Are Self-Help/Mutual Aid
Groups Effective in Helping
People Who Stutter?
By Karen Timp & Christina Wood
Definition:
Self-Help/Mutual Aid Groups
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"Action taken by individuals based on their own
internal resources or experiences to help themselves
effect personal change . . . Support, encouragement,
and the sharing of experiential knowledge from a
group to assist in effecting individual or group
change” (Reeves, 2007, 5).
"Discuss experiential knowledge, are nonjudgmental,
and encourage role play" (Irwin, 2007, 15).
Definition:
Self-Help/Mutual Aid Groups

“Voluntary, small group structures for mutual
aid and the accomplishment of a special
purpose . . . usually formed by peers who
have come together for mutual assistance in
satisfying a common need, overcoming a
common handicap or life-disrupting problem
and bringing about desired social and/or
personal change” (Yaruss, 2007, 257).
History of Self-Help Groups
For People Who Stutter
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1960’s National Council of Stutterers (NCOS)
established
1977 Speak Easy International founded by
Bob Gathman
1977 National Stuttering Project begun by
Michael Sugarman and Bob Goldman
(National Stuttering Association)
Current “chat rooms” or “Internet listservs”
available
Characteristics of Groups
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Frequency and amount of time for meetings
Number of group members
Characteristics of individual group members
(age, gender, life experiences, occupations,
personality)
Discussion topics, interests of members
Structure and organization of the group
Involvement of Speech-Language
Pathologist, parent, spouse, or significant
other
Benefits
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Develop coping skills
Provide a sense of acceptance and
belonging
Explore beliefs and feelings about
stuttering
Maintain stuttering techniques and
strategies
Share personal experiences
Gain empathy and understanding
Benefits
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Increase short-term and long-term
success of treatment goals
Increase in interpersonal skills
Enhance awareness of stuttering
Increase interest for receiving
treatment
Benefits
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Educate self and others
Provide accountability
Reflect on self-esteem issues in a safe
environment
Discuss quality of life and how stuttering
affects each individual
Address future and present issues (i.e. jobs,
relationships)
Costs
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Controversial goals: self-acceptance vs. goal
to become a fluent speaker
Previously developed successful coping
strategies
Time limitations
Lack of awareness of local group
Disinterest in group participation
Complacence towards change
Fear of disclosure
Personal biases and opinions
Data
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Survey of 71 National Stuttering Association
members felt that group participation had
improved their self-image.
Adults in Britain’s Association for Stammerers
(AFS) reported that participation facilitated
not only attitudinal changes, but also their
ability to maintain speech fluency gains over
time.
People who stutter experience a wide range
of benefits from participation in self-help
groups.
Personal Experience
ISAD Conference 2007
"Parole d'Espoir" - making gains in fluency through
self-help and friendship in Maruitius
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Jim Caroopen, started a self-help group on
Mauritius. He and Yasvin Somoo, wrote an
article about the benefits of self-help groups.
The authors note increased confidence, selfacceptance, freedom when speaking to
others, and an increased feeling of control
over their stuttering.
Personal Experience
“I now understand that being a person who stutters does
not make any difference. I now try and do things that I
never dared before. In the past, I used to lie to my parents
and friends. I did not like to go out and meet others, and
always asked people to do things for me, like making phone
calls.
At present I can travel alone, go shopping and so on. I still
can improve as there are situations that suddenly stimulate
an inner fear resulting in blocks, stuttering and timidity, but
currently I stutter less, have more confidence and can meet
and interact with people.”
–Yasvin, Age 20
From http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad10/papers/caroopen10.html
Our Evaluation of the Technique
We would highly recommend this approach to
any client seeking to gain personal benefit
from interacting with others in a nonstressful, accepting environment.
The vast number of benefits, the growing
amount of evidence supporting its
effectiveness (as judged by participants), and
the viability of combining participation in a
self-help group with individual therapy make
it a worthwhile and helpful approach for
stuttering individuals.
Recommendations
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Group therapy combined with individual
therapy (or group therapy alone for
maintenance)
Inclusion of a Speech-Language Pathologist
or a professional counselor as mediator or
facilitator
Inclusion of parents, spouse, or significant
other in the group as desired by the client
References
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Caroopen, J. & Somoo, Y. (2007). "Parole d'Espoir" - making
gains in fluency through self-help and friendship in Maruitius.
International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference,
2007. Retrieved December 16, 2007 from
www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad10/papers/caroopen10.html
Irwin, M. (2007). SLPs and self-help groups—Why a close
relationship is vital. Perspectives on fluency and fluency
disorders, 17 (1), 13-15.
Lukong, J. (2007). Speech therapy services to be provided to
emerging self-help groups for people who stutter in Africa under
the framework of the International Speech Project—Stuttering.
Perspectives on fluency and fluency disorders, 17 (1), 16-18.
References
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Reeves, L. (2007). Are self-help/mutual aid groups and
professional intervention mutually exclusive concepts for helping
those affected by stuttering? Perspectives on fluency and
fluency disorders, 17 (1), 4-8.
Trichon, M. (2007). Getting the maximum benefits from support
groups: Perspectives of members and group leaders.
Perspectives on fluency and fluency disorders, 17 (1), 10-13.
Yaruss, J.S., Quesal, R.W., & Reeves, L. (2007). Self-help and
mutual aid groups as an adjunct to stuttering therapy. In
Conture, E.G., & Curlee, R.F. (Eds.), Stuttering and related
disorders of fluency (3rd ed.) New York: Thieme Medical
Publishers, Inc.
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Are Self-Help/Mutual Aid Groups Effective in Helping People Who