluntary stutter has a specific purpose: To reduce tension and help people who stutter move through those painful blocks. It’s not a means of desensitizing you to stuttering or helping you take on the role of a person who stutters.
Part of me almost hesitates to call this pseudostuttering at all; it’s more like letting yourself stutter.
But early in your stuttering journey, as I’ve mentioned before, you may not know how you stutter. So, in an effort to reduce tension and move through stuttering blocks, you won’t be able to just allow yourself to stutter. Instead, you may want to try one of these peudostutters. Try one. Try the other. See which one you like best.
Read more about getting through stuttering blocks.
Where to voluntarily stutter
Research has shown that people reap the most benefit from pseudostuttering when they do so beyond the therapy room in addition to during therapy sessions (Byrd et al., 2016 ; Plexico et al., 2005)
This makes sense:
You live in the real world, not the therapy room.
Fear-seeking can be fun. You’ll find this as you travel your stuttering journey. The more fearful situations you enter (and crush!), the more you will want to seek out formerly fearful situations. It’s addictive!
Pseudostuttering can change your stutter.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard so many people claim that they stutter less frequently since using voluntary stuttering (e.g. Reitzes 2005). If you’ve read many posts here, you’ll know I don’t really care much about stuttering frequency. But some people do, and I thought I’d share this tidbit with you.
Research has also found a correlation between voluntarily stuttering in a way that mirrors your real stuttering and decreased stuttering frequency (Byrd et al., 2016).
Likely, this occurs because fear of stuttering decreases (Reitzes 2005.) Some people say stuttering is caused by trying not to stutter. If there is no fear of stuttering, we are not trying not to stutter, thus we stutter less.
Even if it does not decrease frequency of stuttering, people who stutter report fewer tense moments of stuttering when they voluntarily stutter in a way similar to their real stutters ( Byrd et al., 2016).
One more thing:
Sometimes voluntary stuttering turns into real stuttering. And that’s ok.
Have you tried voluntary stuttering / pseudostuttering / stuttering on purpose? How has it been helpful to you?
Related articles to voluntary stuttering:
Help, I’m stuck! How do I get out of stuttering blocks?
Self-disclosure: A Powerful Tool in the Stutterer’s Arsenal.
Four Ways Stuttering Support Groups Could Change your Life.
Byrd, C. T., Gkalitsiou, Z., Donaher, J., Stergiou, E. 2016. The CLient’s Perspective on Voluntary Stuttering. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. 25(3):1-16
Manning, W. H., Dilollo, A. (2017) Clinical Decision Making in Fluency Disorders. City, State: Publisher.
Plexico, L., Manning, W. H., Dilollo, A., (2015), A phenomenological understanding of successful stuttering management. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 30, 1-22.
Reitzes , P. (2005, July 18). The Why and the How of Voluntary Stuttering. Retrieved from :
Sheehan, J. G. (1998). message to a stutterer. In S. B. Hood (Ed.), adivce to those who stutter (pp. 31-35). Retrieved from https://www.stutteringhelp.org/sites/default/files/Book0009.pdfU
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