Avoiding Relapses: The Journey to Lasting Fluency

For many people who stutter, the path to achieving fluency and overcoming the constraints of stuttering can be challenging and filled with ups and downs. While the journey to fluency is undoubtedly rewarding, relapses are an expected part of this process. In this blog, we will explore the concept of relapses and share insights into how to avoid and overcome them, drawing inspiration from the wisdom of those who have successfully triumphed over stuttering.

Relapses: An Inevitable Part of the Journey

Relapses are a common occurrence in most therapies, and the journey to fluency is no exception. Dr. Paul Brocklehurst, a career speech professional who successfully conquered stuttering using methods similar to those outlined in this article, points out that preparing for and addressing relapses is as critical as achieving fluency itself. In his words, “The challenge of preparing for a relapse is as important as stopping stuttering…The Crutches will always get them through it.” Dr. Brocklehurst’s perspective is refreshing – he views the battle against relapses as a valuable aspect of the journey, even characterizing it as “fun.”

Milestone 1: Stopping Stuttering

The journey to fluency can be divided into two major milestones. The first milestone is to stop stuttering. Once PWS reach this milestone, it’s a significant achievement. However, there’s more to the journey beyond this point. Milestone 2 involves learning to love speaking fluently.

Until a PWS reaches the second milestone of loving to speak fluently, there is a risk of experiencing relapses at some level. While the fear of stuttering may linger, the more substantial relapses typically occur before reaching the second milestone.

Addressing Setbacks and Relapses

It’s essential to understand the factors that can lead to relapses. The primary reasons include insufficient mastery of the Crutches and discontinuation of daily reading aloud and mental training routines after achieving initial fluency.

A common scenario is when PWS experience significant improvements in their speech, often accompanied by elation. Unfortunately, this can lead to complacency, causing some individuals to stop the very practices that got them to this point. As a result, they may revert to stuttering. It’s crucial to remember that fluency is a skill that requires continuous practice to maintain.

Preventing and Addressing Relapses

For some PWS, relapses occur even when they have diligently maintained their daily routine. When these individuals drift back into thinking about words, word-planning, and fears of stuttering, the speech habit can overpower their efforts. It’s crucial to recognize this and immediately reject and replace these thoughts with positive, pro-fluency affirmations.

In these situations, the PWS can invoke their inner “Speech Cop.” This means, the moment they begin to drift into thinking about words or stuttering, they must intensify their daily Auto Suggestions (ASTs) and Self-Hypnosis Techniques (SHTs). Using spare moments throughout the day to repeat the most needed affirmations can reinforce positive thought patterns.

Tools to Handle Relapses

To handle relapses effectively, PWS can turn to a set of tools:

  • Stop Talking and Talk Less: When faced with a relapse, reduce the amount of talking and take a two-count pause.
  • Relax: Maintaining relaxation is vital. As tension creeps in during a relapse, PWS can experience more difficulties. Deep breaths and staying calm are essential.
  • Rephrase: Rephrasing a thought or grabbing a Crutch can help navigate through a relapse.
  • Keep It Short: During a relapse, aim to speak in short bursts of 1-7 words, depending on the severity of stuttering.
  • Talk from Full Stop to Full Stop: Maintain fluency by speaking from a full stop to another full stop without interruptions.
  • Change Your Voice Register, Use Word Linkage, or Extreme Pronunciation: These techniques can help maintain fluency during a relapse.
  • Inject Passion and Urge: Amplify your emotions and project positive energy, which is a powerful Crutch.
  • Smile: Maintain a smile throughout your speech. It can add positivity and improve fluency.

The Relapse Game

PWS should view the journey to fluency as a game, just as Dr. Paul Brocklehurst and many others have. Remember, it’s not just about stopping stuttering; it’s about loving to speak fluently. Staying proactive in the battle against relapses is part of the fun, an essential ingredient in the long-term consolidation of the benefits of therapy.

Relapses, while not common, can be avoided or rectified. A fear of relapse is not a relapse itself, but it is a warning sign. Address these fears by embracing the role of a Speech Cop and invoking the tools that helped you achieve fluency in the first place.

For those who may experience relapses, it’s crucial not to get discouraged but to get determined. Keep working at it, maintain daily mind-training, and practice the Crutches. If you’ve beaten stuttering once, you can do it again, and it might even be easier the second time.

Finally, remember that relapses are not common, and the best policy is to avoid them. While some may experience setbacks, many PWS have successfully transitioned to a life of fluency, and their stories serve as inspiring examples of what’s possible.

To share your experiences or seek support in your journey, reach out to the community of PWSS and experts ready to guide you. Don’t go through it alone – you have a support system to help you stay on the path to lasting fluency.

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