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J Fluency Disord. 2009 Sep;34(3):187-200. doi: 10.1016/j.jfludis.2009.09.002. Epub 2009 Oct 4.

Cognitive behavior therapy for adults who stutter: a tutorial for speech-language pathologists.

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Australian Stuttering Research Centre, The University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW, Australia.


This paper explores the relationships between anxiety and stuttering and provides an overview of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) strategies that can be applied by speech-language pathologists. There is much support for the idea that adults who stutter (AWS) may need CBT. First, approximately 50% of AWS may be suffering from social anxiety disorder. A difficult developmental history marked by problematic peer relationships and bullying may contribute to this. Stereotypes in the general community lead AWS to have occasional experiences that confirm their fears of negative evaluation. This can leave AWS with significant social and occupational avoidance and can impact on their quality of life. Second, in a recent large study of behavioral treatment for AWS, participants who had a mental health disorder, including social anxiety, failed to maintain the benefits of treatment. Available evidence supports the contention that CBT can effectively decrease anxiety and social avoidance, and increase engagement in everyday speaking situations for AWS. The components of CBT presented here are drawn from a model widely used in clinical psychology, and existing supportive data reviewed. Worksheets for speech-language pathologists undertaking CBT in this population are provided. CBT procedures, in their essentials, are straightforward to implement. Hence, the present authors suggest that speech-language pathologists who have had training in conducting CBT should be able to apply the techniques described in this paper.


The reader will be able to explain: (1) the relation between stuttering and anxiety; (2) the nature of Social Anxiety Disorder; (3) why those who stutter are often diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder; (4) the four components of cognitive behavior therapy; (5) how cognitive behavior therapy is adapted for the management of speech-related anxiety in those who stutter.

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