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Beyond Stuttering: the McGuire Program
- Category: Book Reviews
- Published: Thursday, 27 July 2017 12:28
- Written by Lisa Wilder
Beyond Stuttering is a companion book for the McGuire Program, an intensive course and maintenance program for people who stutter. Thousands of people have attended the program since its launch in 1994, with many of them becoming McGuire coaches and instructors.
The book explains the rationale behind the treatment and the program’s methods, as well as featuring some inspiring testimonials of graduates.
For those who join and complete the program, the initial cost covers a lifetime membership offering personal coaching and contact information for other members around the world; to phone, skype or email for advice and support. A member can also attend other sessions as a "refresher" for a minimal cost anywhere it is offered.
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The book is not a stand-alone treatment manual. McGuire is not designed to practice speech therapy in isolation. The main success of the program lies in the way it is implemented in a group setting and the emphasis placed on the supportive relationships a participant develops with other people in the program. The program is for adults, but youth under 18 may attend in the company of a parent.
The McGuire program has been widely successful. The instructors are people who stutter themselves who have graduated from the program. Some professional speech-language pathologists have spoken favorably of McGuire, albeit with reservations, pointing to the lack of clinical evidence for its unorthodox methods, and complaints from some who left the program early after finding it too confrontational or the practice too grueling.
The founder, David McGuire, developed the program after taking speech therapy himself for many years. A psychology professor focusing on adolescents, as well as a top-level tennis pro and instructor, he had a unique skill set that made him well suited to design his own unique treatment program for stuttering. He used the rigorous, drill-based training regimen of professional sports as a basis combined with the practice of cognitive therapy.
Correcting a bias?
One of the program’s substantial differences from traditional therapy is its masculine slant. Of course, many women attend the program and some even become coaches and instructors, but the majority of participants and instructors are men. A great deal of the language and terminology used is masculine in nature: techniques being described as “weapons” and practice leading to "tournament tough." The techniques are not like "gentle onset" or prolongation, and rather uses "hard hits" on word sounds and an overall assertive speaking style. This factor alone differentiates it from mainstream speech pathology which by all accounts has a difficult time attracting men to the field.
In fact, the American Speech and Hearing Association estimates the number of male SLPs practicing in the profession as under 4%. In 2013 the Canadian Institute for Health Information estimated males in the practice as under 8%. The number of male SLPs working with children for school boards has been estimated as low as 1%. Some therapists have identified the lack of male role models in the field as a problem. Young boys are more likely to experience stuttering than girls by a ratio of 4 to 1, and the girls who experience stuttering are more likely to grow out of it naturally.