Therapeutic Speech


An overall view of the beginnings of Anthroposophical Speech Therapy and a report on its current practice:

Therapeutic speech implies speech that is therapeutic to the hearing and sensing, as well as the field involved with healing the individual through anthroposophical speech formation. This is a part of my life’s path which is Exploring the Word in Colour and Speech. Indeed, in this century each human individuality presents his or her work to the world as what he or she can specifically bring. So, for me, colour will also manifest here as an intrinsic part of speech formation revealed in the universal experiences of the forming forces just beyond physical existence.

A Brief History Of The Field

Martha Hemsoth and Ita Wegman first met at the beginning of the 1920’s in Dornach, Switzerland. Martha was an opera singer who decided to do a training in speech formation at the Goetheanum. In the thirties she started to work at the Ita Wegman Clinic. In 1936 she died after a car accident. Some 40 years later Dora Gutbrod, a stage artist in Dornach initiated the effort once more. It is now carried by Ursula Ostermai and Dietrich von Bonin in Basel and is in widespread use in clinics and Rudolf Steiner Schools in Europe. An example is the work of Christa Slezak-Schindler in Unterlingenhardt, Germany. Another root of therapeutic training is now also beginning to take hold in England. A four year course in speech formation is necessary to begin to master artistic and therapeutic speech. After this introduction an added year is required as the Speech Therapy training. Consciously working on speech has an ordering effect on our thinking, feeling and willing.

The Current Practice

Now to give you a background of information which will begin to cover some of the research into therapeutic speech, including elements of drama, form and rhythm.

One can look at the healing benefits of speech formation and dramatic art in current practice from four points of view. The first concerns the healing of actual speech impediments and problems arising out of aphasia. The second can be described as breathing disturbances. Another can be spoken of as illnesses which are related to disharmonies between body and psyche (or soul) and the fourth entails a variety of sickness of soul ranging from depression to hyperactivity and penetrates more serious neurotic behaviour as well as schizophrenia.

In the case of speech impediments, such as stuttering and lisping, there are definite speech exercises given by Dr Rudolf Steiner in German. The one for stuttering, for example, was explicitly prescribed in a case where Steiner observed that ‘the movement in the diaphragm had to be brought into the right direction’. There are translations of these exercises as well as worthy attempts by English-speaking people to make exercises to cure lisping and stuttering. But, considering the faculties of observation which Dr Steiner possessed, one may indeed best profit from his indications by using the precise following of consonants and vowel sounds which he has given. Adults as well as children can work to overcome these impediments, although it is of great advantage to begin at an early age.

Movement and perception in the development of the child, how the movement is built up through crawling, walking, talking and thinking is a very important factor. The studies of Emily Pikler are seen as useful, to be carried out using speech and rhythm, as a method of healing incarnation problems. The story-in-motion which I have often demonstrated seeks to help children with speech problems in an enjoyable sequence which is designed to meet the individual child’s problem. Walking, talking, speech exercises and plot are interwoven, in accordance with the curriculum in Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogy. This was first documented during my training at the Dora Gutbrod School in the year 2000.

The consonants in their relation to the elements can be used in a complementary experience to balance temperamental one-sidedness. The study of the twelve senses in gesture and the gestures of the six dramatic exercises, applied to poetry as well, can be helpful. In the process of entering into another disposition, always beginning where the patient is, one can open up new vistas.

The voice is experienced as a means of diagnosis; in the documentation of Posture, Breath, Voice, Articulation and Thought, seen as a whole picture, one comes to the perception of the human being from the point of view of the physical, etheric, astral and ego being. The development of the therapy itself is also reviewed from various points of view. One example would be the sevenfold system of: meeting, relating, differentiating, individualising, and carrying through to growth and new creation. There is also a threefold contemplation from the thinking, feeling and willing in speech, as related to the nerve-sense, rhythmical and metabolic systems.

Aspects of the training in therapeutic speech include a study of anatomy, and physiology of the heart, lungs, bronchial tubes, larynx, mouth and nose. The pulse and breath, especially in their harmonious relationship in the rhythm of hexameter, are now being scientifically researched. Other elements of medical studies, such as the nervous system, fever and sclerosis, and constitutional types in children and adults are studied as well in relation to speech formation. Pathology of the larynx, myofunctional therapy, and speech formation in connection to ‘Logopedics’ are continuing studies. There is a need to develop positive attitudes to already existing fields, for mutual growth.

In curative education there is great need and benefit derived from persevering with the use of speech formation. It is best to begin during the pedagogical process and continue into adult life. Disabled children and adults can learn to feel the strength of ‘I am’ in specially chosen poetry and plays. Good results for autistic patients can be experienced, especially in connecting speech and painting. (There is an intrinsic evolutionary process in the metamorphosis of the ear and the larynx into the faculty of sight with its inner and outer eye synthesis.) Poetry and picture building may be linked around a healing theme for the individual. Utterances may be given by the patients in a spontaneous therapy, as directed to each individual case. The condition of aphasia is being treated using speech formation.

In adults there are three basic kinds of aphasia. In kinetic aphasia speech can be understood but the patient can’t get it into motion. Here the therapist can demonstrate how to speak a phrase or line of poetry, which can awaken interest and fill the space with warmth and inspiring enthusiasm. In the second kind, called sensory aphasia, the patient can still speak (his own words as well as those he hears and repeats). But he doesn’t understand. Today we think no longer in picture consciousness, but in words which have become abstractions. To return to the old picture consciousness in recitation and story-telling can enliven words and bring back their meaning. In the third case, that of amnesic aphasia, the memory of words has practically or completely disappeared. The patient cannot find the right word and may substitute similar sounding words, confusing the meaning. Here the feeling can come into play, for when an experience is strongly accompanied by feeling, memory can return. The experience of ‘learning by heart’ comes out into the organs and once the process has begun, it may link up again with the past.

Great patience and a consistently positive attitude are needed for success in working with such problems. The use of singing and rhythmical speech in conjunction has been shown to be of value for senility problems.

In diseases which cause a degeneration of the nervous system, the use of vowels helps the vital forces to regenerate so they can replenish the body. This is also the case in nervous exhaustion of any kind.

In the second general area for speech formation as medical therapy, that of disturbances in the rhythm of breathing, there are a few exercises given by Dr Steiner, as he prescribed directly to individual patients; it is possible that more were given than have been recorded at this time. For example, there is a verse, mantric in its character, which can be spoken for the patient by his own doctor or nurse. Dr Steiner also gave an exercise in a case where the soul needed to come properly into balance in relation to the organism. Another was given to help the breathing to penetrate more deeply. Another to eliminate polyps in the nose has also been proved effective in clearing the nasal passages and healing sinus infections.

‘The whole of what the human being has carried from earlier lives into the present is manifested in the breath organism. In the out breath, that which was experienced in the catharsis between death and new birth, is in constant interplay with his coming destiny. The in breath carries him beyond death and should always be accompanied with an impulse that is strengthening and provides harmonious contact with the environment2.’ Imagine the benefit of such knowledge for the asthmatic who cannot exhale enough! The first breath one takes every morning in the sunny light-filled air can indeed link up to an experience of the child-like innocence which is in its essence cleansing to the blood. To trust the flow of out breath, and use it dynamically in speech is of great value. Thus one of the most important steps for the speech therapist is to engender an attitude of pure joy in the forming of the speech. The asthmatic can particularly enjoy colour poems in sunset moods accompanied by painting. Strong declamatory alliteration helps the out breath to exhale proportionately.

Breathing in: the images, pictorial qualities, feeling, movement as well as inner speaking; and breathing out: rhythms sculptural qualities, musical speech, voice placement and intoning, represent a healthy instrumentality in, speaking ‘on the breath’.

The third general area where speech formation carries a healing impulse, which is called disharmonies manifesting between body and soul, is an enormous sphere of experience in modern life. The glandular problems particularly the thyroid imbalance, is one example. For this disturbance a specific exercise was give by Dr Steiner in German. According to personal experience of a speech therapist in Switzerland, this verse is healing for hyper as well as hypothyroid conditions. The lines are so linked together that a healing attitude for the soul is intrinsically woven into the words.

The migraine headache is being treated with speech formation. Declamatory alliteration helps the incarnation process, (but is not to be done at the time of the attack).

In anorexia the soul longs for childhood. Astral forces are actually consuming the vital forces and need to be healthfully used. Dramatic ballads bring the soul into activity which helps cure the traumatic entry into puberty which often lies behind this dangerous condition. The opposite pole, bulimia, can also be treated by speech therapy. In this case the vital forces are destroying the soul. Poetry and verses which carry a spiritual content help to use the vital energy and the patient becomes more active on an inner plane.

Sexual problems and women’s monthly problems can be lessened using speech and drama. Certain consonants used in conjunction with the movement of eurythmy can help remedy excessive bleeding during menstruation. These curative exercises should not be done during the time of menstruation. Speech formation and eurythmy should never be done simultaneously, unless there’s a speaker present. Best results are found using the eurythmic consonant preceding the spoken one, when the patient is practising alone. Therapeutic speech practitioners are trained to use eurythmy as applicable to their practice.

The forces in speech and drama are directly regenerating for the blood. Anaemia and weaknesses of the immune system can be improved by the centring effect of speech. The patient uses the Ego or higher individuality as his instrument. The process of speaking brings order to the soul life which is so often chaotic in the twentieth century. In such diseases as cancer, the confusion of a multimedia world has taken over, in a sense. Without a strong creative centre, influences from the outside penetrate and spread inside. Speaking creates a balance between above and below and an expression of the will is evolved for that which has been felt or thought in the passage of words.

If the physical is imprinted too strongly into the life of soul, the spirit is sickened. And if the life of soul penetrates too deeply into the physical body, the organism becomes ill. 3 The nature of illnesses is not always as easily defined as it was in past ages. In psychosomatic illnesses the soul has pulled away from the physical. Recitation re-awakens interest in the sense world and can thus begin a process whereby the patient can stop feeling fear directed inwards and begin to breathe into the world again, thereby incarnating and feeling better.

In the human body it is the muscles of the lungs that begin the process of speaking. Through the diaphragm the active stream of breath is produced, which is then formed by the larynx and upper organs (the palate, tongue, teeth and lips). The strong upsurging air is constantly gripped and released in movement and awakens to placement in the forming of consonant and vowel. Words are breathed and set free in space to manifest the rhythm of their creation together. The written symbols which were ‘slumbering’ on the page since their conception are nurtured and enlivened, thus growing into their own reality.

The fourth general area of study for speech formation is in the realm of soul sickness. The neurotic patient is caught in his body which is consumed with unfulfilled desires. Using drama in an objective way can be a help. The six dramatic gestures given by Dr Rudolf Steiner provide a channel of expression. A few can meet together in a course, planned around a carefully chosen theme. The speech practitioner can thereby learn to create skits and short plays.

Depressed patients need verses which bring inner support and security. Children’s verses are also of great help to strengthen the soul. Several can meet in a poetry group built around the four seasons, for example, and each one can bring his own observations and poems to share. The theme itself provides an opportunity which allows patients to help one another.

Best results are experienced from regular sessions once or twice a week, held throughout a number of years. At six month periods, patients who have been having private lessons can meet together to share their poems with others. It should be stressed that this is only a time for sharing and no test situation is involved. A trained speech practitioner is necessary for this process.

The Elements of Form and Rhythm in Therapy

There is more than one way to experience the form element in speech, one notices. The word ‘speech formation’ in English attempts to translate the almost impossible German word, ‘gestaltung’. One might say: forming, shaping, structuring or fashioning in the old sense. To fashion a form is the closest translation, which implies a creative sculptural act. Rudolf Steiner speaks of the consonantal aspect as the ‘house’, the archetypal arrangement inside which the vowel is sheltered and comes to its optimum expression. If one experiences the mouth of the speaker as a kind of cathedral with the portico the dome and the altar, one might say teeth, palate, lips; thinking, willing and feeling are involved. In any case, these become spaces in the breath of the therapeutic (as well as the artistic) speaker.

The patient, for one, is affected by how one uses these spaces. One of the most important steps, in one of my cases was when a women, who feeling isolated from social life and overburdened with family responsibilities, could experience and enter into the people in her life in a whole new way by learning to speak like them, penetrating into their voice placement. Understanding was thereby enhanced. So, with her own sentient soul in speaking she could feel other temperaments and earth, water, fire and air, as well as discovering her own voice. This is a key for a new social development, of which more and more people are capable.

This verse of Rudolf Steiner’s can demonstrate how speech, form and vision augment one another.

‘See thou mine eye

The sun’s pure rays

In crystal forms of earth.

See thou my heart

The sun’s spirit power

In waters surging wave.

See thou my soul

The sun’s cosmic will

In quivering gleam of air.

See thou my spirit

The sun’s indwelling gods

In fire’s streaming love’.

Another form quality has to do with the languages used in formative speech. It always applies that the syllable is formed and the rhythm is to be met in speech. But, having worked at an International School, I came into contact with not only English speaking people. English is watery, flowing, malleable; German is earthy, naturally sculptured; French is airy, said by Rudolf Steiner to be a language that has completed it mission – that of beauty. Spanish is fiery. It is true that simply speaking a foreign language can be a way to complement one’s temperament. Therefore the sanguine could gain structure from speaking German. The choleric might like to speak English to calm down a bit; the phlegmatic might like to try Spanish, the melancholic maybe French – who knows?

Another very important experience of form is in the placement element, as I spoke of before. For example:

German English

Lyric: Bei meiner Waffe By my biffen

Dramatic: Sieh vieh Schieden See fee sheeting

Epic: Nun er lag Inger ich None air log Inger ink

Or the Epic Placements:


Halt hebe hurtig hohe Humpen

Hole Heinrich hierher hohe Halme


Hollow hiding here hair hollyhock

Hark horehound hurting hopping houpoo

The following are vowel placement-forming moods:

AH No harm shall alarm my ardent heart…

E Easily sweep the eagles free…

I Eye is whiteness, whiteness is eye…

o Sow the oats and sow the rosy clover…

u Soon through the blue gloom the new moon shall loom…

Now, what exactly is this forming element? What allows the breath placement to make – actually an etheric change. In this, one hears breath touching etheric spaces that are made through practice and which create a new kind of modulation. New ways of understanding human beings can arise out of this and help heal humanity. In conjunction with the six dramatic gestures given by Rudolf Steiner, these moods can indeed heal psychological disturbances.

Look at the ZODIAC consonants given in Eurythmy in their relationship to the sun experiences of vowel. For example: (beginning with Aries to Pisces)


If one could see these as structures, what an experience of architecture would be visible as the Sun and Earth travel through the course of a year! Imagine the metamorphosis from structure to structure. Each of the vowels lives and moves differently in the structure of each consonant. To experience this is to understand the words: ‘In my Father’s world there are many mansions’.

And what significance does this aspect have for therapy?

1) How often do people long for a sense of security? The astral becomes organised and finds structure through good speaking. There is of course a difference in the forming forces depending on whether or not one has an epic, dramatic or lyric poem. Some people may have an imbalance in that they use too much consonantal influence in their speech. The vowel is pressed down and uncomfortable. Usually by working with enhancing vowel qualities, these people can loosen up. Lyric speech, which is in its essence less consonantal, can be approached by building from where the patient is. So an epic poem (very consonantal in nature) would lead to more declamatory utterances and, finally on to the lyric. Spring is the season for lovers in nature. So one might hear:

‘I arise from dreams of thee

In the first sweet sleep of night.’

Or say that the vowel quality is too strong, not enough shelter from the consonants; an opposite approach would lead the patient more toward the epic from the lyric where he would begin. So in the end; a hexameter, perhaps

Soon were heard on board the shouts and songs of the sailors

Heaving the windlass round and hoisting the ponderous anchor.

One of the indications for speaking epic is to feel as if the content is coming down, as if there were an umbrella above the reciter which carried all the substance of the epic which would stream out in picture form. This approaches the spirit of the creation.

Imagine Adam Kadman, the human being before physical incarnation, hearing the music of the spheres as the mineral, plant and animal creations were formed.

He gave man speech.

And speech created thought.

Which is the measure

Of the universe.

Another very strong element of structure is found in the five articulation exercises, given by Dr Steiner. This progression helps depressed patients. The articulations are also segments of the bone structure.

1. Chase these wild goats to star-netted hills boldly.

There is sense and nonsense, in the sound and meaning of such exercises.

Commands, statements, exclamations and questions evoke fire, earth, air and water according to Paul Matthews, the English poet. Playing around with these forms can create poems carrying intrinsic meaning. Subject verb modifiers and objects; the stuff of grammar.

Now we come to RHYTHMS. Inflexions and emphasis created in the rhythms bring meaning to speech. This we can experience through a poem I made of the 24 Rhythms first used by the Greeks. (Inspired by M Georg Martens, a German speech artist). My interpretation, including its flora and fauna, is dedicated to Australia.

First one must imagine the Greek priestess sitting under a tree, intoning syllables which evoke on the one hand inward thought; on the other, the outward manifestations of dance in a circular pattern around the tree.

In this poem certain qualities appear in the seasonal experiences which can create picture images to be used in transforming temperamental one-sidedness.

M G Martens
K V Rudolph
Eis und Schnee

Deckt den see


___ _ ___

  • Hark, fresh wind
  • Blows again.
Da rauscht ein Wind

Herbei geschwind


_ ___

  • Magnolia’s plumes
  • Triumphant, bloom.
Und der Macht űbernacht

Dass der Frűhling erwacht


_ _ ___

  • While Azalea’s Lush
  • Shall break open and blush
Platscherndes Nass

Rieselt durch’s gras


___ _ _ ___

  • Violets sigh
  • Sheltered and shy
Und reissende Gűsse

Erfűllen die Flűsse


_ ___ _

  • And gracious spring showers
  • Now nourish the flowers
Doch in der Luft

Wie es da ruft

Päon 3

_ _ _ ___

  • Refreshened air!
  • O’er meadows fair!
Wie es singet

Wie es klinget

Päon 4

_ _ ___ _

  • How the bees sing,
  • In their dancing
Hin und her

Immer mehr


_ _ _

  • Here and there
  • Every where
Und auch sofrei

So froh dabei


_ _ _ _

  • For now’s bright day
  • Make hay! Make hay!
Die Jubelnden

Die Trubelnden

Päon 2

_ ___ _ _

  • The summer’s on
  • Abounds the sun
Lärmen nur so

Schwarmen nur so

Päon 1

___ _ _ _

  • Hearkening high
  • Shimmering by
Hell shimmert es

Heiss flimmert es

Ionikus 1

___ ___ _ _

  • Heat waves, palm trees
  • Ocean’s hot breeze
Und ein Wind streift

Was am Baum reift

Ionikus 2

_ _ ___ ___

  • Then a wind blows
  • Through the wattles.
Die Korngarben

In Goldfarben


_ ___ ___ _

  • The mangoes in
  • Their crimson skin
Wollen gedroshen sein!

Bald wird rerloschen sein


___ _ _

  • Need to be harvested.
  • Leaves that are fiery – red
Was inglüh ‘nden

Feuer sprühnden


___ _

  • Now turn dull brown
  • Soon are earth-bound
Gewand brennt

Sich Herbst nennt

_ ___ ___
  • The day’s light
  • Becomes night.

Folgt hinter


___ ___ _

  • Thus winter
  • Comes hither:
Reif – Frost – Nächten


Epitrit 4___ ___ ___ _
  • Wind-blown faces
  • Chill bleak spaces
Stilldunkle Zeit

Herrscht weit und breit

Epitrit 3

___ ___ _ ___

  • While deep in sleep
  • Still darkness seeks
Nachts blinkt hell

Sternglanz quell,


___ ___ ___

  • Bright moon’s balm
  • Midst tall gums
Klingt klar

Singt wahr


___ ___

  • Tones sing
  • Stars ring
Tief im Erdschoss

Ruht der Keim bloss

Epitrit 2

___ _ ___ ___

  • Seeds abiding
  • Feel the tidings
Er harrt schon lang

Des Erdtags Gang.

Epitrit 1

_ ___ ___ ___

  • Of earth’s night song
  • It echoes long.

Form and Life are the polarities at play here. How would space and time manifest if these rhythms were to be sculptured into clay?.

Spring is the morning, summer the noon, autumn is evening and winter, the night. A day, a season, a year, a lifetime of changing patterns evolve.

One can begin with spring and return there again to explore the shorts and longs evoked by the Greeks. The seasons, juxtaposed in the mind’s eye stimulate our thought world.

Form and rhythm meet. Even if the seasons and the times become erratic, these patterns can soothe the soul; the blood circulation can be balanced and regulated, in-breath and out-breath can be harmonized – by the correct application of these rhythms. Recreation can become healing in speech and movement.


The following applications of Anthroposophical Speech Therapy,

have been found to contribute to the healing process:

  • Speech disturbances
  • Delayed development
  • Mutism
  • Stuttering
  • Lisping
  • Aphasia
  • Sounds left out
  • Changing one sound for another
  • Problems with grammar
  • Hyperactivity, ADD
  • Dreaminess
  • Social depravation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anorexia and Bulimia
  • Neurasthenia and Hysteria
  • Extreme constitutional imbalances
  • In-breathed or Out-breathed types
  • Anaemia
  • Women’s problems
  • Asthma
  • Spastic Colitis
  • Cancer
  • Hyper-Hypo Thyroid

As one can understand from this broad overview, (gleaned from my own practice, research at the Ita Wegman Clinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland, the Medizinisch-Kűnstlerishes Therapeuticum Bern, Switzerland, and the Friedrich Huseman Klinick in Wiesneck, Germany); the field of speech formation as therapeutic art is well established. The potential for research is tremendous, and the task of the speech therapist from his universal understanding of the weaving of vowel and consonant, has evolved into taking a real responsibility for the furthering of the good in healing sickness.

Special thanks must be given to Dietrich Von Bonin, Karin Hege and Inge Mau who are experienced speech therapists working in European clinics. Dr Gudrun Wolf-Hoffman at the Ita Wegman Clinic and Lukas Hablutzel in Bern are two of the numerous doctors who have benefitted speech formation in regular practice. For more information one might contact the Paracelsus Klinick in Unterlengenhardt, Germany, The Dora Gutbrod School, Basel, Switzerland and The Speech School, E. Grinstead, Sussex, UK.


1 The ‘Natural Science Course’, Lecture 8 Stuttgart, 31 December 1919, Rudolf Steiner.

2 Dichtung als Weg zur Einweihung, Page 119, Verlag fur schone Wissenschafte, Albert Steffen.

3 Krisis, Katharsis, Therapie… Page 217, Verlag fur schone Wissenschaft, Albert Steffen.

4 Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech, Deitrich Von Bonin, Barbara Von Stryk, 2003 Edinburgh, Floris Books.

Formative speech practitioners who have had a complete training and would like to expand their study: Please contact

Katherine Rudolph

Exploring the Word in Colour and Speech

Goetheanum Painting School 1984, 2001

(London School of Speech Formation 1991)

( Dora Gutbrod Schule, Basel, Switzerland 2000)

Larissa St, Ringwood, Vic, 3134

Phone: 0061 413 770 020