Reclaiming Experience

Many of us who have received psychiatric treatment have found that it’s ‘blame the individual and blame the brain’ emphasis, has limited the way we can think about ourselves and our potentials. We are expected to be the silent recipients of treatment for disorders, and often, medication is the only option.  No-one asks, what do you think would help? – Our own expertise and wisdom about our lives is denied or ignored. Like naughty children we are told what to do, and then given contradictory opinions – that the only way to get better is to take medication, but that actually, we wilI never really get better anyway.

The bad brain emphasis in contemporary mental health ideology is that distress and confusion are best explained as unhealthy conditions, products of brain and cognitive faults. For example, personality disorder diagnosis implies that the chaos we can experience is due to a character fault and schizophrenia is presented as a terrible disease that we are passive victims of. We have progressed from blaming the behaviour of the child who is bullied and withdraws to blaming his brain and mind. Our attempts to find meaningful ways to live in an often distressing and confusing world, are not understood as creative, human responses to be valued and shared. Instead, the individual is pathologised, labelled and medicated.

Collective Voices

The Hearing Voices Movement was founded more than 20 years ago, following the ground-breaking research of Professor Marius Romme and Dr Sandra Escher who have advocated for a radical shift in the way we understand the phenomenon of Hearing Voices.  Rather than taking the traditional approach favored by biological psychiatry, which views voices as a product of brain and cognitive faults, their research has firmly established that voices make sense when looking at the traumatic circumstances in life that provoked them. As the improvement in people who are encouraged to talk about their voices becomes apparent, an increasing number of voice hearers and mental health professionals are beginning to see that the key to making sense of these experiences lies in understanding the content of voices. Voices are meaningful and for some, an experience to be celebrated.