In our day-to-day work with people who stutter here at the American Institute for Stuttering, we often introduce our clients to various aspects of mindfulness (and often, meditation). We describe mindfulness as a calm awareness of what is happening now, internally and externally, without judgment. The application of mindfulness in stuttering therapy has broad implications, but can range from a simple focus of noticing more about a difficult situation, to a daily practice of greater mindfulness. A person might, for example, apply mindfulness throughout the day in order to become more aware of where they carry tension and/or pay attention to how their automatic thoughts fire.
Based on the experiences reported by our clients, and our own personal experiences exploring mindfulness, we know that it is a skill that requires practice. Sometimes it just seems too difficult to get out of the emotional haze of the stuttering moment. For many of our clients, this struggle with mindfulness leads them to try meditation. Specific to the social experience of stuttering, meditation can be useful in “flexing the mindfulness muscle” in preparation for difficult stuttering moments.
If you’re hoping to become more mindful, and considering meditation, here are a few basic considerations:
- If you’ve got a perfect image of what meditation “should” look like in your mind, try to set that aside. Your assumptions of what meditation is may or may not be achievable, so try to approach it with an open mind.
- You might not feel very good at it at first, and that’s okay.
- If you fall asleep, that’s okay (for some people, that might even be the goal). If you’re not trying to fall asleep, try meditating at a different time of day, or in a different setting.
- Your meditation might look very different than another person’s. We all meditate for different reasons. Some even meditate while walking!
- It’s normal, and quite common to start with guided meditations. Some people exclusively meditate this way. There are a variety of resources for guided meditation that we regularly recommend to our clients. In fact, that’s what led to this post.
Below is a list of resources for guided meditation that we often recommend to our clients. They are not specifically designed for people who stutter, but are a very helpful way to start practicing mindfulness.
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Body Scan
For many of our clients, this is a good starting point for trying out meditation for the first time, especially when they are looking for something free. In this guided meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn, you are first asked to lie down and then you are guided through a detailed, 30-minute, body scan. Caution, he encourages you to try to stay awake. If you do this one before bedtime, that might be hard to accomplish.
Guided Meditation Apps
Calm has a bit of free content and large library of meditations with a paid monthly membership. We like the ability to select the background sound/imagery (e.g., babbling brook, fireplace, rainforest, beach sunset, etc.). It also offers a good introduction to daily meditation with a 7-day program.
This app currently costs $5. It is designed to provide targeted guided meditations for various life activities. It asks you what you are doing, and offers a handful of shorter (~2 min) and longer meditations (7-10 min) for each.
A good, easy to navigate meditation app offering both free and paid “premium” content. It’s useful for advanced meditation, but great for beginners as well.
This app is targeted specifically for teens. It is made by the folks who make the Mindfulness App. Similarly, It offers a mix of free and paid guided meditations.
Headspace offers both free content and an optional monthly membership. We love the buddy system option, if you’re interested in trying this out with a friend. This app has a very current, modern look. It might be a bit cartoonish for some, but we like it. The also have an article on their site discussing meditation and stuttering.
This app offers a lot of customization (background, length) for each meditation and a variety of meditation experts, in case you want to experiment listening to different voices.
The most noticeable feature of this app is the sheer amount of free content, and we love how the app brings a sense of community to the experience.
Other Resources for Further Learning
Looking for more information on mindfulness and meditation and the application to stuttering? Check out Dr. Ellen-Marie Silverman’s book, Mindfulness & Stuttering, or an ISAD Article she wrote. StutterTalk has published a few episodes on this topic as well – one with Dr. Michael Boyle and another with Dr. Paul Brocklehurst.
Like a meditation resource that isn’t listed here? Share it in the comments below!
May 2018 Update – Fitness Goat published an awesome blog post titled, Meditation 101: Practices, Postures, and Pretty Much Everything In Between. It’s a great resource on types of meditation, postures, and more. If you’re looking to dive further into meditation practices, you’ll appreciate this article.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.