Dr. Sheehan’s Stuttering Iceberg Analogy

Blog by Voon Pang
April 28, 2014

Dr. Joseph Sheehan’s iceberg analogy was recently featured on the Stuttering Foundation’s Facebook page with a massive response from the public. As I prepare to facilitate a weeklong intensive course for teenagers who stutter, it is timely to discuss the significant contribution of the stuttering iceberg. Sheehan’s main message was “Don’t avoid, don’t’ hide, don’t deny your stuttering. The only way you’ll ever get over your fear of stuttering and thus become genuinely fluent; is to meet it head-on. Always do the thing you fear, and gradually you will learn not to fear it.” 

Dr. Sheehan was a giant of the field and helped future clinicians to look at the person who stutters as a ‘whole’. Direct work on helping one gain fluency can be helpful in the short term (much like blasting the top layers of an iceberg and not being aware of the dense body of ice below); however, a focus on the thoughts, attitudes and feelings (melting beneath the surface features of an iceberg) can bring about long-term change and self-adjustment.

At different times, a good clinician will focus on both the ‘surface’ and ‘below surface’ features of stuttering. This week, I will definitely be using Dr. Sheehan’s iceberg analogy to help my teen group confront their stuttering in the early stages of therapy. The idea of being open as a teen who stutters, testing listener reactions, and using voluntary stuttering to reduce fear and increase acceptance will also be explored.  As a person who stutters, are you able to confront your stuttering? Perhaps your first step is making contact with a speech-language pathologist from the Stuttering Foundation website?

Below are some resources that may be of interest to you if you would like to know more about the ‘the stuttering iceberg analogy’ and Dr. Joseph Sheehan’s work.

For parents of children/teens who stutter and speech-language pathologists:

Icebergs and Ice cubes – The Value of Discussing Stuttering with Children and Teenagers by Jonathon Linklater, Veronica Lynch and Bevin Muprhy

Dealing with Guilt and Shame by Bill Murphy

It’s Ok to Stutter with Bill Murphy (332) StutterTalk podcast

For speech-language pathologists:

DVD: Avoidance Reduction Therapy in a Group Setting by Vivian Sisskin

Comments

Hello sir my name is Hannah. I am from India I am 20 years old. I am not since birth stutter. I remember when I was 7 years old I started stammering. I used to speak fluently. Please help me how can I leave this bad habit. Waiting eagerly for your reply. Thank you

Hi Hannah, look up The Indian Stammering Association. They have self-help groups around the country, completely free of charge. They provide a great support network for stammerers in India.

thanks

I remember back in the 1970s going to UCLA to the classes Dr. Joseph Sheehan and Vivian Sheehan conducted through extension courses. I first learned about the classes through my high school speech therapist who took me to the "end of the semester class" where the stutterers were required to make a 5 or 10 minute speech discussing their stuttering in front of parents, friends and others. I remember thinking to myself, "no way would I EVER do that" but a year or so later when I was 18 years old I changed my mind. Joining the group was a real eye opener and it really helped me. We were taught to "slide" on the first part of the word; "sssslide" which was a much "easier and calm" way of speaking. At first this was very hard because it went against everything I had done up to that point. Speaking in that way was much less "traumatic" for me and the listener (who could always see my discomfort which made the listener uncomfortable as well). AVOIDING stuttering was always the goal! In this group we were encouraged to go out in public (and practice with family members and good friends) and actually "stutter on purpose" but in this calm way. After trying it for awhile I was pleasant surprised to realize that stuttering on purpose actually made me more fluent! The more I stuttered on purpose the less fear there was and it really did help. For this I can't thank the Sheehans enough! Ultimately, though, it was my realizing that "what other people thought about me and my stuttering" was what was keeping me from being fluent. You go so long trying not to stutter that you are always nervous about speaking and worry about every situation, word that you will say, etc., etc. While even today at age 64 I still stutter here and there, I learned long ago to not let it bother me and I even went on during my working years to give training classes speaking in front of many people without stuttering. That, to me, was success. I encourage anyone who stutters to try therapy. It can and does really help.

Hi! Im in college and i started stuttering when i was about 9 years old. Recently, my stuttering has made my self-esteem go way down as well as my interpersonal relationships. Its getting to a point where i feel like people are not going to get to know the real me .I need some advice

Hi Kyle,

The most effective way to combat stuttering is to see a speech therapist that specializes in stuttering. We have referral lists on our web site with listings of therapists in all US states and many countries around the world. They can be found at http://www.stutteringhelp.org/referrals-information .

If you do not have access to a speech therapist, self-therapy can also be effective.

Our book Self-Therapy for the Stutterer contains helpful advice and concrete ideas about ways to deal with stuttering and the fear, embarrassment, and anxiety which often accompany it. The book, now in its 11th edition, has been of benefit to many through the years. It will answer many questions you may still have about stuttering. Should you seek therapy from a speech therapist for your stuttering later on, the fact that you have read and worked through Self-Therapy for the Stutterer will help prepare you to be successful.

Self-Therapy for the Stutterer can be viewed here, http://www.stutteringhelp.org/sites/default/files/Migrate/book0012_11th_... .

Advice to Those Who Stutter is another excellent book, which gives great advice to people who stutter from experts in the field who stutter themselves. Each chapter offers great and entertaining advice. This is my favorite Stuttering Foundation book. It can be viewed at http://www.stutteringhelp.org/sites/default/files/Migrate/book0009_may20...

We wish you every success. Please don't hesitate to contact us if we can be of further help. For a wealth of information, you may want to visit our web site – www.StutteringHelp.org

Anyone out there has the video, tape or CD of the 1990/1991 Anaheim Convention? I was chosen to speak based on a raffle ticket being pulled out a basket. I would love to have a video of my speaking performance at this event. I was a severe stutterer and received therapy from Drs. Joseph and Vivian Sheehan at Cal.State Los Angeles & UCLA. Thanks you. freddjones@msn.com