A Fresh Look at Avoidance Reduction Therapy

 
Starting with the Stuttering Foundation’s very first project with Charles Van Riper in the late 1940s, professors working in the field of stuttering have taken a hard look at how avoidance behaviors – avoiding words and situations in which one expects to stutter – affect those who stutter and stuttering itself.
 
We know that the more we avoid any feared situation, be it fear of flying or fear of speaking, the greater those fears become.
 
Thus, we are happy to welcome Vivian Sisskin’s excellent new DVD, Avoidance Reduction Therapy in a Group Setting. This is a topic that should be of great interest not only to our readers who stutter but also to the many professionals who work with stuttering.
 
The roots of avoidance reduction therapy for stuttering are found in the pioneering work of the late Joseph Sheehan, a professor of psychology at UCLA, and his wife Vivian Sheehan, a Los Angeles-based speech pathologist. The Sheehans applied concepts from conflict and role theories to formulate an explanation for the behaviors and paradoxes observed in those who stutter.
 
The Sheehans described stuttering as an “approach-avoidance conflict,” whereby competing desires to both speak and hold back from speaking result not only in maladaptive reactive behaviors that interfere with communication but also in “mental gymnastics” that limit participation in daily life.
 
This new DVD by Vivian Sisskin of the University of Maryland walks therapists through methods of group therapy while providing the nuts and bolts of avoidance reduction therapy. Sisskin outlines the basic principles, goals of treatment, and therapeutic strategies of her treatment program for stuttering.
 
This video serves as both a tutorial for speech-language pathologists and a self-help primer for those who stutter. Activities and video demonstrations provide ideas for  therapy assignments that lead to spontaneous, forward-moving communication, free of control.
From the Winter 2013 Newsletter