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Stuttering Therapy: Empowering SLPs to Overcome the Impossible in Treating Negative Beliefs and Feelings

Stuttering Therapy: Empowering SLPs to Overcome the Impossible in Treating Negative Beliefs and Feelings
Marilee Fini, MA, CCC-SLP
October 29, 2014


>> Marilee Fini:  First, I like to talk about my stuttering.  I consider myself a work in progress.  Certainly my speech is not perfect.  I am not 100% fluent by any means.  I work on my speech in terms of eye contact, tension, and most importantly fears of going into situations.  I may have fears about speaking situations but I still go into those situations. 

Let’s get started.  In the handout, feel free to use pages 4-11 for therapy purposes.  There is some good information that you might want to look at and it may be helpful in therapy.  There is a mailing list and feedback form in the handout on page 12.  I would appreciate it if you would take a minute or two to fill this out and send it back to me by email when you are finished with the course.  Once a month, I send out some information with a stuttering tip, maybe some information on stuttering events or things that I am doing. 

I have a couple of disclosures.  First, I want to disclose that I am a member of the National Stuttering Association (NSA).  I have done voluntary speaking and have been an assistant at conventions. I do talk about them in my courses, and what an impact that organization had on my life.  Then I made mention about the Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering (OASES) from Dr. Scott Yaruss (2010).  I know him personally and I wanted to disclose that.  Also I will be disclosing my own story about stuttering in this presentation.  Lastly, I have a financial relationship with my private practice, MLF Speech Therapy.  From time to time, when I am talking about therapy, I may talk about the services that I provide and I wanted to put that out there as well.

Now, imagine a door to the World of Stuttering.  Take a second to open the door and walk into this world called the World of Stuttering.  I had a crazy morning this morning and maybe you did too. I want you to close off the outside world for the next hour or so and dedicate this hour to thinking about children and adults who stutter.  They need us, especially with this emotional aspect.  Sometimes it is hard to give our attention and to refocus when there may have been a lot of craziness going on. 

My Story: Overcoming the Impossible

Let me tell you a bit of my story of stuttering.  I call it “overcoming the impossible.”  Are we ever done overcoming the impossible?  No.  It is a journey.  If you could have seen me about an hour ago making phone calls and struggling, I felt like that was the impossible.  The impossible is evolving. 

I began to stutter when I was four.  I was very embarrassed and ashamed of my stuttering.  I was in denial that I stuttered once I understood that I stuttered.  I was a little spoiled.  I was the youngest of four children and the only girl.  From the time I was seven until I was an adult, I had speech therapy.  At that time, when I was growing up, I had therapy that was mostly fluency shaping, based on the physical part of stuttering, dealing with breathing techniques, dealing with easy onsets, but not therapy dealing with the emotional part.  I would learn the techniques in the clinical setting, and then I would go into real life and my speech would crumble.  I would feel like a failure.  I often felt like I was dying inside.  Everyone was hovered around my mouth, but inside I felt like such a failure, because I could not get the fluency that I so badly wanted.  It began to affect my self-esteem.  I thought, “bad talker, bad person,” until I joined an organization called the National Stuttering Association.  I met this organization when I was about 22 or 24 years old, about the time that I was in graduate school and almost halfway through.  Through this organization, I learned that I was not alone, and that it was not a crime to stutter.  I did not have to be ashamed of my stuttering anymore.  I saw role models who were stuttering, but were so very effective.  Then I began to think that the sky was the limit for me.  When I first started my journey, it felt impossible, but through the National Stuttering Association and other supports, it began to feel more possible. 

Impossible vs. Possible

Let’s talk about this definition of impossible versus possible.  Impossible is "not possible, unable to exist or happen, unable to be done and performed."  I definitely felt like that.  As a student, going into speech pathology, I felt like “How am I going to do this?  How is it all going to come together?”  I severely stuttered, but I felt such a strong calling to be a speech pathologist. 

I want to share with you some impossible challenges that I have come across along the way.  In longer seminars I share quite a few challenges, but today I picked the big two.  One was going into speech pathology.  There were many people that told me that it was not a good choice, that I would never make it, that it would be very difficult and how would I ever do it.  At points, I chose to believe them, but deep down in my spirit, the calling was so strong that it superseded anything that my brain was telling me.  It felt so impossible, but now it does not feel nearly as impossible as when I started speech pathology 20 years ago.  That was a big impossible challenge at the beginning, just getting through school, getting a job, etc. 

The second story is of my dad’s eulogy.  This was a time where I felt like it was impossible.  I was asked to do his eulogy about a year ago, and I never had plans to do this.  I do speak professionally, but I do not speak in front of my family.  In doing this, I faced so many childhood fears.  I was in a church that I had gone to as a child, and so much was associated with that.  Such good came out of this, but I will tell you that the day they asked me, I thought it was completely impossible.  It was the first time that I really spoke in public to 100 people and mentioned my stuttering, because I openly acknowledged it.  The most important thing for me was it was a time that I could talk about my dad, and my stuttering did not get in the way.  So many times in my life, my stuttering held me back, but this was one of the times that I said, "No matter how uncomfortable I am, I am going to do it." Out of it came so much good. 

What did I learn from all of these things?  I learned that anything was possible.  We hold ourselves back.  Stuttering did not have to hold me back, but it was my fear.  It did not matter what “they” thought, because there was a lot of “they.”  It mattered what I thought, and I was stronger than I thought.  I could overcome difficult circumstances. 

Why does treating negative beliefs and feelings often feel so impossible when we are dealing with children and adults?  As speech pathologists, we are so talented in so many ways.  However, when it comes to having to do something that we have not had a lot of experience in, like stuttering, or talking about feelings, it may feel uncomfortable. 

marilee fini

Marilee Fini, MA, CCC-SLP

Marilee Fini, M.A. CCC/SLP is a practicing speech pathologist in Cleveland, OH running her own private practice, MLF Speech Therapy. She has been a professional speaker for the last 14 years presenting all over the U.S. to many diverse audiences on stuttering.  In addition, Marilee works for South University in Cleveland, OH where she teaches public speaking courses. Marilee sheds a unique light on the subject of stuttering since she has spent most of her life dealing with her own stuttering. Throughout her journey, she has faced many situations which she deemed as “IMPOSSIBLE” but was able to overcome them through hard work, dedication and faith. Lastly, Marilee was awarded the “Annie Glenn National Leadership Award - Best Practices in Speech-Language Pathology” given to her by The Ohio State University Department of Speech and Hearing Services in recognition for excellence in leadership in the field.

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