Therapeutic speech is part of the holistic health care model practiced in Anthroposophic medicine. It is an interactive therapy that engages the forming forces of speech and voice, including sounds and rhythms of language, gesture and movement, and - underlying all - the breath. Through this creative media Therapeutic Speech stimulates the natural healing processes in the human being toward a reestablishment of a healthy balance and wholeness.
Initially, Therapeutic Speech was developed collaboratively between Dr Ita Wegman (1876-1943) and former opera singer Martha Hemsoth (1887-1936) – who had turned to the actress Marie Steiner-von Sievers (1867-1948) for training in the new form of artistic speech formation - during the founding phase of Anthroposophic Medicine and therapies. Further pioneering development ensued in psychiatrics by Hildegard Jordi (1908-1998), in collaboration with Wegman. These fruitful early years laid the groundwork for subsequent advancement of Therapeutic Speech by international collegial collaboration.
Indeed, when we speak we are painting pictures for the imagination of the listener. The voice has from birth a wide palette colour-range that can be observed from the cry of a baby to the young child playfully engaging with the world and their emerging feelings. From this early age speech too is a forming force that affects our whole being and development. It gives structure and definition to our voice and individuality.
Engaging the voice, the mind, the self, and close to a hundred muscles, speaking creates articulated sounds and shapes the out-streaming breath. Further, our voice – and how we speak – is closely connected with our sense of self and defines an aspect of our core identity. It creatively expresses our inner self, giving words colour, shape and meaning. Therefore, how we speak has a global effect on our whole organism and psyche: reaching down to express our feelings, and up to express our thoughts. We meet each other, soul to soul, being to being, through our speaking. Speech therefore is a total engagement that can be balancing, invigorating and health promoting.
However, speech can lose its strength, mobility and forming qualities due to chronic stress, illness and/or psychological distress, subsequently disrupting the inner harmony of breathing. By creatively engaging in the rhythms and sound combinations of specific speech exercises, combined with gesture and movement, and engaging with the rhythms and inspiration of poetry, both of which rebalance breathing through speaking, Therapeutic Speech stimulates, encourages and directs our own healing capacities towards transformation and re-establishes healthy bodily rhythms.
Therapeutic Speech offers help not only with voice, speech and fluency disorders but also with a wide range of health challenges, both physical and psychiatric, and with developmental disorders in children and adults with special needs. The efficacy of Therapeutic Speech has been researched collaboratively by therapeutic speech practitioners in private practise, in clinical settings with physicians and in university research centres.