Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bodehamer at his crackpot best!


I was not happy to read the article Bob Bodenhamer - creating mental pathways on the BSA website . Let me dissect the different statements and show how empty and crackpot-like they are.
The guest speaker at our August 2009 conference call was Bob Bodenhamer, who is a Neuro-Semantics practitioner in the United States.
Meaning he has no real professional qualification in speech and language, psychology or psychotherapy. He cannot even claim that he is a stutterer and has first hand experiences. I always say that we should look at the quality of the arguments put forward and not the proposer, but these are weak, too.
He talked about the possibility of installing new networks in the brain to help fluency.
What exactly are "installing new networks in the brain"? The brain has many neurons. Most from birth and the number generally decreases quickly in childhood by a process called pruning. What he probably means is that you need to learn something new. What a revelation! There is nothing new in this statement: good old learning? It is just pseudo-scientifically embellished language. And he does not even understand the meaning of neural networks. Neural networks are groups of neurons which learn by changing the strength of the connections. There are NO new networks. The networks we have in the brain are mostly set by our genes.
Bob said that new information placed a great deal of credibility on the ability of the brain to learn new information throughout life. For the person who stammers, there was the very real possibility that, through a lot of imaginative repetitive thought, he or she can install new neural networks for fluency as opposed to the old neural networks for stammering.
Again, what's new? Everyone knows that we can learn new things, but it gets on average more difficult as we
get older. They knew this thousands of years ago. Yes, imagination can help with learning. So what? We have known that before, too!
He talked particularly about Norman Doidge's book The Brain that changes itself. This indicated that we could change our brain anatomy simply using the power of imagination. A particularly interesting experiment from the book, done by Pascual-Leone at Harvard Medical School, involved learning to play a sequence of notes on a piano...
So what's new? We knew that before. We do not need neuro-semantic language. This technique is well known in psychotherapy. Imagination-enhanced learning and hypnotherapy.
Bob's view is that stammering is not about speech, but about what meaning the person who stammers places on the context.
Why do people place meaning on certain contexts? Because they stuttered in those contexts and their brain learned to associate those contexts with stuttering. Yes, changing the association will decrease stuttering, but it will not eliminate the reason why the meaning was placed there in the first place!
He described the example of a young man in his mid-twenties who only stammered in front of people he perceived to be an authority figure. "To me," said Bob, "that's cognitive - something's going on with thinking. What different meaning is he giving to the authority figure that he doesn't give everybody else? When he gets around a perceived authority figure, it terrifies him. He was scared to death that he would say something that was wrong or not 'perfect'. I haven't met a person who stutters yet who wasn't perfectionistic. I thought I'd check out where does this came from. We have ways of getting to the root of something pretty quick, and it had to do with his relationship with his father - I should say lack of relationship. He feared his father. If he was playing a ball game and his father came, he would go all to peices. He was scared to death he would make mistake on the field. So rather than say something that wasn't perfect, that wouldn't suit his father, he blocked. He wouldn't say anything. We did some therapy on that, and he's one of those miracles. We had a 2-hour session scheduled, did 1 hour and that that's all it took. That doesn't happen too often, that's rare...
Give me a break. That is evidence? Has he spoken to him a year later? Who is this young man? I'll buy that he had extreme stress in these contexts and he lost control of his speech. But how come he got so fluent and others not? I thought those neural networks have been ingrained for many years?
Bob considers that if you can speak fluently in one context you can in all - on the surface it's very simple but it can be very complex getting over to there. You get fearful of what the other person might think and that triggers your stammering strategy. You have a mind-body strategy for stammering, and one for fluency. He sees both as learned behaviours.
Yes, we can speak fluently in all situation if we train ourselves to control of deficits. But his theory is complete nonsense, and true crackpot science. How can they also be learned behaviours if genetic influences have been clearly proven? How about all the brain imaging studies? How about the fact that low birth weight contributes towards stuttering? How are all these learned behaviours?? He simply does not understand that the learned behaviour have been learned because the brain is sensitive to breakdowns leading to behavioural adaptation. Yes, we can speak fluently in all contexts but only if we train and even then it is very hard for many. Why? Because it is NOT JUST learned behaviours.

And he, the non-stutterer, has great advice for us.
...the exercise you can listen to above, Bob suggested a 'Rehearsal for People who Stutter':
"1. The fear & anxiety about stuttering pops into your mind. Feel it!
2. Say to the fear & anxiety, "No, I know how to speak fluently." (Make it a 'powerful' "no")
3. Recall your fluent state of mind (be in it - feel that calm relaxed state).
4. Say to yourself, "Yes, I know how to speak fluently!" (Make it a powerful 'yes'.)
Repeat regularly for 4-16 weeks. If it still hasn't 'sunk in' to your unconscious mind that you know how to speak fluently and that it is "OK" now for you to speak fluently, keep practicing until you have created those brand new neural pathways of freedom in your mind. Some spend 1 to 3 years doing this."
Great advice. Here is how his advice would look for overweight people:
1. Eat a bit less.
2. One piece of bad food every day max.
3. Walk and do sports 2-3 per week.
4. Repeat regularly for 4-16 weeks.
And then spend 1 to 3 years on this. Great advice. Hands up those who believe that this works out!

20 comments:

Ora said...

Tom - You're right that most neurons are present from birth. But if you're implying that the adult brain doesn't grow new neurons, that's not true.

For a long time it was believed that the adult brain did not grow new neurons, but in recent years - in roughly the past decade - it's been discovered that that's not correct. See http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=active&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=O0H&ei=wQRiS_mfEsielAf39NXdCw&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&ved=0CAYQBSgA&q=neuron+growth+in+adult+brain&spell=1

And if the brain grows new neurons (and new dendrites connecting the neuros), doesn't that mean the brain does grow new networks?

Harry said...

Tom,

You've really got it in for Bob haven't you?! The guy is one of the most widely respected NLP practitioners in the stuttering world, and you have to disect his every word to try and dis-credit him. It's possible to analyse ANY writer and make them appear a crank-pot - even you.
But it seems whilst Bob motivation is to find solutions and help for stuttering, yours is to sling mud on others.

Here's a perfect example of your un-scientific anaylsis of his article :
" The guest speaker at our August 2009 conference call was Bob Bodenhamer, who is a Neuro-Semantics practitioner in the United States.

Meaning he has no real professional qualification in speech and language, psychology or psychotherapy. "
He has never claimed to be any of these things.
"He cannot even claim that he is a stutterer and has first hand experiences."
Why would he want to claim he is a stutterer?!

"Give me a break. That is evidence? "
Nope, he never claims it is evidence. It's an example. There is a difference.

You're fighting with imaginary monsters Tom. And battles that don't always exist.

Not only is your abuse sometimes juvenile, but it's often damaging to stutterers. NLP has provided greater fluency to many stutterers, and comments like yours may lead people away from another set of mind-tools which may be very beneficial to them.

NLP may not work for you - but don't tell others that I cannot possibly work for them.

I await your response.

Take care.

Tom Weidig said...

To Ora: learning is done by strengthening of connections... you can read it anywhere. Yes, there might be some new neurons but it is numbers are probably small, but they would follow their neighbours anyway and maybe replace some... but it's definitely not the main part of learning.

Tom Weidig said...

>> The guy is one of the most widely respected NLP practitioners in the stuttering world, and you have to dissect his every word to try and dis-credit him.

Well that says a lot about NLP. lots of pseudoscientific terms and not much new.

>> But it seems whilst Bob motivation is to find solutions and help for stuttering, yours is to sling mud on others.

he is completely ignorant of the latest scientific research.

>> "Give me a break. That is evidence? " Nope, he never claims it is evidence. It's an example. There is a difference.

It is still misleading. You should look at him 1 year later, and he is making an interpretation of what enduced change.


>> NLP has provided greater fluency to many stutterers, and comments like yours may lead people away from another set of mind-tools which may be very beneficial to them.

Oh yes. So how about an outcome study. Show me the people before and after.

>> NLP may not work for you - but don't tell others that I cannot possibly work for them.

I am not saying it doesnt work. I am saying that his arguments backing his methods are either bogus or well-known psycho phenomena in the cloth of pseudo-scientific language.

Tom

Anonymous said...

Well said Harry...

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny. These people quote the pop-science book "The Brain the Changes Itself" as though brain plasticity is the cure for everything. They think that just because the brain has plasticity, you can accomplish anything. One problem is that (as Tom pointed out) the brain's plasticity is not constant throughout a person's lifetime. As a little kid, I was able to learn a language effortlessly and without an accent. I'm trying to learn a language at the moment and it is very very difficult, and I have an accent. The speech/language areas of the adult brain are much less plastic than those of a child. Brain plasticity has its limitations, but Bodenhamer will have us believe otherwise.
Also, even though the cortex does indeed have impressive plasticity, the brain has parts other than the cortex. Some believe that cause of stuttering may be in the subcortical parts of the brain (e.g. the amygdala), and it has been shown that these areas are significantly less "plastic" than the cortex.

Tom, I haven't always agreed with your crackpot nominations, but Bob Bodenhamer is a serious contender for "stuttering crackpot of the decade".

ig88sir said...

Yes Yes Down with Bodenhamer! I want my $55 dollars back from your gibberish book!

to Harry: (NLP has provided greater fluency to many stutterers). Do you have any facts?

Next crackpot award : John Harrison!

Anonymous said...

Been there, done that. And enjoy it every single minute of the day, six (6!) years afterwards.

Tom, just because you don't believe things work or because you don't like certain people, give people a break. To me Bob might have been a garbage man, but he turned a switch with me and many others. I not only can control my speech to 90% today, it gave me closure and self esteem I didn't even know I had.

If you claim to want facts, go look for facts before you flush people down the drain. I have a fact right here. Me.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Anon...

Anonymous said...

Bodenhamer seems to be searching for scientific evidence to support his claims. The problem is that his evidence is flimsy and he is only guessing when applying it to stuttering. He is not a scientist or a researcher and he is just embarrassing himself trying to pretend that he is.

Anonymous said...

He seems to help some who stutter to help themselves...

Why do you rip and lay so much hate on him? Have you failed in all YOUR Therapy attempts?

You must be hurtin' pretty bad. Hope you get lucky...er...scientific proofed researched therapy to make your therapy experience positive. You could be waiting for awhile though.

Jamie said...

Thank you Tom for adding John Harrison to your Crackpot List!!

Anonymous said...

U haters would be so fortunate to be a PWS and be able to talk like John Harrison... I'd like to be a crackpot to figure out what John has... Bunch of jealous people all you losers are...

Stuttering Jack said...

Well here we go again.

I have personally known Bodenhamer and Harrison for many years and met countless people who have been helped by their teachings. If their explanations (guesses) of why their systems work do not stack up with what other people believe then so be it, as long as what they are doing is helping a good proportion of the people who come to them for help with the psychological side of stuttering. But I can guarantee you one thing there are methods out there at the moment that are remarkably helping some people who stutter that you would not believe so if you are in crackpot mode wait until these are revealed in the near future. SJ

Adrian said...

SJ, I know many who say Bodenhamer and Harrison have some silly ideas, but we should leave them alone because they are nice guys with a few good ideas. I strongly disagree. The message these two send is that stuttering is a psychological problem and we will be fluent as soon as we take care of our bad personality traits. Besides being just plain wrong, this message is very damaging to our community. It is sending many on a wild goose chase and strengthening existing negative stereotypes about stuttering. I am glad people like Tom are challenging them.

Harry said...

Hi Adrian,

"The message these two send is that stuttering is a psychological problem and we will be fluent as soon as we take care of our bad personality traits. Besides being just plain wrong, this message is very damaging to our community."

How can it be damaging when it has helped so many stutterers gain greater control over their speech?


"I am glad people like Tom are challenging them."

Tom is not challenging them at all - he's merely ridiculing people who he doesn't like, or who don't have an official piece of paper with the letters 'PhD' on it.
From my experiences, Bodenhamer and Harrison have made such an emormous contribution to the stuttering world, whereas Tom (with his much advertised scientfic background) has
little to say which is orginal, but fills this space with critism and abuse of others.

Personally, I'm using Bodenhamers NLP approach to help me make public speeches - and winning speeches too I might add. But of course, Tom and his ilk refuse to believe that Bodenhamers approach can actually help people, and will ask for research papers, and evidence-based studies to 'prove' this. Will, as someone else alluded to before me, I have the proof that I need right in my head. The fact that I can now stand in front of 30 fluent people and win the best speech award, is a testamony to NLP, and to Harrisons work.

Good luck Tom and Adrian in finding your evidence-based Holy Grail to fluency.

Harry

Adrian said...

Hi Harry,

It is damaging because people who stutter go to Bob and John and think if they can fix their psychological issues and/or find the tramatic event in childhood that caused the stuttering that they will magically become fluent.

I know many who fell into this trap and ended up going on a wild goose chase. The fact is stutterers are no more psychologically messed up than the rest of the population. For Bodenhamer and Harrison to tell us otherwise is inexcusable.

It is also damaging because they are successfully promoting the ideas that stutterers are psychologically weaker than the rest of the population. This effects all of us, not just thier followers.

Anyway, I could be wrong, but I don't believe the effectiveness of Bodenhamer's techniques has ever been discussed on this blog? The only thing I have seen discussed are his baseless theories on stuttering. Personally I have no issue with people using his techniques if they help, but this in no way makes his crackpot theories true.

Adrian

Harry said...

Hi Adrian,

"I know many who fell into this trap and ended up going on a wild goose chase."

EVERY stutter goes on a wild goose chase before they find a technique/method/ideology which helps them. Every stutterer who has gained control over their speech would have tried many different techniques etc before they found one that worked for them. It doesn't mean that the rest were wild-goose chases.

"Anyway, I could be wrong, but I don't believe the effectiveness of Bodenhamer's techniques has ever been discussed on this blog?"

You are right - it's not been discussed. And it never will be. Because you will not see a medical journal with a "before and after" study of the effectiveness of NLP, and therefore it doesn't qualify as a proper "science" to be listed here, and will be dismissed as "crack-pot".
You will not see numbers and double-blind studies on the efectiveness of NLP in helping stutterers. Who's going to fund such a study? No company "owns" NLP, and thus no company has a vested interest in marketing it's effectiveness. No one other than Bodenhamer et al will promote it - and I genuinely beleive they do it not for fame or fotune, but to try and help.
If Bodenhamer had a flashy web-site promoting a "cure", or if he tried to make money out of stutterers, or if tried to mislead and con them, then by all means rip him apart, but the guy does none of these things - he, as a fluent speaker, can simply walk away from stuttering, but he chooses to highlight the success he's had with some stutterers. So let him be. Let him speak. Let him help others. If you don't want to hear him, turn away.

All the best.

Adrian said...

Harry,

But he is misleading people. He tells people they stutter because of psychological issues, childlike thinking, childhood trauma, bad childhood relationships, etc. He may actually believe this to be true, but it is still wrong.

I don't understand why he can't accept that he is not a stuttering expert and stay neutral on causation. If he has techniques which he feels can help us, why can't he simply share those without all the corresponding new age dogma?

Adrian

Stuttering Jack said...

Bob Bodenhammer's work does not address the "cause" of stuttering but the "trigger" of stuttering, i.e., if you are fluent in some contexts you can learn to be fluent in all contexts. You don't have to learn how to talk again." That is not biology; it is psychology.