The Footprints Hearing Voices Group

THE FOOTPRINTS HEARING VOICES GROUP
Actioning Recovery and Citizenship Program 

A few years ago, in our mental health program, we noted that a number of the people we were working with experienced hearing distressing voices despite being on medication,and we became interested in finding other ways to help people cope.

We were very fortunate that at this time, some of the team from the Victorian Hearing Voices Network came to Qld to deliver training in facilitating Hearing Voices Groups, and introduced us to the Hearing Voices Approach. We began our first Hearing Voices Group at Footprints in September 2012 and have run a small weekly group here ever since. The term “Hearing Voices” is an umbrella term for a range of sensory experiences commonly known as hallucinations, including visual, smelling, feeling and others sensations as well as auditory.

The Hearing Voices Approach began in the Netherlands in 1987 when a Dutch psychiatrist, Marius Romme, started working with a patient who heard voices, and for whom medication was not working. Marius recognized the experience as a real experience, and went on television seeking voice hearers who were coping with their experience.  The result was amazing with many people coming forward who had accepted their voices and had never sought medical attention for their voices.  Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, a researcher, then went on to extensively survey many voice hearers and develop new ways of working with them.

They found there was a lot of variance in the way in which voice hearing impacted upon the voice hearer. Most people hear both positive and negative voices but the people who experienced the most negative voices, and became afraid, were much more likely to become patients. It was discovered that the more negative the voices the less people were able to control or influence them. Interestingly, despite the sense of helplessness some experienced, most people surveyed still had the ability to refuse orders from their voices.

The survey also revealed that about 70% of voice hearers who heard distressing voices could connect their voice hearing experience with trauma they had experienced in their life – the influence of the voices having a lot to do with how powerless an individual feels. It became clear that psychotic phenomena could be understood in terms of the individual life-history.

What the voices say is very often highly relevant to the voice hearer, and may refer to unresolved problems of daily life, to past trauma or unrealistic aspirations for the future. Thus ways of working with voices have been influenced by this research and with the Hearing Voices approach the focus is on ways of coping with the symptoms, and also with analyzing and dealing with the voice hearers problems, social and psychological, past and present. The voices may not be cured, or disappear, but the hearer’s relationship with them changes – thus the motto “It’s not about getting rid of the voices; it’s about changing your relationship with them”.

The role of the Hearing Voices Group in this new way of understanding the voice hearing experience, is to provide self help organized on the basis of shared experience – talking to others about these personal experiences, receiving and giving  suport, accepting voices, decreasing fear of voices, starting to recognize patterns with the voices and perhaps recognizing the meaning of their own voices. Participants also share coping strategies and tools they need to work towards their recovery. The idea is that these groups are run by voice hearers for voice hearers. Mental health professionals often help to start the groups and organize them with the goal of the groups becoming run independently.
Hearing Voices groups are now mainstream in Europe, and now established in many countries around the world.

It is three years since we tentatively started our first group with a social worker facilitating the group. After the first group we noted how amazed the participants were to finally meet other voice hearers and openly speak about their experiences.  This has been an ongoing theme in our group – that people have a safe space to come and talk about their experiences. The feedback is that this has decreased people’s fear of their voices. We are now fortunate to have 2 peer workers involved with the Hearing Voices group as    co-facilitators. We are also part of the wider Hearing Voices Community in Queensland.  Our group continues to meet at 1.30 pm on a Thursday afternoon at our West End office.  For further information please speak to Dee or Nicky on 3252 3488.

  • 24 Light Street Fortitude Valley Qld 4006
    PO Box 735 New Farm 4005
  • (07) 3252 3488
  • ABN 15 100 277 492

 

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