A near-fatal car crash. That's where my journey began. I could say it began when I was three years old: the age I began to stutter. However, my journey of healing and finding education for my own self-care began when I was trying to take my own life, when suicidal thoughts were something that dominated my 18-year-old mind. These detrimental thoughts stemmed from the hatred I clung to from my stuttering. In truth, one fed the other until it nearly overcame my mind, body, and spirit.
I won’t go too far into my adolescent mind here (that is a longer story) and saved for a book I’m drafting. However, the teenager who spent many hours thinking he was better off playing chicken with telephone poles and trees was the first client that inspired me to want to learn more about human behaviors. I wanted to learn how to adjust the way we think about attitudes and fused perspectives.
Receiving counseling and speech therapy during this dark time gave me the foundation and confidence to speak and feel something other than shame, guilt, or hatred. From there I honed an important value that my parents instilled in me: learning. My mom used to say, “If you want to be a ditch digger. Be the best you can. Part of her message was to learn how to be and do whatever job you choose. This compelled me to earn an Associates in Business Administration from Hudson Valley Community College (Harvard on the Hudson) followed by a Bachelors's and Masters's in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Syracuse University.
After I finished my Master's program, I spent seven years in the trenches around Chicago doing skilled speech-language therapy in skilled nursing facilities and elementary schools. This is where my education to help those in need was the most impactful. I will forever be grateful for the clients, families, and peers that taught me the lessons of compassion, but most of all how to serve others.
My Ph.D., focusing on conscious and unconscious attitudes about stuttering with a side in counseling, brought me a deeper understanding of neuroscience. This is where I found acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, radical acceptance therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and so many other branches of psychology. This is also where Jaime (co-host of the Act To Live Podcast) and I crossed paths and began a lifelong partnership exploring how to incorporate psychotherapy into speech-language pathology, especially people who stutter.
I have spent the past 11 years as a professor in higher education, first at the University of Southern Mississippi (Go Golden Eagles!). The delicious food is as genuine as the kindness of the people who make it in the deep south. Today I'm at the University of Akron as an Associate Professor teaching courses in voice, stuttering, counseling in speech-language pathology, along with anatomy and physiology.
I spend my days talking. I teach. I participate in presentations around the world. Jaime and I perform on our podcast. So you might be asking, “You mentioned you started stuttering at 3 years old. Do you still stutter?” My answer: yes. I may stutter, but I learned through all of my experiences that our mind is a powerful muscle. We can train it, work it out, and adjust our thoughts and actions. And, yes this all takes time.
Welcome to your journey of life. Stick around and, let’s go for a walk.
With compassion and kindness,
Co-host of the "Act To LIve Podcast"
Author of "Let’ Walk Together: The Act To Live Podcast Blog"
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