Online stutter therapy the ‘new-norm’

26 August 2020

Connecting with people via technology has become commonplace for many Kiwis over the last few months.  We are incredibly fortunate to live in a time where technology can enable us to connect, albeit virtually, with our loved ones, colleagues and clients. 

With the move to Alert Level 4, technology not only became an essential way to communicate and the only way for those who stutter to access services.

The Stuttering Treatment and Research Trust (START) has been providing stuttering therapy via Skype for about five years. Fortunately, prior to COVID-19, START’s speech language therapists were already ‘seeing’ approximately 30 percent of clients virtually, so the move to seeing everyone online was a relatively smooth transition. 

START Speech and Language Therapist, Dr Anna Herne (pictured above), tells us they only see a small number of the approximately 50,000 of New Zealanders who stutter. 

“There are still many people who don’t know START exists, or that they can access services remotely,” says Dr Herne. 

“In the past some people may have felt uncomfortable about online therapy, but the Level 4 lockdown has proven this option is just as effective as in-person sessions.”

START’s aspiration is that every person who stutters has access to the services and the support they need. 

“My hope is that with the increased acceptance and comfort of engaging with people virtually through lockdown, more people who stutter will see online therapy as a desirable option,” Anna says.

Anna says it can be hard to imagine what virtual therapy looks like, given we are so used to establishing a relationship in person.

“It’s surprising at first, but it actually feels just like you’re seeing that person in real life. There is no barrier to establishing rapport and I think it really is wonderful to have access to this technology.”

If you have a patient you think may benefit from START, please get in touch by email emailing or phoning  (09) 579 6775.

START is a charitable trust and the only organisation in New Zealand providing treatment and support for people of all ages who stutter, their families and whanau. START’s team of speech language therapists has worked with more than 2,000 people since it first started providing services 25 years ago. 

For more information, visit their website.