Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hollins Institute in trouble

Ley Geddes/BSA has reported the Hollins Institue for exaggerated and unconfirmed success claims to the UK Advertising Standards Authority ( who can act internationally.

I got hold of the official complaint:

'Hollins claims for the efficacy of their programme are featured in their mailing pack (jpeg attached). As a charity and a leading authority on stammering/stuttering, the BSA asked for supporting evidence. Our areas of concern are as follows:

1. It is possible that 90% of people who stutter could achieve normal fluency by the end of an in-house program, but it would be useful to know how ‘normal fluency’ was defined and judged.

2. As I am sure all SLPs (speech therapists) know, the difficulty normally comes in finding ways to transfer the high level of fluency which can be achieved on a program (particularly, an in-house program) to normal life and then to maintain it. Thus it would be unusual for 75% of people who have attended an in-house program to be speaking with normal levels of fluency two years after a course had ended. So it would be very useful to know how this level of ‘normal fluency’ was defined, achieved and judged. It is highly debatable whether John Stossel's researcher (Stossel is a reporter on ABC News and a graduate of HCRI) had the necessary independence, experience or expertise to enable you to describe his phone interviews as independent verification of the efficacy of the program. And, incidentally, it would be useful to know how long ago these phone interviews were carried out.

3. It is not clear if the term ‘program graduates’ means everyone who was on the program or simply a select group. If, for example, it excludes those people who did not complete the program, or who were not judged to have graduated, then it would be useful to know what proportion of people who started the program are being defined as graduates.'

We explained again to HCRI that unless these claims can be substantiated we believe they will continue to give false hope to those who stammer and give people who do not stammer the false impression that stammering can be overcome in the vast majority of cases.'

As ASHA supports our campaign against misleading ads, and the HCRI Clinical Supervisor is ASHA certified, we have advised Arlene Pietranton of this action. HCRI have been told about this too.

I am personally sorry that it has come to this as we felt that HCRI could - or should - have been able to provide support, on a confidential basis if necessary, because these claims are a key element in the HCRI marketing proposition.


Greg said...

While I happen to find myself on team-Ley on this one, I fail to see how this will result in true change.

If anything, this will serve as a cultural shift in stuttering self-advocacy. Or--and perhaps more accurately, it is a reflection of it. And this is a very noteworthy step. Gone are the days where we wallow in self-blaming silence. Treat us like a legitimate medical condition or don't treat us at all.

My understanding of the data is that fluency shaping is no better or worse than other techniques; so in my view, it's all about matching client values with the appropriate treatment.


Adrian said...

I would agree that the Advertising Standards Authority can't do much and that ASHA most likely won't. But I do think this campaign can make a difference. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has publically challenged the misleading marketing at HCRI. I think this could be a public relations nightmare for HCRI if they can't support their numbers with evidence that shows these people are actually fluent in all situations as they imply.

I also agree with Greg that this could be a cultural shift in stuttering self-advocacy. I have met dozens of people who believe they were mislead by HCRI over the years and yet no one has taken action until now. I hope we all learn something from Ley's example.

John Books said...

It is possible that people could have a very high percentage fluency and high percentage of people having fluency after the 3 week intensive Hollins program.

When you consider that people are spending just about everyday 8 hours a day practicing fluency targets starting with 2 second syllable intervals and then over 3 weeks going to 1 second, one half second and then slow normal continuing practicing 8 hours a day with many numerous combinations of sounds and syllalbles and words with very specific instructions on how to pronounce these sounds and a very supportive staff at your beck and call OF COURSE nearly everyone would be fluent after the program.

AND OF COURSE since Hollins tells you that you would have to practice every day at least for the first few months or more after the program that the vast majority of people would recommend the program to someone else because they have been told that if they practice and apply the speech targets that they will eventually experience success. SO PEOPLE WHO ARE PRACTICING AND DON'T RECOMMEND THE PROGRAM ARE ONLY DESTROYING THEIR BELIEF THAT THE PROGRAM WILL WORK, WHO WOULD DO THAT?!

The 75% is much more problematic. It would be nice to know how they decided who to call and it would be desirable to find out how they tested the people.

I understand that people are called at random and asked TO READ A paragraph or two. Of course the person who is called gets to pick what they want to read so they could minimize errors. They also have the words in front of them so applying the speech targets is easier. It is assumed, until told otherwise, that they only pick the people who were the most fluent aftet the 3 week course to call, right?

If Hollins explains all these statistics perhaps they can clear everything up.

Unknown said...


I am starting to have serious concerns about the Hollins program.

I mean I already have had personal concerns about the Hollins progam and Dr. Webster and am considering legal avenues to complain but just take his posting at U Tube.

I have on many time posted respectable and professional and well thought out comments to the Hollins videos at U Tube. None of them have ever been printed and they are always reviewed first before considering that they be printed underneath the U TUBE Hollins videos.

Dr. Webster and his staff make every attempt to monitor criticisms of their therapy and block every one they deem undesirable which is ALL OF MINE.


What can you do about this and what do you think about this?

Unknown said...


I took the Hollins program when it was called the Precision Fluency Shaping Program and I can very well describe the program in all its details.

Would you like to run an article on the Hollins program, use my description of it which will be perfect, and then let people comment on it especially those who took it and see what happens?

Let me know.