Avoidance Reduction therapy is an approach to stuttering therapy that can be used with both school-aged and adult clients. This approach views stuttering as an approach-avoidance conflict; a theory that states that a PWS experiences the desire to speak and interact with others while simultaneously experiencing an urge to hide their stuttering. The result of these competing desires culminates in the maladaptive secondary behaviors that interfere with communication (ex. eye blinking, leaning forward, use of fillers, etc.). These competing desires also result in a feeling that one can not partake in certain activities and situations due to their speech.
Avoidance Reduction therapy works towards reducing these maladaptive behaviors, leaving in its place a more comfortable, forward moving form of stuttering. It also works towards reducing the handicap of stuttering, whereby increasing a person's willingness to participate in various activities and situations, whether or not they show some stuttering. Unlike other approaches that focus on fluency, this particular approach views a person's strong desire to be fluent as perpetuating the problem and ultimately what contributes to their word and situational avoidances, as well as much of the struggle behaviors you see in their speech. Avoidance Reduction therapy does not put an emphasis on fluency, but rather on improving a person's ability to successfully communicate in the "real" world.
How do you incorporate Avoidance Reduction therapy into your sessions? Start by helping your client to identify their own stuttering patterns and assist them in recognizing how much of their pattern is "true" stuttering and how much of what we see is actually habits they formed in an attempt to mask stuttering. Challenge clients to allow themselves to show true stuttering (or perhaps use voluntary stuttering), beginning in the safety of the therapy room and eventually branching out to different "real-life" situations. As you work through these challenges, clients will often discover ways in which their stuttering was holding them back that they may not have realized before. Read on to learn about Ben Goldstein's first-hand experience with Avoidance Reduction therapy.