Stuttering is a speech disorder that affects the fluency of speech. People suffering from it know what they would like to say, but, because of involuntary interruptions, repetitions or extensions of sounds, they are unable to actually say it.
The severity of the disorder varies in the same subject across different situations (Packman, Code, & Onslow, 2007) and usually worsens when he/she is forced to speak. Generally speaking, stuttering is absent while reading aloud, singing, when auditive feedbacks are altered or while speaking to inanimate objects or animals (Ingham, 1984).
Ann Packman, who has been a researcher at the Australian Stuttering Research Center for over 30 years, believes that the cause of stuttering isn’t still fully understood (Packman, 2012) despite the proliferation of theoretical models (Bloodstein & Bernstein Ratner, 2008; Packman & Attanasio, 2004; Yairi & Seery, 2011). Starkweather & Givens-Ackerman (1997, p. 24) maintain that “there is no single etiology, but as many etiologies as there are stories of stuttering development”.
Stuttering is a childhood-onset disorder (3-6 years old) and in many cases it remits before puberty (85% of cases). Almost all adults suffering from it (and many of those who recovered but stuttered during childhood) report a specific form of social anxiety that appears in situations requiring public speaking, meeting new people, speaking to superiors and even answering the telephone (Iverach & Rapee, 2013).
In these situations, subjects can even display physical or motor symptoms, such as blushing, tremors, sweating. Typical reactions are anticipatory anxiety, stress responses and avoidance. The impact of stuttering on self-esteem and on psychological well-being can be very severe. People suffering from it experience anxiety or even fear when they have to pronounce certain consonants or vowels, or when they are in social situations. Quite often they withdraw into social isolation.
If childhood stuttering has been very severe or linked to bullying or mockery episodes, avoidance reactions to social situations may endure even after remission (Kraaimaat et al., 2002). Furthermore, anxiety itself may re-trigger stuttering (Menzies, Onslow, & Packman, 1999), creating a vicious circle in which anxiety is at the same time cause and effect of stuttering itself.
Hypnosis is a methodology that is often used to treat several forms of anxiety (Hammond, 2010), even severe ones, such as the Acute Stress Disorder (Bryant, Moulds, Guthrie, & Nixon, 2005) and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Solomon &Johnson, 2002). Furthermore, hypnosis is receiving increasing attention in the international scientific community because it’s a low cost, side-effects free and relatively simple technique to administer (Stoelb, Molton, Jensen, & Patterson, 2009).
Hypnotherapy has also been used effectively to manage and treat stuttering (Kaya & Alladin, 2012). Researches published in this field report good results in the management and treatment of several aspects of stuttering. Some of them focused especially on the strengthening of the sense of self (Gibson & Heap, 1991), the improvement of self-esteem and the reduction of anxiety (Doughty, 1990; Kraft, 1994; Moss & Oakley, 1997).
There are also studies investigating the use of hypnotic interventions for the treatment of psychogenic dysphonia (Giacalone, 1981; Heap & Aravind, 2002). More specifically, Heap and Aravind (2002, pp. 450-451) refer to an unpublished study of theirs that compares a standard linguistic/vocal training group with another one that also received hypnotherapy. This latter group obtained important improvements on both linguistic/vocal and quality of life measures compared to the standard training group.  Based on these preliminary but encouraging results, the two authors recommend a greater use of hypnosis in the treatment of speech disorders.
One of the greatest issues seems to be related to the difficulty in finding operators with adequate training both in the field of communicative rehabilitation and hypnosis. Scientific literature highlights the need to further investigate both the role of the operator’s experience and competence and of aspecific relational factors – such as attention and rapport (Stoelb, Molton, Jensen, and Patterson, 2009).
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