[Overton]Effective Change of Behaviors

Changing any behavior, whether it's quitting smoking, losing weight or changing the way you speak, is difficult. And, once the behavior has been changed, it is even more difficult to maintain that change. Considering the challenges of successfully maintaining behavior change in general, it is not surprising that many people who stutter have difficulty maintaining the improved communication abilities they developed during treatment.

Following is a list of some of the concepts and strategies that underlie effective self-change and maintenance of that change. These strategies were learned while working with stutterers in the maintenance phase of treatment and by reading literature in the areas of stuttering and other behavior problems. Understanding these ideas and using these strategies will make it easier to maintain the gains made in treatment for the long haul.

  1. Maintenance is not a static stage. It is an active, busy period of change and learning to cope with challenges. According to Einer Boberg, maintenance is like walking on a treadmill – if you stop walking, you fall off.
  2. Change is a process with ups and downs. In one study only 5% of people trying to change problem behaviors made it through the cycle without any setbacks.
  3. The difference between a lapse and a relapse in the reaction to the experience. With a lapse, you get back on track and learn from your mistakes.
  4. Feelings and attitudes have a strong connection to behavior. Negative thinking can sabotage attempts to change and have a profound influence on what you do before, during and after speaking situations.
  5. Integrate practice into your daily life. Weave speech practice into the fabric of your everyday living, but do it in a well-planned, goal-directed way. Remember, ongoing practice takes perseverance.
  6. Tackle avoidances. This will help you overcome your fear of stuttering and increase your self-confidence and feeling of being in personal control.
  7. Cultivate a supportive environment. Let your family, friends and coworkers know what you need. Join a support group for people who stutter.
  8. Think of return visits to a speech clinic as a natural part of the maintenance process. Return visits give you the opportunity to refresh skills, reframe problems and challenges and renew personal commitment.
  9. Renew your commitment to change. Make a regular time to reflect on your accomplishments, to identify new goals and to renew your commitment to change.
  10. Recognize your successes and celebrate them. Look for both large and small successes. Reward yourself for achieving your practice goals. Keep a daily record of your notable successes and review it when you're having a tough day.
  11. Create a new lifestyle. Meet new people and find more opportunities to talk. It can feel strange and unnatural to use your new fluency skills with people your are familiar with. And, cues in your environment can trigger the old ways of speaking and acting. Getting involved in new activities with different people can help you practice your fluency skills and allow you to develop an image of yourself as a more fluent, comfortable, talkative speaker.
  12. Be open about your stuttering and your speech techniques and the need to manage your speech. Openness counteracts pressure for fluency that can cause tension and lead to struggle and avoidance.
(The above information was taken from Deborah Kully's Speech to the 1998 Canadian Stuttering Conference, which was published in the monthly newsletter of Speak Easy, Inc, a Canadian support group for adults who stutter.)

If you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:

Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX
(817) 294-8408


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Copyright 2001 Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Last revised: May 05, 2001