Make Room For The Stuttering

Stuttering Paradoxes – Episode 81

Posted on: February 7, 2012

Episode 81 features Vivian Sisskin, who is a SLP and Board Recognized Specialist in Fluency Disorders. Vivian is on the clinical faculty at the University of Maryland. She has specialized in stuttering for over 30 years, and has “loved every minute of it.”

Vivian is also active with the National Stuttering Association, and is a moderator of the popular discussion group Stutt-l.

I have heard Vivian speak at a number of stuttering conferences over the last several years, and got the chance to really talk with her quite a bit at last year’s FRIENDS conference in Washington, DC. Vivian has also been very supportive and encouraging of this podcast that gives voice to the stories of women who stutter.

When I first heard Vivian present a session about her avoidance reduction therapy, I found I couldn’t get enough of it. Learning how to avoid avoidance behavior resonates strongly with covert stutterers, which I “thought I was” for many years.

I am privileged and honored to have Vivian as a guest, to share what avoidance reduction therapy is, why it is so powerful, and how she specifically approaches the work in therapy.

One of the themes Vivian shares in this powerful episode is change – the act of doing leads the way to change. Be sure to check in, and feel free to leave feedback.

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

17 Responses to "Stuttering Paradoxes – Episode 81"

Thank you so much Pam!
Less than 4 years ago i didn’t know where to go on,i couldn’t break my stuttering pattern.I was very fluent with my close friends,and i couldn’t talk at all with the most of the world.
And then i saw and read the methods of Van Riper and Joseph and Vivian Sheehan,and i decided to stop all my avoidance behaviors and to tryto stutter with less tension.
After i heard Vivian Sheehan i finally understood how my silent blocks was a way of hiding my stuttering,and i started to get use to stutter with more sound.
When i did it i started to stutter a lot ,and i didn’t have a group that could understand me,everybody asked me “what is wrong with you? why you stutter so much?”
It was very hard time,i felt that i opened the “gates of hell”.
But i couldn’t stop doing it,i was so liberating that i couldn’t stop .
Now the process is easier (still difficult but less),and i wish that i had a group that will tell me,that i am in the right way.
The only group i had was a group of Fluency Shaping people with other stutterers,and i still participated in that group cause i didn’t had any other group.Several months ago one of the members of the group said to me:”you are speaking a lot better with your weird method that you invented “.
It was hard explain him,that my “weird method” is not indeed mine.
Thanks again,i enjoy so much every time when i hear material of Joseph sheehan and his legacy(his students). Ari

I think that Vivian did in the show, some Voluntary Stuttering,am i wrong?

Yes, Ari, V-V-V-V-Vivian indeed did some voluntary stuttering, to model how she works with the avoidcance reduction approach.

Pam i mean beside of her demonstration how avoidcance reduction approach works.I think that i heard in her regular conversation,some short blocks,am i wrong?

Now that would need to be answered by Vivian herself! Vivian?
As she does not identify as a pws, I would guess not. That may have been just normal dis-fluency . . . . unless of course my stuttering was rubbing off on her! 🙂

Hi Pam
Great podcast. I have been in Avoidance Reduction Therapy (ART) with Vivian for many years now. I can truly say that it has transformed my life. I was a moderately severe stutterer with all the baggage that goes along with that (shame, avoid speaking situations, hampered at work in terms of career advancement, etc.) However, my speech has improved dramatically since being in therapy.

I don’t consider myself to be “fluent”, but my speech is largely struggle free and forward moving. I no longer have problems with what I’ll call “informational” speech – ordering in a restaurant, introducing myself at a meeting, giving a credit card number over the phone, that type of thing. I routinely lead conference calls and workshops at work, and give briefings to senior officials in the Department of Energy. I am in Toastmasters and have achieved the “competent communicator” level.

Prior to finding ART, I pretty much tried everything – Airflow technique, fluency shaping, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, biofeedback, accupuncture, psycho-therapy, etc. I had some fleeting successes, but nothing long term.

ART is not easy, particularly in the beginning, but if you have the courage to persevere, the rewards and benefits are substantial – Because it WORKS.

Your web site and podcasts are fantastic. Keep up the good work and hope to see you at the NSA conference in Tampa.


Matt Zenkowich

Thanks Matt! Even though I have never had the opportunity to work on ART, as my only therapy experience was with pure fluency shaping, just listening to Vivian at some workshops and then this conversation, has helped me greatly. I now understand how critical it is to avoid avoidance, which I do in many difficult areas of my life.
I am so adept at it, its scary. Most of the time I don’t even know I am doing it – except with stuttering. I have almost completely stopped that, and now just stutter naturally.
Thanks for your insights.

Hi Pam – just caught up with your latest podcast, the interview with Vivian Sisskin. I just wanted to say its absolutely brilliant. Listening to you and her felt like a therapy session in of itself! Thanks again for the great show and doing a great service for the stuttering community.

another great the new background music.its more refreshing than the previous one.keep the good work going.

Hi Pam,

I started listening to your podcasts, which I find very interesting. However, the chat that you had with Vivian Sisskin flabbergasted me! When Vivian gave examples of some of the avoidance speaking behaviors that some stutterers do, THAT WAS ME, I swear! I don’t see myself as a severe stutterer, and I don’t avoid speaking situations, switch words, etc., but I certainly do the “Emmm…”, “Ahhhh…”, repeating words or entire sentences when I block in the middle. At 47, I certainly have some work to do in terms of accepting, but I find it very hard, especially that I have been following this semi-covert pattern for years, if not decades! I feel that your podcast, as well as the other good ones (Stuttertalk, Stuttering Is Cool, etc.) have pushed me to some extent. The ball is in my camp now. It’s up to me to make that next difficult step!

Thanks for the inspiration,


Scary, isn’t it, when we see our self in something we see or hear. I am glad you listened and took time to reflect and comment.
I too was covert for many years – or at least thought I was. Turns out the only one I was fooling was myself.
I hope to see you back here, checking in and commenting on whatever might resonate with you.
Vivian has certainly reminded me of all I used to do, and I now easily admit I am a “work in progress.”
Thanks JF

Hi Pam! I’m new to your blog and really the online stuttering support groups/forums that are out there. But I really did enjoy this podcast! I haven’t been in (formal) therapy in many years, and I had never heard of Avoidance Reduction Therapy, so it was very informational! I look forward to listening to more of these podcasts! 🙂 Emily

Emily – welcome to the on-line support community. There is so much available for us to check out and reflect upon, and learn.
Lots of people haven’t heard of Vivian’s approach, so that is why I was so happy she agreed to do this conversation with me.
I had originally asked her to write something for the blog, but now I am so glad we did this instead,
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please stop by often.

I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion with Vivian. I think ART is critical because avoiding can be so insidious.

I like her statement that a person is in recovery from stuttering when they are happy with how they sound, how they feel, and how they think. Vivian also stated that another positive place to be with one’s speech is when a person reaches a point when speech patterns are comfortable and not interfering with communication, . I would definitely say that you, Pam, have a comfortable speech pattern, at least to me as a listener. I can’t say how you feel about it, but I was then surprised when Vivian said she’d put on her clinician’s hat and stated that you’ve made great strides in overcoming the fear of stuttering and your attitude but that you have a bit more to go with your motor skills. In that statement, is she adding fluency to the goals in ART rather than it being a by-product of ART?

Thanks to those of you who made comments. A half a year later, I came back to the Episode to check out what I actually said at one point, because a PWS heard it, and asked me some questions about it. I had to find out what I said 🙂
I guess comments after 2/11 were off my radar.
That said, better late than never, I would love to respond to Hannah who hit it on the head when she said that “fluency” is a by-product of therapy, not a goal. This is true when we define “fluency” as frequency of stuttered words.
When I made the comment to Pam that Hannah refers to, I was trying to make the point that most of what interferes with fluency motor-wise (and what is labeled as stuttering) are ways (or remnants of ways) to avoid showing stuttering. I once worked with a client whose stuttering pattern included a syllable repetition: “te-te-te-teacher”. When I asked her what her “intent” was when she repeated, she said that it was just the way she stuttered. After a bit of self-evaluation, she discovered that her way of stuttering reflected an old escape behavior of starting a word, and then escaping and retrying it. Her current pattern looked like core part-word repetition, but the intent was not to stutter forward, but to avoid. So, not all motor work seeks to increase fluency. Some of it is designed to help the PWS learn what to keep and what to throw away when evaluating the clutter in the closet.

[…] We discuss acceptance and confidence, communicating at work, and speech therapy experiences. Tamara discusses being close to the University of Maryland, where Vivian Sisskin works, who was featured in episode 81, talking about her avoidance reduction therapy. […]

[…] wanted to be a SLP but didn’t have the confidence. She moved to Washington DC and found Vivian Sisskin’s avoidance reduction therapy group. There, she found the self-confidence to go back to school to become a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 713,381 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2022.
Follow Make Room For The Stuttering on
%d bloggers like this: