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Thesis/Dissertation Seminars

Thesis Defense: Using Exposure Therapy to Treat People Who Stutter: A Multiple Baseline Design

PSY 203-S
October 18, 2017 @ 09:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Announcing the Final Examination of Jennifer A. Scheurich for the degree of Master of Science

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a debilitating condition, and it is estimated that approximately half of adults who stutter have SAD. Thus, there is a need for the assessment and treatment of SAD in this population. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown promise in decreasing anxiety symptoms among adults who stutter and have SAD, but exposure, the key ingredient for successful CBT for SAD, has been understudied and underemphasized. The aims of this study were to develop an exposure therapy protocol specifically for people who stutter and have SAD and to evaluate its efficacy for reducing social anxiety symptoms and improving speech fluency.

Utilizing a multiple baseline design, six participants were randomized to receive zero, two, or four sessions of progressive muscle relaxation therapy. This served to establish the staggered start and to account for the common factors of therapy. All participants received ten sessions of exposure therapy. Participants recorded daily social anxiety levels, and anxiety and stuttering severity were assessed at major assessment points.

All participants demonstrated substantial reductions in social anxiety and substantial improvements in the affective, behavioral, and cognitive experience of stuttering following exposure therapy. No reliable change was observed for stuttering frequency. Results suggest that exposure therapy may be useful for people who stutter and have SAD, but will not necessarily influence their speech fluency. These findings underscore the importance of the assessment and treatment of SAD among adults who stutter and suggest that the integration of care between psychologists and speech-language pathologists may prove beneficial for this population.

Committee in Charge: Deborah C. Beidel (Chair), Martine Vanryckeghem, Sandra M. Neer


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