Hollins Fluency System

About: The Hollins Fluency System is an intensive 12-day behavioral (fluency shaping) stuttering therapy program in Roanoke, Virginia. The fee is approximately $4,000 and includes pre- and post-treatment assessments, 100 hours of therapy, and extensive post-therapy support and tools. A book is available about the therapy program: From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, by Ronald L. Webster (2014).

Evidence: The website says that “Ninety-three percent of HCRI program participants achieve fluency by the end of our 12-day stuttering treatment program. When evaluated one and two years post therapy, 70-75% of participants retain their fluency skills.” This is based on two published studies:

  • Webster, R. L. ( 1980). Evolution of a target based stuttering therapy. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 5, 303-320.
  • Franken, M. C., Boves, L., Peters, H. F. M., & Webster, R. L. (1992). Perceptual evaluation of speech before and after fluency shaping stuttering therapy. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 38, 223-241.
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 11 reviews
 by Douglas Taylor
It is Physical

I attended Hollins clinic in 1985.The therapy, I feel was right on. I was fluent for about 10 years before a dentist messed up the right side of my tongue and caused it to be numb. I can tell you that once you attend HCRI that you know that the cause of a stuttering problem is definitely physical, not emotional. I have been disfluent since 1995, but my stuttering is not nearly as bad as it was before the Hollins therapy.

 by Keith Huffman
Excellent program

Pre treatment I was about the 50% of those who stutter. Since then, like everyone you will have days that you are a little off target BUT a bad day now is like a good day pre therapy. If I recall correctly, the average person is disfluent on between 3-5 % of words in general-- counting ums and little quirks we don't mess up. I'd guess I'm in the 5-8% range. My biggest flaw is ME -- I'm a fast talker in general and if anything if I don't get my Full Break, it messes everything else up.

Pre therapy- I hated the phone, hated to order in restaurants and would NEVER I mean ever order in a drive through. Now, I do these things ALL the time and honestly don't think 2x about it. Further, I even changed jobs and work in sales now. There is literally NO way in the world that I would be able to do the work I am currently in without the HCRI fluency program.

Adding, I see many people bringing up issues about the emotional side of stuttering. I actually have a Masters Degree in counseling and I deeply empathize with those hard feelings. I'm not here to judge anyone but for me personally, I opted to just let go of the past and put those bad feelings to rest. Maybe it's the difference between viewing the glass as half empty of half full. You need to process all those bad feelings from the past, but I opted to just spend all of my energy mastering targets rather than lamenting the HORRIBLE experiences we all shared as stutterers. So, in that essence I side with Dr. Webster-- focus on the targets and not on your bad feelings. Any energy wasted on bad feelings from the past is pulling you away from Target Mastery.

So, for me the program was life changing. I've made great friends as well where we share the common negative experiences as stutters and now share how much better our lives are.

Futher, the staff at HCRI is spectacular. Linda in the front office, LuAnne, Candy, Kevin and Dr. Webster are simply incredible people.

 by Shannon B Armes
Absolutely Terrific!

I was a stutterer since childhood and stuttering runs in my family. I am now 36. I first attended HCRI in 2003 and most recently in January of 2009. I give HCRI stuttering therapy 5 stars!

HCRI stuttering therapy is absolutely terrific and I'd recommend it to any stutterer who is serious about becoming fluent! Although there is no cure for stuttering, HCRI provided me with skills that enable me to speak fluently, even in the most difficult of situations. HCRI graduates refer to these skills as 'targets.' The therapy is intensive, but the results are real and the benefits are priceless! Upon returning home, daily practice and use of the targets in everyday situations is critical for long-term success. This enables the new fluency skills to become habitualized, so I don't have to think about them so much.

I was not successful long-term after my participation in 2003 because I didn't take the therapy seriously. I failed to practice regularly and I gave up without reaching out to HCRI for help. After making fluency my new years resolution for 2009, I repeated the program. I've since given my targets the attention needed in my day-to-day life and I have a greater level of fluency than I've ever had. I realize that my success depends on me and I take full advantage of the post therapy resources HCRI provides. I even created a nationwide HCRI support group that enables fellow graduates to practice on the phone with one another.

I found HCRI stuttering therapy uniquely beneficial in many ways. For instance, the program does not focus on the emotional aspect of stuttering like traditional speech therapy does. The HCRI clinicians completely support my desire to overcome stuttering, not just deal with it. The program is focused on helping clients achieve and maintain fluency. The mere fact of knowing I have the skills to speak fluently and actually doing so naturally builds my confidence and smashes through the emotional barriers stuttering has caused throughout my life. I also benefited from the transfer of my newly acquired targets outside of the clinical environment during the final days of therapy. This is what enabled me to successfully speak fluently in a variety of real life situations following HCRI speech therapy. I also find post therapy support, including a variety of practice tools, refreshers and reunions equally beneficial.

Overall, I am extremely grateful for how HCRI has changed my life! I can profoundly say that HCRI stuttering treatment is definitely effective! The skills I've learned at HCRI have given me the ability to do simple things most individuals take for granted, such as saying my name, answering a telephone and ordering a meal at a restaurant. HCRI has also given me the confidence to do things I'd have never considered doing prior to therapy, such as accepting leadership positions at work and giving a Toastmasters speech in front of over 100 people.

Once you attend HCRI, you're family. I look forward to attending the HCRI Reunion every July. And it's refreshing to know that if I'm having difficulty with my speech, clinicians are only a phone call away, free of charge!

Additionally, HCRI provides scholarships, thanks to its dedicated financial donors who realize the difference HCRI stuttering therapy makes. Its office administrators also work diligently with clients to help them acquire insurance reimbursement.
Ultimately, HCRI stuttering therapy offers the complete package: Effective treatment with lasting results in the real world with exceptional support before, during and after therapy!

Shannon Armes from Wilsons, VA

 by Rebecca McClurg
HCRI gave me my life back

I attended HCRI five years ago at the age of 16 as a severe stutterer. I would daily stutter on every syllable, not just every word, and it was tiring. I didn't have much of a social group, so I was spared much of the mocking and ridiculing that seems to be common with people who stutter. Never having gone for therapy before, we searched for "stuttering research" and found HCRI. After reading their site and watching a few before/after videos, I was convinced. I attended in December of the same year and found myself in a program that was tedious and seemed to be stupid. I was desperate enough to try whatever they told me to do, and I kept telling myself "This isn't hard, it's just tedious. I can handle tedious. It'll probably get hard later." Well, it never got harder. It was simply tedious, but it was well worth it. By the end of the program, I was speaking fluently with confidence I'd never had before. HCRI truly gave me my life back and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for help.

 by Leyroy Jones
Very slow speech, doesn't work for everyone

The Hollins Program is a very interesting program that really only works for a few people completely. There is no doubt that the majority of people, maybe even the 93% (claimed by Hollins) that complete the Hollins program, are fluent but this 93% fluency is measured on the last day of the program after a person has spent nearly 100 hours of practicing the Hollins speech "targets" as they are called, using electronic equipment/computers that provide feedback to the client in the highly supportive (of course) Hollins clinic starting with 2 second syllable durations to "slow normal" syllable durations. After such heavy conditioning (two second syllables!) it is no wonder that people are fluent, especially in a supportive environment like Hollins where the program is all about stuttering and helping stutterers and providing a program completely for stutterers. Now that is a lot of attention! So the person leaves assuming naturally that they will be just as fluent on the outside. On the last day of the program I went into a cubicle and read some paragraphs and I was being videoed and was aware how fluent I was as I read but did not know why! because I really hadn't learned completely what I needed to know. The problem is that the Hollins program is completely "laboratory derived" and not derived for use in the real world. A client is supposed to assume that the program works in the outside world and if he runs into a problem he is supposed to "exaggerate" the targets and/or practice more. The REAL problem with the Hollins program is how slowly a person talks when they are done. I mean how slowly a person talks after the Hollins program as compared with the people he has to talk to. Just look at the Hollins videos of people who just got done with the program, yes they are fluent, yes they are happy being fluent and this makes perfect sense but they are talking so slowly it is hard to imagine how they can keep up a conversation with a normal speaking person let alone perform duties at a job interacting with other people, talking on the phone, etc. If a person could accept how slowly they talk and be able to make people wait for him to finish and be able to not care how slowly they are getting their message across in spite of the interrupting that other people do, then people would be really successful with this program I mean in the United States the vast majority of people talk very fast, talk over each other. A person who uses the Hollins targets has to have nerves of steel and incredible patience and will power to be able to do all of this unless they were a mild stutterer in the first place like, well, the people that Hollins uses to advertise their program!!

 by Guillermo from New York, NY
One Size Fits All

For 11 days you work very hard, by yourself, in a little cubical. Then, on day 12, you are told to make phone calls using the robot-like speech you have learned (for mild stutterers, like me, this can be very hard to do). That same day they take you to a mall, and they instruct you to go around the stores asking questions using what you've learned. Some people could do it, they could behave like retards in the eyes of the people at the mall (i.e. "Caaaaaaaaaaaaaan yyyyyyyyyyyou teeeeeeeeeeeeeell mmmmmmmmmmmmme thhhhhhhhe tiiiiiiiime?). But others, like me, could not. I simply could not make myself do it. That's where Hollins fails miserably, or at least where it failed for me: they treat everybody in the same way, ignoring the psychological aspects of stuttering, the years of accumulated fears, of avoidance, that each of us, some more, some less, have dealt with. Finally, their success stats are a sham. I'm sure they counted me as a success. But I was not.

 by Len from New Jersey
Only half a therapy program

I took the HCRI program in the 80's and even though it may be based upon sound speech principles and provide speech targets that can work when used, they however mostly fail and cannot be recreated successfully in many important social situations. The inventor of this program is Dr. Webster is a behaviorist, that is, he believes strictly in behavior modification as the only cure to solving stuttering. And even though stuttering is very amenable to his speech targets, and even though he has come up with a very important tool, he has done only half his job. I say this because, not only do the majority of people who take his program continue to have problems in using his speech targets which work ONLY in relaxed situations, Dr. Webster, when questioned about this, simply blames the stutterer for not follwing his speech target rules. Yes, Dr. Webster has come up with something very important, but his behaviorist approach as the only answer falls very short of being truly successful.

 by Paul Goldstein
A program that was beneficial for many years

Of the many programs I've tried for relief of very severe stuttering, this one was among the best, and Hollins was definitely the clinic where I received the most help.  They have excellent trained clinicians, and teach you many techniques (called targets) that result in fluent speech. You learn these targets first at very slow syllable durations, which will then be gradually speeded up until you are speaking fluently at a normal speech rate.

One thing which you must do, especially for the first few months after leaving the program, is to formally practice every day, and to follow up these practice sessions right away with "transfer" conversations, in which you converse with someone and apply the targets that you have just practiced.

There are fluency refreshers available in case you have trouble later on. Many who go through the program come back for the refreshers if they are needed.

There is also an annual reunion of Hollins alumni each summer, in which you can review targets and meet many others who have gone through the program.

I've met many clients of the program who continue to do very well, even many years after leaving the program.

I worked hard at the targets and practiced diligently, often daily, for 16 years. I enjoyed many extended periods of sustained totally fluent speaking as the result of that program and refreshers, sometimes lasting for months! And I loved these experiences of fluent speaking.

However, I also endured major relapses when I slacked off in practicing, and these were very frustrating. Eventually I came to the realization that I could just peacefully accept my stuttering - and that putting the time and effort into practicing and monitoring targets was no longer worth the associated pressures and relapse frustrations. I began to realize that working for consistent fluency was not essential for my current life happiness. Today I'm no longer fluent, but my average disfluency is less than it was before I entered Hollins. Though the program has flaws (no work on psychological issues), I still do recommend it for those willing to work hard to improve their fluency.

 by Adrian from Glenmoore, PA
Doesn't live up to the success rates

I did the original three-week program in 1997 followed by weeklong refreshers the following two years. The physical techniques made me basically fluent inside the clinic, but were basically useless outside the clinic. As a previous reviewer mentioned "leaving a calm relaxed non-judgemental environment without any means for carryover is a set up for failure." Hollins claims in their Internet advertisements that "93% gain fluency." My understanding is these numbers are taken from exit interviews inside the clinic. This number is meaningless because it is not representative of the client’s speech in the real world. The Hollins marketing is not ethical in my opinion. Hollins does a good job of teaching a good technique. But with no work on desensitization, emotional baggage, and no meaningful follow up support, I would not recommend the program

 by Ed Sandri from Gaylord, Michigan
No better method of improving and eliminating stuttering

Hollins provides speaking skills they call targets to improve the speach of the stuttering. For 12 days you practice by yourself on a computer and with other stutters. Hollins has been around for some 30+ years and there targets are based on their research on stutterers. You learn to be your own speach therapist. After you "graduate" you have access to their newsletters, refresher courses, summer alumni gathering, and online computer practicing. Yes, you have to practice when finished and the practice is tedious, but I don't know of any better method of improving and eliminating stuttering. I met some great people there. I do recommend Hollins.

 by Anonymous from New York, USA
Needs local practice groups

I took the original Hollins Course in Virginia for 3 weeks and then a refresher at Hollins in 1990. I found the course helpful, but not maintenance offered. I also don't understand why PFSP does not offer training for SLPs. Would I recommend this course. Yes, if and only if you first find a practice group in your area with other PWS and a SLP who can provide maintenance. Otherwise leaving a calm relaxed non-judgemental environment without any means for carryover is a set up for failure.