If you or your child are in speech therapy to help manage a stutter, you may wonder how long therapy will last. How long does it take to “treat” stuttering? How do you know when you’ve reached the end of speech therapy? There are a few ways to know that you’ve reached this big milestone. Here are some signs that you’re ready to graduate from speech therapy for stuttering, also known as stammering.
You have independence with stuttering techniques
During speech therapy for stuttering, your speech therapist helps you decide which techniques work best for your stuttering. You learn how to use these techniques in daily conversation. Some of these techniques can take a while to get used to, since they are a different way of speaking. They might include changing how you breathe, how quickly you talk, or how you pronounce sounds.
Your speech therapist will provide guidance and feedback on how you’re doing with these stuttering techniques. In the beginning, the speech therapist may need to give you a lot of help with the techniques. But over time, you’ll likely be able to use them in conversation independently. This means you won’t need any input from your speech therapist and can use these techniques on your own.
Once you can use the techniques successfully in all situations, that’s likely one sign that you’re done with speech therapy.
You’ll want to work on stuttering techniques in all kinds of situations, such as speaking with new people and talking on the phone. Once you can use the techniques successfully in all situations, that’s likely one sign that you’re done with speech therapy.
You have a decrease in avoidance behaviors
Many people who stutter have avoidance behaviors. Avoidance behaviors are when a person does not say or do what they’d like in order to avoid stuttering. Examples might be avoiding certain words that they may stutter on, or not participating in challenging tasks, such as making a phone call or speaking up at school or work.
Speech therapy for stuttering can help with these behaviors. The speech therapist will likely assign home practice tasks to help the person work through the things they’re avoiding. Once a person is able to decrease their avoidance behaviors, this is another sign that they’re close to finishing speech therapy.
You gain confidence in your speech and hold empowering beliefs about your communication
The whole purpose of stuttering therapy is to help people become confident in how they speak and communicate. People can and should be comfortable when they stutter! In order to achieve this, you need to gain confidence in your speech and change how you view your stuttering.
As you go through speech therapy, you may work with your speech therapist on “reframing” negative beliefs you have about your stuttering. You may learn to become more accepting of your stuttering and more comfortable with how you speak. For example, you may shift your thinking from something negative, such as “I hate my stutter,” to something more empowering, such as “I like that my stutter makes me unique.”
This shift in thinking probably won’t happen overnight. But once you get there, you won’t have as much of a need for speech therapy. After all, the end goal of speech therapy is to become a confident communicator.
You’ve become the best communicator you can be
Some people who stutter may have limiting beliefs about themselves and their potential. These could be thoughts like, “I’ll never be able to speak in front of my class,” or “I will never be able to have a leadership position in my career.” But once they see the progress they’re making in speech therapy, they may start to reach for new goals–even some they never thought they could accomplish.
During your time in speech therapy, ask yourself: “Am I the communicator I want to be?” If not, talk with your speech therapist! Your therapist may be able to help you with skills in social communication, public speaking, or professional communication. It’s not uncommon for stuttering treatment to branch into other areas of communication.
Treatment should end when you’ve reached all your communication goals, not just those directly related to stuttering.
Your speech therapist says it’s time to finish therapy
Some people may feel nervous about leaving the support of speech therapy. Even if you’ve met your goals and are speaking more fluently, you may not feel ready to stop therapy.
In these cases, the speech therapist may need to step in and assure the person that they’re ready to graduate. They can review the person’s progress and talk through their feelings about this transitional time.
It can feel hard to end therapy when you’ve had ongoing support from your speech therapist–even if you’ve met all your goals.
Keep in mind, too, that speech therapists are bound to a code of ethics. If they don’t feel a client needs help, they ethically cannot continue to see the client.
It can feel hard to end therapy when you’ve had ongoing, frequent support from your speech therapist–even if you’ve met all your goals. Remember, if you ever need a “tune-up” session, or your stuttering techniques no longer seem to work as well, you can always come back for a check-in with your speech therapist.