How hypnotherapy cured my son’s stutter: A response

An article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning titled: How hypnotherapy cured my son’s stutter.

The key points the parent and author reports are that:

  • they saw 7 speech pathologists in 9 years without successfully treating the stuttering
  • after 1 session of hypnotherapy the child barely stuttered
  • stuttering (is an) anxiety-driven condition
  • after hypnotherapy treatment the child still stutters a little; he has a slight pause before he speaks

As a speech pathologist with a PhD in stuttering and many years of experience treating the disorder, I feel obligated to put some context around this report.

Speech pathologists are trained to used evidence-based practice. That is, they use treatments that science has shown to be effective, repeatably.

Why didn’t speech pathology treatment work for this child?

We don’t know from this article. Was it poor advice from the speech pathologists? Was it a parent factor? (Parents deliver most stuttering treatments with daily practice at home.) Was it a child factor?

That the author of the article saw 7 speech pathologists in 9 years is a strong signal that the treatment conditions were not optimal. No wonder she was looking for alternative options!

After a single session of hypnotherapy the author reports her son barely stuttered. However, this means little. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that it will stay mild and unobtrusive.

As the author points out, stuttering changes from day to day anyway. This is the nature of stuttering. In fact, the author admits her child still stutters a little.

It’s highly unlikely that hypnotherapy has cured the stuttering. It may have had some effect on the child’s speech-related anxiety.

Stuttering is not caused by anxiety, but anxiety is known to exacerbate stuttering. Speech pathologists who work with stuttering will consider anxiety and awareness of stuttering as part of treatment.

Parents of children who stutter should know they are best to seek advice from a speech pathologist with experience treating stuttering. While it’s nice to think that hypnotherapy might provide a silver bullet, the science says otherwise.