Thursday, February 28, 2008

Vivian Sheehan

I got this email from a reader Jack Brooks on Vivian Sheehan, a well-known speech therapist, working together with her husband Joseph Sheehan: see this page for some audios. (Also check out a documentary on the Sheehans.
I came across your blog and wanted to share my experience as a stutterer in therapy with Vivian (and Joseph) Sheehan:
Unfortunately, I learned of Vivian Sheehan's passing only recently and had been out of touch with her for several years due to relocating. My own experience with Vivian and Joseph Sheehan was as a severe stutterer who participated in the UCLA Group Speech Therapy Program in the mid 70's after fatefully seeing the Sheehans with Mel Tellis on a daytime talk show and thence contacting Vivian. She interviewed me thereafter at their house in Santa Monica and I saw immediately her deep understanding and empathy of the challenges faced by a stutterer.
After "passing muster" as a willing stutterer with Vivian, I participated in 3 rounds of the eight-week group sessions at the UCLA Clinic Speech Therapy Clinic with her, Joseph, and other therapist/trainees. This, unlike my prior years of well-meant but ineffective private therapy by highly respected speech therapists, was to be the life-changing help that enabled me to "earn the fluency" that came as a by-product of the real treasure that the Sheehan therapeutic process gave us participants, which was learning to become a stutterer "easily and openly."
Joseph and Vivian's radical but utterly logical therapy led this fearful, shamed recluse into becoming an excited, gregarious stutterer, who'd talk your ear off about "my stuttering," while looking deeply into your eyes, on fire about the new passion of communicating with the rest of humanity after so many years of self-confinement in a prison of fear to speak.
After Joseph passed, I went on to attend Vivan's Clinic at St. Joseph Hospital in Santa Monica periodically for "tune-ups" and to maintain contact with her. Visiting her at home once, when I expressed my interest in how "it all started," she freely shared copies of some of Joseph's groundbreaking early papers and writings that were the foundation of their therapeutic model. In early 2000, I had the privilege of attending a pre-retirement gathering at her house with of some of the stutterers who'd continued working with her and was able to share my deep gratitude and continuing inspiration for speech that she and Joseph so lovingly fostered.
My mother, also a stutterer, had said, "it takes a stutterer to know one!" Joseph Sheehan, a stutterer himself, knew this full well. I firmly believe Vivian did as well. She will live in my heart always.

No comments: