The Mind - Body - Spirit Therapeutic Model For People Who Stutter

Carl H. Scott, Ph.D.

David was a young man in his early twenties who stuttered severely. It was 1973, and my first experience with one dimension of the mind-body-spirit therapeutic approach to stuttering therapy. What unfolded during that session was extraordinary.

David described his feelings of helplessness. I asked him to visualize what these feelings looked like to him. He saw himself clinging to the edge of a cliff hundreds of feet above a deep canyon. His body tightened and his hands clenched as he felt the hopelessness of his plight. Then, in his imagination, he began pulling himself upward to the top of the cliff, saving his life.

Before I was able to ask him to take the next step, he said, "I am running as fast as I can . . . something bad is chasing me!" I asked him to stop running, turn around, and "fuse" with the "bad thing" that was chasing him. At the precise moment that he "fused" with this "bad thing", he instantly became 100% fluent - as he continued to describe the visual event. Then he described himself as feeling as light as a feather gently floating through a field of wild flowers. I had never experienced anything like this before. We continued therapy for approximately six months, addressing further issues. He remained fluent!

Since then, there have been many Davids, as I have studied and clinically explored the remarkable principles and practices of the mind - body - spirit medical model of healing. I remember meeting Carl O. Simonton, M.D., Oncologist, who was having success with terminally ill cancer patients employing visualization, guided imagery and psychotherapy. I also met with Gerald Jampolsky, M.D., Institute for Attitudinal Healing, Tiburon, California. He was treating catastrophically ill children with these same techniques and was also teaching them how to tap into the awesome healing power of the human mind. This is still a viable program in the community.

More recently, I have taken workshops with Deepak Chopra, M.D., The Chopra Center for Well Being, La Jolla, California. As you probably know, he is considered to be the most articulate physician to define the mind-body-spirit medical model for healing. Many of the principles of this model come from eastern medical philosophy and have been applied to the practice of medicine for at least 3,000 years. Many label this as "Alternative Medicine or Wholistic Medicine". The health practitioner treats the whole person, looks for the underlying dynamics that may aggravate or serve as the "cause" of the illness, not just the symptoms.

This model is based on the fundamental principle that it is natural for all human organisms to seek a state of mind, body and spiritual balance or wellness. When in balance, the whole body and all of its systems function successfully with the least amount of effort. The medical literature is replete with evidence that illness and disease find it difficult or impossible to survive in this milieu.

My therapy approach for PWS is based on this medical model. I do not treat only the stuttering symptoms. I consider the whole person and work toward a balance in mind, body and spirit. Achieving this balance is not something that usually happens overnight. Healing takes time. It is important for the PWS to take a leap of faith to believe that he/she has access to unlimited inner resources of the mind, body and spirit, opening the way to the creation of not only fluency, but a fulfilling life.

There are personal attitudes that the client brings to the therapy session that can either support or sabotage success. One potentially limiting attitude includes doubt about the approach merely because it is non-traditional. Another is the concept that "once a stutterer always a stutterer."( Very little is written in stone! We can change our feelings, thoughts and behavior! When I refer to "behavior", I mean speech behavior, as well as the way we interact with others.) When we tap into the awesome power of the human mind and the incredible healing power of the spiritual (universal) energy, there are infinite healing possibilities available to us. Hippocrates wrote about this two thousand years ago!

It is the whole person who experiences life transformations, not just speech performance. I believe that most people who stutter can achieve absolute fluency with a natural flow of speech. I realize that the expression of this belief places me in a minority position, possibly committing heresy. But throughout 25 years of experience, it has been my pleasure to witness the achievement of absolute fluency for most of my clients.

In a safe and comfortable environment, I serve as a guide, encouraging the client to develop his/her own inner guidance and to trust it. This inner resource is easily accessible and invaluable throughout the course of therapy. It leaves the PWS self-reliant, with an ever-present source for information and inspiration. As Dr. Deepak Chopra paraphrases from the Bhagavad-Gita (India's book of collected wisdom), "We all draw upon the higher self for identity, life, awareness, will, and love". Somewhere within us we have all the inner resources necessary for us to realize our goals.

It is my fervent belief that the most fundamental dimension of this healing process is our commitment to and intimate communication with our higher self or as Dr. Wayne Dyer defines it, "invisible life force". We can live our truth, experience inner peace, contentment and enjoy fluency, when we align ourselves with our higher self!

There are a myriad of therapeutic techniques and concepts that can be used to move through all stages of the healing process, including regression (inner child work), gestalt therapy, psychosynthesis, applied kinesiology, EMDR, focusing, visualization, guided imagery, hypnosis, and neurolinguistic programming (NLP).

The first stage in this healing process is to guide the PWS to identify beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, feelings and behavior that may serve as obstacles in daily living and in accessing fluency. Often, during our formative and early adult years we were like "sponges", absorbing the messages (verbal and non-verbal) from those that were close to us, as if they defined who we were or are now in the present. We could not discriminate what was our truth, from the projections of others. Since many of these projected beliefs, attitudes and feelings were internalized, they were manifest as our reality and determine the way we function today.

For example, a client named Mike severely stuttered at 16 years of age. He knew that he was not wanted as a child, and always felt unworthy and powerless. He believed that there was something terribly wrong with him, not only because of his stuttering. When I attempted to guide him to realize that the way he perceived himself was based on the projected "messages" of others close to him, he totally rejected the idea and almost terminated therapy. He refused to consider the possibility that his current belief system and behavior were not his true reality. It was apparent that Mike had internalized these early projections. They became his belief system. Fortunately, he became open to a new perspective, and he is now naturally fluent.

Moving to the second stage of this therapeutic journey is to initiate a healing process. This may involve inner child work, dialoguing or forgiveness. It is essential for the PWS to dissipate stored up negative energy (feelings, thoughts) that has accumulated over many years. This energy can block any therapeutic progress unless the client purges it from his being.

An example. Rob was a moderate to severe stutterer in his late twenties. He was severely depressed and could not express any of his feelings. He was taught that the expression of emotions was a sure sign of weakness, a "lack of intestinal fortitude", and not appropriate for a young man. During one of our early therapy sessions, Rob said to me that he is empty and has no feelings. Rob attempted suicide three times and failed. He was hospitalized for a brief time, and soon realized that if he were to survive it would be critical for him to take the risk to explore what had been blocked in early childhood and as a young adult. Focusing and guided imagery were used with very positive results. Rob was able to access his deeply suppressed feelings and beliefs, enabling him to move on to the joy of healing. Today, he celebrates life and is naturally fluent.

The third stage of therapy is to guide the PWS to create a healthy belief system with new and powerful positive thoughts, to experience self acceptance and love, and to manifest effective changes in behavior. Emphasis is on learning how to internalize the idea that all of us have the freedom to make choices about the way we think, feel and behave. Here is an important truism: The way we think and feel is the way we will behave! The PWS need not feel like a victim who is controlled by stuttering!

During this phase of therapy, the PWS is guided to "experience" on an internal level, the new beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behavior. This is often accomplished through guided imagery, visualization, gestalt role playing and actively living the new life outside of the therapy environment.

I have taken many risks in my professional career, but this one has significantly changed my life in more ways than I can count. I have learned how important it is for us to have the courage to face all of our emotions, to confront our thought patterns, to look at our behavior, and to ultimately take responsibility for all of it. When we are willing to take the risk to look into our "wholistic" mirror, we will be able to enjoy the gift of life, to enjoy loving relationships, to realize our dreams and to achieve lasting fluency.

Carl H. Scott, Ph.D., is a speech pathologist, a certified clinical hypnotherapist with special emphasis in clinical psychology. He is in private practice in Redwood City, California. His clinical practice is limited to people who stutter and individuals/couples who are in emotional crisis. Because of the potentially controversial content of this article, Dr. Scott added some reading references:

  • Acterberg, Jeanne, Imagery In Healing, Shambala, Boston, 1985.
  • Borysenko, Joan, Minding The Body, Mending The Mind, Addison-Wesley Publishing, Menlo Park, CA 1987.
  • Chopra, Deepak, Quantum Healing, Exploring The Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine, Bantam Books, 1989.
  • Chopra, Deepak, Unconditional Life, Mastering The Forces That Shape Personal Reality, Bantam Books, New York, 1991.
  • Siegel, Bernie, Love, Medicine and Miracles, Harper & Row, New York, 1986.

Dr. Scott conducts Intensive Workshops

Workshop Title: Mind-Body-Spirit Therapy for Stuttering A Four Day Intensive Experiential Workshop
Where: Monterey Marriot Hotel, Monterey, California
When: April 15-18, 1999
Number of Participants: Limited to 14

Brochure Available
E-Mail:; FAX: 1-650-851-5453; Office: 1-650-369-5354
Information: Contact Carl H. Scott, Ph.D., 650-369-5354

added with permission of author
September 6, 1997
last modified March 7, 1999