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The Artist's Eye - therapy through the looking glass

Jackie Turnbull | 01.09.2005

Oxford Dysfluency Conference 2005. Presenter: Dr Trudy Stewart, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. By Jackie Turnbull, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

In an age where scientific approaches to stammering prevail and there can be a feeling that 'if it can't be measured then it's not worth doing', Trudy's talk addressed the topic of art and stammering. A brave move and one which gave her a forum to express her personal thoughts and feelings about stammering and stammering therapy. However, this was not an attack on science, rather the offer of an alternative or additional perspective, no more and no less worthy of attention and respect.

Trudy's was not an address to which listeners responded at an intellectual level; rather it moved you at a deep visceral level. This was brought home by the silence of the listening audience and the lack of questions when it was over. Indeed the first comment was just a 'thank you', which I think was endorsed by many - thank you for reminding me why I went into this profession and why I stay in this work.

Descent from the Cross (Weyden)Trudy used four pictures as a medium for sharing some of her reflections on four issues - Leonardo da Vinci's Portrait of Ginevra (the person who stammers), Weyden's Descent From The Cross (the experience of stammering), Monet's Water Lily Pond (the therapy process / techniques) and Van Gogh's Starry Night (change).

With each picture, she reflected on the characteristics of what she called 'the best, the most effective clinicians'. These included: 
Water Lily Pond (Monet)- an awareness of and ability to reflect on the clinician's own internal processes
- an holistic view of and an unconditional positive regard for people who stammer
- an ability to enable clients to express emotions
- a desire to co-create new stories with clients.

In her conclusions, Trudy made two points. One concerned beauty; beauty in individuals, their struggles with change and the process through which change occurs. The second point was about the 'inner eye' of both clinicians and clients, the carrying of clinical experience, images, thoughts and ideas to reflect and draw upon.

Many other presentations at the conference impacted greatly on me. I came away with new information about stammering, research findings, therapy techniques and ways of construing dysfluency. Trudy's presentation affected me in a unique way which I do not have the words to describe. Rather like the effect a picture can have.

From the Autumn 2005 edition of Speaking Out