Recently a petition has been circulated asking the American Speech and Hearing and Language Association to enforce its own, self imposed, Code of Ethics so that consumers of stuttering treatment and their families are better protected from unethical and misleading advertisements. Peter Reitzes and Dr. Philip Schneider, who are justifiably concerned about misleading advertising particularly as related to stuttering treatment, initiated the petition. I signed the petition, because I am against false advertisement and I believe that as professionals we need to do our best to explain the realistic and possible outcomes of treatment to clients.
However, aside from the issue of promising too good results, there is another ethical issue that needs to be addressed. This is the issue of promising that the best realistic outcome of treatment is to become a better and happier communicator who continues to stutter. I have heard many clinicians send out the message to people who stutter that nothing can be done that will enable them to become a normally fluent speaker. In fact, many highly regarded clinicians who are leaders in the field of stuttering say that you should be suspicious of anyone who claims to have high levels of success in the treatment of stuttering.
My experience in treating over 2000 people who stutter, has lead me to believe that there are no quick fixes or magic technique that you can learn about that will suddenly make the stuttering go away. More importantly, however, I have seen over and over again that people who stutter can become normally fluent speakers by going through a process that includes learning, awareness, the right kind of repetitive practice, intention, and conscious mind change. This is not a fanciful claim. It is a fact, according Dr. Joe Dispenza, who explains that when something happens once it’s an incident; when it happens twice it’s a coincidence and when it happens again and again, it’s a fact.
When professionals in the field of stuttering block their minds and their clients’ minds to the possibility of change, they are taking away the individual’s hope for growth and change. They are doing a disservice that I believe borders on being unethical. While it is noble to try to protect clients from disappointment when they do not achieve promised results, it is the highest standard of professionalism to find ways for our clients who want to speak fluently to achieve their desired results.