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Mastering Blocking and Stuttering

Bob G. Bpdemja,er, D.Min

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Mastering Blocking and Stuttering: A Cognitive Approach to Achieving Fluency

By Bob G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.

Crown House Publishing, Ltd., Copyright 2005

Reviewed by Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.

For over 14 years Bob Bodenhamer has worked with hundreds of people who stutter, helping them recover from speech dysfluency. His successes and articles on the subject have attracted the attention of people who stutter from around the world. With the publication of Mastering Blocking and Stuttering, Bodenhamer is now one of the leading experts in the field and a pioneer in the treatment of stuttering, stammering, and verbal blocking. This is a book for speech and language therapists, and all therapists who work with stutterers, as well as stutterers themselves who are looking for a self-help approach to the problem.

The book's central premise is that stuttering is a learned behavior, more cognitive than physical. The book draws upon Neuro-Semantics, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, cognitive psychology, and General Semantics in defining the cognitive components of stuttering and in fully explaining strategies for change. Bodenhamer acknowledges the theoretical contributions of John Harrison on "The Stuttering Hexagon" and "The McGuire Programme for Getting Good at the Sport of Speaking" founded by Dave McGuire.

The Origins of Stuttering

Stuttering invariably has its roots in traumatic and unsettling childhood events. It begins as a naturally-occurring blocking in response to stressful and frightening experiences. Somehow, often due to the reactions of observers, the child comes to think of the dysfluency as something unusual, bad, and unacceptable. Soon the child associates blocking with anxiety, dreading it, trying to prevent it, and yet, the blocking and stuttering become more pronounced, more frequent. Unable to control the stuttering, the child identifies himself as a "stutterer" and attaches meanings to that identity, such as defective, hopeless, and incurable. Along with this self-rejection comes the belief that others are cruel, judging, untrustworthy, and plotting some treachery against the one who stutters. Bodenhamer reminds us that underneath all the misery of stuttering, the behavior serves unconscious motives, preserving the integrity of the personality and the safety of the individual.

Toward Fluency

People who stutter must complete three tasks in order to gain fluency: · Develop a healthy concept of self. · Ignore what others may or may not think of them. · Know that they have the personal resources for living successfully in the world.

Mastering Blocking and Stuttering shows the reader how to accomplish these outcomes. Bodenhamer proposes a therapeutic approach that incorporates a variety of interventions such as:
· Reframing the unconscious intentions of stuttering. · Identifying and changing limiting and disempowering beliefs. This process applies especially to the two main categories of beliefs that drive stuttering; 1) negative beliefs about self as worthless, flawed and defective, and 2) the belief that the world is a dangerous, insecure, frightening place in which others cannot be trusted. · Changing the outdated "maps" formed in childhood. · Anchoring states of calm. · Overcoming a sense of helplessness through personal empowerment. · Confronting cognitive distortions. · Teaching behavioral flexibility by directing attention away from self and toward the purpose and content of one's communication. · Having well-formed outcomes for fluency. · Making use of foreground and background cognitions. · Shifting perceptual positions for adopting new points of view.

A major hurdle is to convince the person who stutters that he or she actually can control and change thoughts and emotions. Bodenhamer devotes a chapter to the internal representations that accompany stuttering; the horror movies of the mind that create fear and anticipatory anxiety; the mind-talk about failure and rejection. He educates the reader on how to change the movies and the inner dialog by applying submodality change patterns. For movies of traumatic childhood memories, he recommends Visual Kinesthetic Dissociation.

Another challenge for anyone who wants to overcome stuttering is to create new meanings, beliefs, and associations. One method is called "Creating a New Self Narrative" in which the individual who stutters writes his or her life narrative "up until now," evaluates the narrative, finds counterexamples to major beliefs and premises, and then writes a new, better story of the future "from now on."

Stress management is particularly important in working toward fluency. Bodenhamer includes a chapter on this topic, addressing how to create and anchor states of calm, as well as how to diffuse intense emotions and view them in a detached, objective manner.

Bodenhamer concludes the text with a number of specific change methods for personal empowerment and self-esteem. These include:

· Content reframing. · Context reframing. · Accessing self-acceptance, appreciation and awe. · Swish patterns. · The No to Yes pattern · The Drop Down and Through Pattern

NLP practitioners and anyone familiar with Bodenhamer's work (and that of his frequent co-author L. Michael Hall) will recognize most of these processes. What this book adds to the knowledge base are numerous case studies that depict precisely how to apply these processes to the problem of stuttering. A word of caution from the author: Achieving fluency is not accomplished in a few short therapy sessions. Bodenhamer estimates that 25 to 30 hours of therapy and much at-home practice are required for successful results.

About the Author

Bob Bodenhamer is one of the most accomplished clinicians and authors I know and truly admire. With a Doctorate in Divinity, he has studied religion, psychology, pastoral care, and philosophy. In obtaining certification as a practitioner and trainer of NLP, he trained under leaders in the field, such as Thad James and Wyatt Woodsmall. He serves as a training consultant for corporations and maintains a private therapy practice in North Carolina. He has served four Southern Baptist churches as pastor, over a span of 34 years. He teaches at Gaston College, in Gastonia, North Carolina. With L. Michael Hall, he co-founded the Institute of Neuro-Semantics and trains NLP practitioners, with continuing education approval from the National Board of Certified Clinical Counselors. He has co-authored ten books on the subjects of Neuro-Semantics, NLP, and hypnotic language patterns.


With Mastering Blocking and Stuttering, Bob Bodenhamer has produced a definitive text on the treatment of stuttering. In doing so, he has received recognition from the National Stuttering Association in the U.S. and the British Stammering Association in the U.K. This book should be in the hands of every speech and language specialist and therapist who works with people who stutter. It is well-organized and highly readable with easy-to-understand methods and examples. I predict this ground-breaking work will stand as a landmark achievement in the advancement of therapies for alleviating language dysfluency.

To order Mastering Blocking and Stuttering, contact:

Crown House Publishing Ltd. Crown Building Bancyfelin, Carmarthen, Wales SA33 5ND, UK Email: Phone: 44-0-1267-211-345

In the US: Crown House Publishing Ltd. Editorial/Marketing Offices 4 Berkeley St. Norwalk, CT 06850 USA