IAIN Mutch once dreamt of a career in journalism or law or politics, but one obstacle made him abandon these ambitions - his severe stammer.

Iain, born and educated in Newport, knows the deep frustration of being tongue-tied - stammering can be the most debilitating condition, sapping self-confidence and filling the sufferer with anxiety and shame.

But three years ago, he decided to confront his problem and undertook the McGuire Programme - an intensive course of speech and language therapy.

And his achievements were so great he is now teaching the course himself to help others - including Pop Idol's well-known stammerer Gar-eth Gates.

He is director of The McGuire Pro-gramme (UK Nor-th) - an area which includes Wales - and yesterday began a four-day residential course at the Wyndford Hotel, Cardiff.

"I had got to the point where I was so frustrated and so full of self-hatred that I felt I had to do something," Iain said.

"I've come on in leaps and bounds since I first went on the programme and I find now that speaking is not the fearful experience that it once used to be.

"It's not a cure that we offer; it's a method of control. The best way to explain is to compare what we teach to what opera singers and actors are trained to do. We teach people to take what's called a costal breath, using the diaphragm - it's what most people only do when they yawn."

Iain, now a civil servant working in Newcastle, is a past pupil of Duffryn High School and Cross Keys College.

"A lot of people on the course have experienced isolated lives. They have shrunk away from social contact, relying heavily on parents and spouses just to deal with everyday life," he said.

Coaching Gareth Gates he used techniques to help the Pop Idol star confront his fear of stammering.

"Part of it is about building assertiveness. Instead of hiding the problem, and avoiding situations, you have to admit you've a problem and confront it. Speech is what differentiates humans from the beasts, and if you have trouble speaking, it affects all of your opportunities in life." Contact The McGuire Programme on 0191 413 9100 or at www.freedomsroad.org