Joe Cleary
Joe Cleary
Tipperary, Ireland

First Course:
Galway, November 2005

I’ve been mainly a covert stammerer for most of my life. However I believed I had control and it wasn’t a major issue for me in my life. However, it became a major issue for me when I saw a video of myself doing my wedding speech.

It was only then I realised how out of control I was especially as most people thought I had spoke very well. I thought “if they think this is good – how bad am I really?” This lead to my stammer becoming more and more overt as fear of stammering took over. I was using all the tricks like avoiding and substituting words and situations. I was suffering all the physical and mental torture associated with stammering - the big chest freeze, cold sweats, red flushes, head down, feeling the frustration and fear of it all. In 2005, my wife Sinead showed me a newspaper advertisement about the McGuire Programme. I didn’t do anything with it at the time but then about six months later after a particularly severe block at work one day I looked up the McGuire Programme online and signed up for the next course. That November I turned up in Galway on a wet Wednesday evening for the three day course. Looking back, this was a turning point in my life. I knew by mid morning the next day that this was the place for me. I had tried speech therapy for a big part of my childhood but it just didn’t work for me. In Galway I was in a room of people all with personal knowledge of what I was going through. This was different. During the course, I was taught techniques to deal with both the physical and psychological elements of stammering by people who themselves have a stammer. After the course, the support from everyone involved in the programme through the personal coaching, phone calls & support meetings etc. was essential to my recovery. My recovery is ongoing but I have come a long way to date. So much so, that I have been able to do radio and newspaper interviews. In my everyday life I am able to deal with any speaking situation. My fear of stammering has been decimated. Through the Programme, I have become coach (2006), course instructor intern (2009) and was lucky enough to instruct a course in November 2010 - probably the most rewarding experience I have ever had. Recently I attained staff trainer (2011) status which is a great personal achievement. The thing that gives me the most joy is the ability to make small talk with a shopkeeper, asking for what I want when I want it, those everyday things that most people take for granted. To me they are the things that matter most – the small things - the freedom to communicate on my terms.