SPASMODIC DYSPHONIA TREATMENT
Connie provides private instruction for a minimum of 3 hours for new patients. The privates allow for more individual attention from Connie and have proven to be quite successful. While 3 hours is the minimum, therapy over several days is encouraged, and can be scheduled as desired. Email Connie to discuss your individual preferences and needs. Local clients are invited to explore a slower approach, with appointments weekly, monthly or whatever fits their schedule. Connie’s approach is to teach one to have self-efficacy and learn to manage voice problems on their own without long term therapy. Connie occasionally travels to London, and other states. Please contact Connie to be put on an alert list of trips as planned. Telepractice sessions are also available as allowed. Connie is licensed in California and Georgia. She is a registered Speech Therapist in the UK.
Other Voice and Speech Therapy
I am also available to treat any adult voice disorders other than laryngeal cancer/laryngectomy patients who benefit from a medical setting. This can include nodules, polyps, and functional voice disorders.
While I am not board-certified in treating Fluency disorders or Stuttering, I approach this disorder much as I do SD; holistically. Stuttering involves breathing, motor re-training and emotional aspects and I find stuttering to be very similar to SD in many ways.
I am also equipped to treat adults with social phobias regarding speaking, or with Asperger’s syndrome as it relates to communication skills.
Click link to the left to view most recent testimony at the bottom of the page..
Testimonials from Private Spasmodic Dysphonia Treatment Sessions
Karen, July 2013, Diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia in 2006
I have suffered with the stigma of Spasmodic Dysphonia since the summer of 2006. During that time until recently, I have visited over 15 different ENT’s and 2 Voice Clinics all with the same response…”there’s nothing I can do”. How discouraging to be told that you were dealt a life sentence of not being able to adequately communicate! You see, I am a Speech-Language Pathologist by trade and my voice is my livelihood!
So, after many months of research and deciding that botox was not the “gold standard” of treatment for me, I happened to surf my way to Connie Pike’s website. What a relief to finally find someone who understands the stigma of this horrible malady! I attended the Private Sessions (total 12 hours with Connie) July 10-12, 2013, including a massage with Christine and 5 hours with Dennis; and boy, am I thanking God I did. Not only was I able to find my voice again but left with the tools to continue on my road to recovering my strong powerful voice! After leaving Connie that Friday evening, I talked all during the flight home.
This is not an easy journey, nor is it a disorder I would wish on my worst enemy, however, for those of you that have gotten a prognosis of “NO HOPE” I adjure you to seek the professional, warm, compassionate care of Connie Pike and her team of professionals. I promise you, you will not regret it!!!
Sheila: AD/SD with MTD diagnosed in October 2010 following a sinus infection and strep throat, speech therapy, Klonopin
Sheila presented with a severe dysphonia and a Voice Handicap Index of 119 (profound). She was in jeopardy of losing her job as a teacher when she initiated therapy in July 2011. She reported that she had been to a total of 15 doctors, none of whom could help her. She had vocal arrests and her perceived effort in speaking was 8 of 10 with feeling of strangulation and a need to push out her voice.
Sheila was seen for an evaluation and a total of 10 hours of Spasmodic Dysphonia Treatment from July through December 2011. Sheila had this report in March 2013:
“My voice is pretty much back to normal. Without your help, guidance, understanding, and above all, compassion to help, I would never have gotten my voice back. You are one of God’s angels.”
John: Mixed SD diagnosed by Dr. Bastion in 1999, approximately 4 years after symptoms first surfaced. Botox eased symptoms but was unpredictable, speech therapy, acupuncture, Feldenkrais, Alexander lessons, Reiki, singing lessons, reflux medication, massage and rolfing.
John was a professional radio producer and voice-over, and had experienced some success with mediating his problems with breathing, relaxation and vocal exercises. His problems were sporadic and in his work, his frustration was increasing, as he had to do more and more editing. His goals for treatment were to restore fluency and ease of vocal production and to resurrect his freelance voiceover career.
He presented with a slightly elevated pitch and moderate effort in speaking. His VHI was 69 (Severe). Here is John’s testimonial a month after his consultation, which was a co-treatment with Connie and Dennis (total of 22 hours combined).
“I came to Connie with a very specific end game in mind. With a relatively high degree of functionality, I felt a one-on-one experience with her would serve me better than a group clinic. I wanted to re-boot my free-lance voiceover career after SD blew me out of the game in the mid 1990’s. I had lost complete control of my voice as the symptoms became progressively worse and eventually affected my everyday speaking.
It took me a long time to eventually reach out to Connie in one last and seemingly desperate attempt to reclaim my ability to speak in an effortless manner. The old proverb ‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears” is applicable. I was ready. And Connie didn’t fail me. She knew exactly the trials and tribulations I had faced over the years. And she knew how best to address what seemed to be an insurmountable block between me and vocal fluency.
We began by discovering my natural pitch, and then we learned the exercises and good practices that help me to reach and stay at that pitch. Prior to meeting Connie, my voice was nearly half an octave higher than where I am speaking now. From that lower pitch I’ve discovered I can, with the exercises and good practices, overcome these blocks that had ruled my voice for years. Connie stresses compliance as the key to success. The student must take control daily on a cognitive level.
Connie’s gift to me was the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not there yet. But I can see it. And I am way closer now than I ever thought I could be. There are days when my voice is more clear and effortless than I can ever remember. But those days follow my compliance with Connie’s plan for me: do the exercises, inhibit the bad behaviors, sense how the right voice feels, and most importantly…. Have fun!
We made amazing progress in the three days we spent together. And the work with Dennis was a perfect complement to the time with Connie.
The journey continues!”
AC was diagnosed with AD/SD in February 2014 at NY Eye and Ear in New York. He had received 3 botox injections, voice therapy, and was on acid reflux medication. He saw Connie for 15 hours of private instruction in January 2015. VHI-30 score was 76 (Severe Range). Almost 6 months later, AC contacted Connie to tell his success story.
This is my story, 15 months after developing Spasmodic Dysphonia. Despite reassurances from my doctors that my condition was neurological, could never go away, and would require Botox for the rest of my life - I have now gone 6 months without botox and I believe my condition is "healed" or has at least become latent.
Around March 2014, I lost my ability to speak. After weeks of doctor visits (neuologists, gastroenterologists, and psychiatrists), I was diagnosed by a laryngologist with adductor SD. At the time, I had the perfect storm of stress with family, work and pent up anxiety. The condition was debilitating. In my career as a consultant, I need to speak continuously. Losing my voice was an extreme handicap and compromised my ability to continue working.
An initial botox injection in April provided immediate relief within several days; a reassurance that there was a treatment that could remediate my condition. I asked my doctor if my condition would ever abate, and if I could wean off botox. His answer, as well as the "official" medical literature online, was a resounding NO! I was told that my condition was incurable and that botox would be required for the rest of my life. I accepted that outcome, and had a second injection in July when I felt the symptoms returning. The dose was too high so I lost my voice completely for 3 weeks. This was, in some ways, more debilitating than the SD. I could not even whisper, and had to use hand movements to communicate at client meetings. My voice eventually returned, giving me several months of stability. My third shot in November with a reduced dose was ineffective. I was winded and lost my voice, but worse, my symptoms never went away. Basically, the botox did not work.
SD is a strange disease. I found my voice to sometimes be normal when I was alone, speaking to myself. But whenever I was with people, whether at work or with my wife and kids, I would get a choking sensation and not be able to speak. It seemed the disease was not merely mechanical or structural, but some psychological component triggered a tightening of my vocal cords. Since I could not rely on botox, and if I could not talk, I could not work, I, like many others, went on Google and Amazon to research alternatives. I reviewed Connie's book and website and concluded that intensive voice therapy could possibly help me.
The clinics Connie offered looked promising , however, I was desparate for help and could not wait for a clinic, so I scheduled a 3 day private session with her. I had low expectations, since I tend to trust modern medicine, and had accepted at face value what the doctors told me. That said, I knew intensive tehrapy could only help, so I had nothing to lose.
During our therapy, Connie led me through a comprehensive set of exercises, including physical, voice-related and psychological. The goal was to help me learn a set of "tricks" and interventions which I could apply on a regular basis, and would help me speak better. I discovered things from Connie, such as my tendency to hold my breath after years of anxiety and bad breathing habits, I tightened various body parts habitually such as my diaphragm, which interfered with voice production. I had poor speaking dynamics, poor posture, lack of resonance and more. Connie helped discover the root causes and developed a set of interventions. By applying them, I experience a major improvement in natural, fluent speech. I re-learned how to speak, breathe, and release tension so that eventually, my SD symptoms abated. If I allow myself to tense up, the choking sensation can return. But, as long as I practice my new techniques and avoid the tension, my SD has practically gone away.
In my case, the medical establishment was wrong in its prognosis of my condition, and intensive voice therapy was sufficient to treat my condition. They may dismiss this as anecdotal, not backed by an evidence-based controlled study, but it is real for me.
If you have SD, you will probably be told it is neurological, it can never go away, voice therapy can only help incrementally and that you will need quarterly botox injections for the rest of your life.
I am grateful for the therapy with Connie, which helped me understand the underlying causes of my condition and build a multi-fauceted, practical tool-kit to address it. There is no magic formula or panacea, and not everyone has the same success I have had. To conclude: intensive voice therapy can make a significant difference in improving this condition, and you should be skeptical of anyone who discourages or downplays the potential benefits of it. A diagnosis of spasmodic dysphonia is not a permanent handicap, and this disease can be overcome. **VHI score had decreased to 15 (mild to no handicap).
Janine had seen 7 different voice specialists from 2011-2014 before finally receiving a diagnosis of Essential Tremor with Adductor SD. She was told that Botox was the only treatment, and received 4 injections from October 2014-October 2015, with various results. She described the injections as "horrible" and reported that she always became ill afterward; bad colds, nausea and general malaise. She continued to search for alternatives and found Connie's book on Amazon. She then contacted Connie to schedule a consulation and therapy. She decided on a private consultation of 12 hours over two days. She provided this testimonial.
I continue to be impressed with your knowledge base relative to Spasmodic Dysphonia and Essential Voice Tremor. It took me seven doctors and three years to be diagnosed with both. I was told by 3 doctors that my tremor would get worse with age and is not controllable. I was told that Botox was the ONLY way to control SD. You dispelled those fallacies and opened my eyes to a new way - one that I have control over.
You have immense credibility, not only with your professsional training as a voice therapist, but, more importantly, you have SD! Your training is like no other that I have been exposed to (none of which worked, by the way). I thank you for putting power and control back into my hands. My body thanks you for not having to use Botox anymore. Even though I experienced a major shilft in my voice on Day 2, you showed me that it is my responsibility to practice frequently to assure continued success. I know that I will make certain that happens as I do not want to go backwards.
My best to you, Connie, and I hope that anyone who is struggling with SD or VT is fortunate enough to seek our your counsel, as they will not be sorry. On behalf of everyone with a voice disability, we thank you for being on this planet and helping us learn how to regain our power to speak.
Janine Shea, Naples, FL
Diane was diagnosed with AD/SD in April 2014. She spent 2 days with Connie for private instruction in June 2014 (12 hours) and then 2 days a year later (10 hours). We also did FaceTime sessions 3-4 times for an hour each time. Video taping was utilized for a home DVD. Although time to resolution of her problem was slower than we both would have liked, and it was not linear, within 2 years of her diagnosis, Diane felt “normal and confident” as a speaker. She rates herself as 90% improved.
Click the play button to hear Diane's voice before treatment !
“I had one botox treatment and the side effects were very significant. I could not swallow water for 5 days, it went directly into my lungs. My voice was barely audible, then stuck in a “Minnie Mouse” pitch, then a low baritone. The spasms lessened for 2-3 weeks. The lack of control and side effects were not worth the short term slight speaking benefit. I will never use botox again.
Voice rehab allowed me to pick and choose the tools I needed that worked for me. I worked hours daily, but gently, to regain my voice. I still maintain my daily voice exercises to stay in an easy speaking pattern. Connie gave me new ideas to try each time we met.”
Diane also utilized chiropractic therapy assistance with physical tension and muscular issues and continues regular treatment, including ultrasound on her throat. She uses yoga, breathing exercises, walking meditation, cognitive therapy, adequate sleep, hydration, healthy diet, and singing. She maintained a grief journal and daily devotionals.
Diane reports some difficulty in noisy environments, and that she has to be careful not to force her voice in those situations. She has now mastered phone conversations, which were previously very difficult.
Voice Handicap Index score was 65 (Severe) originally in June 2014, decreased to 35 (mild) in August 2016 and was recently 25 (considered no handicap with regard to voice use).
Click the play button to watch Diane's video testimony !
Ted is an example of someone preferring a slow paced program. Ted was diagnosed with MTD in 2010 and contacted me a year later. His evaluation was in April 2011. At the time, Ted was living part of the year in Greece and part of the year in Sarasota, FL. His plan was to work with me when he was in Florida. His Voice Handicap Index at the initial evaluation was 94 – in the Severe-Profound range. His pitch was very high at 228 in conversational speech. His job was stressful, more so due to his voice problems.
Ted saw Connie for an evalution and 3 90 minute sessions the first year, as well as seeing a Speech Therapist in Greece. He enrolled in private yoga classes. He returned for 90 minute sessions 3 times in 2012 and again in 2013. He continued traveling extensively in his job until he retired in 2014. He progressively improved, and did a lot of work on his own. He had one session in 2014, but attended a mini-clinic group for several days in November that year. After retirement, Ted found his progress to be more rapid, and he saw Connie twice in 2015 and then discontinued therapy until he returned for a re-evaluation in January 2017. At that time, he was speaking very well and his Voice Handicap Index had decreased to 20 ( mild to no handicap). His pitch at last Acoustic Analysis was 107 in connected speech.
Here is Ted’s testimonial.
I was diagnosed in January 2011 with MTD or SD and saw 2 Greek Speech Therapists before finding Connie on the internet. I began to see her for 90 minute sessions several times per year. I experienced improvement over time that was significant. I went from zero voice at times to completely functional. I did not want to use botox, so I never did and never will. I tried acupuncture, life style changes such as yoga, de-stressing, increased exercise and weight loss as well as daily voice exercises. I found that daily voice use and practice were key, keeping stress level low, hydration, sleep and patience with the process. It was slow, but worth the time.
Lisa attended a clinic in October 2010, after which time she practiced the techniques on her own. While she was not a private individual client, she wanted to share her long-standing success with the program. She was diagnosed with SD and did not want to take botox injections. She met with Connie briefly at the airport in Birmingham, AL, to discuss the program and attended, sensing that it was a good fit for her. This is her testimonial 7 years later. Voice Handicap Index was originally a 59 (Moderate) and is now a 9 (which is consistent with a normal healthy voice).
I experienced significant improvement with this program, with improved awareness that I could find a new voice. I used gabapentin for 9 months to assist my progression. I have regained 99% of a good speaking voice, although I have not been able to return to singing. I am so thankful to Connie Pike and my doctor. Using her techniques and gabapentin, I totally recovered my speaking voice, with no issues remaining. I utilized massage and Connie’s techniques of pitching and placing higher, so that I now have a totally stable speaking voice. I learned to utilize better breathing techniques. I was previously a singer, which I think helped me understand and immediately use Connie’s principles.
Beth saw Connie originally through teleconference sessions starting in April 2016 through September 2016, for 6 sessions. At the end of treatment, she saw Connie in person for one session. She had been diagnosed with SD and Botox was recommended but she had become pregnant and could not utilize that treatment. Her initial Voice Handicap Index was 105 (severe to profound). She rated her voice as 80% improved a year after treatment began., and VHI score had decreased to 35 (a low moderate severity score).
I had been struggling with my voice for about 3 years going to CBT therapists, hypnotherapists, massage and mainstream speech therapists. The physical therapists said it was a psychological problem and the psychotherapists said it was a physiological problem.
After having the camera inserted into my nose and having to bark in front of a room of medical students, then them saying you need botox but wait, you’re pregnant so there is nothing we can do for you, I felt at my lowest point. One practitioner took pity on me and offered me the bare minimum which was to look up some support groups on line. I did and found people mentioning Connie. I bought her book and read it in one evening. I then contacted her.
I felt the sense that she had the answer. This was bloody hard and I felt I was losing myself. But this woman had both the psychological understanding and the practical skills to help me. I would do the exercises and cry so much because I couldn’t say the words and I felt a sense that I would never be able to speak. I feared having to leave my job and not see friends. It was unbareable. One session I remember crying most of it and Connie said to just keep talking even if you think I cannot hear you, keep talking. It was incredible.
Connie helped me relearn the physical ability to talk and her inate understanding helped me make changes to my life to reduce stress and overcome the psychological block.
We humans are mind and body connected and all the previous therapies had treated only their domain. Connie treated both and I am eternally grateful for her capability.
Susy first saw Connie in London for a consulation in June 2015. She then decided to come to a clinic in November of that year. Following the clinic, she continued to consult with in London, 2 or 3 hours in February 2016, September 2016 and March 2017. Since being diagnosed with SD in 2011, Susy had been seeing Speech Therapists in the UK and had Alexander Technique lessons and yoga. She had experienced slight and inconsistent improvement and was being encouraged to have botox injections. Susy reported that it took her about 16 months to improve 80% and she has not used botox to date. She feels that she needs to continue the program to keep getting better, but has times of good voicing. Her Voice Handicap Index decreased from 88 (Severe) to 51 (Moderate) in 16 months time. In October 2017, Susy saw Connie for what may be her last visit professionally. She was speaking so well that Connie told her the next time she was in London it would be a social visit only! She took the VHI and got a score of 28 (mild to no handicap) and she felt consistently confidence with her voice.
The program with Connie gave me techniques to improve and maintain my voice quality and regain my voice. My voice can deteriorate due to illness, fatique and stress. I find more consistency over time, and the exercises, along with relaxation, meditation, yoga, walking, Alexander technique and letting go of worry about my voice help so much. I continue to enjoy sessions with Connie when her travels bring her to London. At her last visit in October 2017, she said that “letting go of her holding pattern” was a big breakthrough. She was finally free to speak!
Gregg spent two days with Connie for a total of 12 hours in February 2017. He reported back after 6 months of following the program outlined. While he noticed that he needed to continue practicing daily, he rated his improvement at 75%.
Connie is very knowledgeable and professional. She was a true help to me, not only mentally, but spiritually as well. It all went hand in hand. She is patient and calm in her treatments. I noticed my voice was clear at the end each day of treatment. As a follow-up, I do the exercises she recommended and it helps with my everyday conversations. I would definitely recommend Connie for any kind of voice dysfunction.
Nina began struggling with her singing voice at age 16, and began losing her speaking voice at age 18. She first contacted me in February 2019 after being diagnosed with Abductor Spasmodic Dysphonia and Muscle Tension Dysphonia by a prominent ENT. She was 19 years old at the time, and had tried traditional voice therapy which did nothing to help her. Her physician and SLP encouraged her to start botox injections, stating that she would never recover her voice if she did not. After a frustrating year, she and her Mother started researching other options and found my website. Unable to travel to Atlanta, we started teleconference sessions that month. Her Voice Handicap Index was 107, and she could basically only whisper and was totally aphonic. Initial impressions were that by using probes such as "er" and a kazoo, she was able to produce a very high pitched, but "normal" voice. She started to learn to lower that abnormally high pitch, but most conversation was whispered for a time. Sessions were scheduled every 2-3 weeks for an hour. In total, Nina was seen for 25 sessions ( 2/19 - 12/19) - 10 months. She recognized how much stress and anxiety she was experiencing due to her voice loss and her life in general. She learned to inhibit her whispering and produce a normal voice over time. She used a physioball to release tension in her diaphragm and learned to inhibit pushing through the breathy breaks in her voice. She gained confidence in her ability to produce normal voice and started doing singing exercises, further improving her confidence. She remained engaged and diligent in her exercises. Her pitch eventually settled into a normal 229Hz and she became comfortable singing again. One year later, she reported normal voice and a VHI of only 2.
Nina expressed her experience:
"Finding Connie was a miracle for me. Losing my voice at such a young age, and being told that I would never recover caused immense anxiety, depression, and overall hopelessness. I would still be in that same boat if it had not found Connie and the Free to Speak Therapy.
At the beginning of the program, I was nervous and depressed, and doubtful that it would work. Being told that I would never recover got into my head and I believed it. Connie was extraordinarily kind and reassuring, constantly helping me find faith in the process. I had no idea how neurological and psychological this condition was, and that voice exercises alone can't fix those issues. Connie helped me understand this as we worked through my anxiety, and found ways to help me "let go" through things like yoga and new, positive ways of thinking. This helped immensely when we got into the voice exercises, and helped me understand how my vocal folds should work, eventually allowing me to fully produce normal voice again.
Connie is so sweet, inspirational and compassionate. These traits come through in sessions with her and help you heal. It is not just the exercises, but the comfort and wisdom she provides, and I never met her in person, doing all therapy through FaceTime. You WILL recover from SD with this program. You just have to believe that you can."
BACK TO HOME
Alice first contacted Connie in August 2019, having suffered from SD for 4.5 years and frustrated with botox having only minimal benefit. She was seeking different training and at that point, stated she could hardly speak at all. She scheduled 14 hours over 4 days in Connie's office. Her Voice Handicap Index was 76 (Severe range of handicap). She made very good progress, practicing increasing her pitch from the 170's to 260Hz, moving focus out of her throat up into her face, softening her diaphragm to improve breath flow and utilizing whole body work to free up her voice. She left pleased with her progress, but suffered some regression and contacted Connie again January 2021. We agreed to do teleconference on a monthly basis to help her to get back on track. After 4 sessions, she was modulating her tone and focus more effectively and feeling more freedom in speaking. Her follow-up Voice Handicap Index was 53 (Moderate), with a significant decrease of 23 points.
Alice expressed her experience:
Connie, thank you for your capable guidance and encouragement. I do credit your work with me for the fact that I can speak today. I have a presentation to make in November about my work in Switzerland. A month ago, I was very nervous about whether I could actually do this. I now feel quite comfortable that I can. This is a life-changing development. I think the regularity of speaking hourly for 5 minutes (*correctly) made the difference. It got my brain accustomed to accessing the higher pitched voice that works. When I first saw you in 2019, I could barely speak in an intelligible way. I had tried numerous rounds of botox injections and voice therapy/rehabilitation. Two years later, I am now able to speak reasonably well. I have confidence and can be understood. You helped me with voice exercises, but also about learning to accept my voice disorder and speak differently. It made all the difference in the world. I highly recommend Connie to those of you struggling with SD.
EF, a 36 year old physician and father of two young children, contacted Connie in August 2020. He had tried Botox treatments, but was not pleased with the breathiness that in his case were prolonged after each injection. He was looking for an alternative approach and had read my books. Due to the pandemic, EF's treatments were all provided using Zoom teleconferences. His beginning Voice Handicap Index as 47 (Moderate). EF participated in 30 sessions between August 6, 2020 and May 14, 2021. In the beginning of voice rehabilitation, sessions were one hour weekly and gradually decreased in frequency to monthly. He was diligent to follow instructions and exercises and found his voice steadily improving. Upon discharge, he continued to improve and provided this testimonial in January 2022. His Voice Handicap Index has decreased to a very low 6, indicating vocally healthy and normal and no handicap.
I developed SD in 2017 and tried Botox injections with variable results for about two years before I began seeking a more permanent solution. That is when I learned about Connie. We worked together virtually for nine months, and I spent considerable time practicing the techniques I learned. The most helpful was learning sustained continual air flow while speaking with correct tone and focus. At the end of that 9 months, my voice was about 80% recovered. Now, 18 months later since I first met Connie, my voice is about 98% recovered. It was a lot of work, but I am so glad I put in the time and effort, and I absolutely could not have done it without her help.