Selective mutism & Extreme shyness

Selective Mutism


Most of the Child Clinical Psychologists at the practice have extensive training and experience in the treatment of selective mutism and provide consultations for children and their families throughout Australia. The Selective Mutism Clinic in St Leonards, Sydney, is affiliated with the practice. Click here to visit the website of the clinic.

Selective mutism (previously called elective mutism) is a condition where children are able to talk comfortably in some situations such as at home or around familiar relatives, but are not able to use their voice in other situations such as school or with less familiar people. Selective mutism is commonly viewed as a form of social anxiety where the child fears that people will hear their voice and then judge them in a negative way.

Selective mutism is usually noticeable around three years of age, however the condition is often not diagnosed until late primary school.  The delayed referrals of children to appropriate services is often due to the perception that the child will ‘grow out of it’ and eventually start talking. However, this is often not the case, as improvements tend to occur very slowly (if at all) if it is left untreated. Preschool workers, early childhood carers, and speech therapists play a key role in early detection of the condition and in ensuring that steps are taken before the mutism becomes firmly established.

In the past ten years or so, the recognition that selective mutism is a form of social anxiety has led to the development of effective treatment programmes, such as cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT).  CBT programs aim to gradually expose the child to anxiety-provoking social situations and assist them to build up nonverbal, and later verbal communication.


Selective Mutism Clinic in the Media:


What’s it like to have a phobia of talking?, January 2016, – article by Rebecca Kamm in

Selective Mutism – segment on ‘The Project’, October 2015, audio-visual recording © 7pm Company Pty Ltd and Network Ten Pty Limited

‘Selective Mutism: the children lost for words’ – article in ‘The Age’ National newspaper, November 2015.

Selective Mutism: The Children Too Anxious to Speak – article in, October 2015 by Ginger Gorman.

‘El’s Story’ – ABC radio interview in 2008 with Dr Elizabeth Woodcock and a 27-year-old woman with selective mutism. Produced by Natalie Kestecher. Download the audio or read the transcript on the website by clicking here.

SydChildOct2006 – Klay Lamprell article – article in Sydney’s Child and Melbourne’s Child, October 2006 by Klay Lamprell about selective mutism.


For more information see the website of our Selective Mutism Clinic and our pages about treatment for Social Anxiety. If you would like to book an appointment with one of our child clinical psychologists who provides treatment for selective mutism please email or call the clinic on 02 9438 2511.


Video & Phone Consultations Available

To ensure everyone is getting the support and treatment you need MindBox is offering VIDEO and PHONE consultations with Medicare rebates.


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