Voices In Your Head? You May Not Be Crazy

Published in: The Times, 27 January 2007, By Michelle Kirsch

We have all had the experience of seeing a person walking down the road, talking loudly to what appears to be him or herself. Before the advent of hands-free mobile phones, which gives the scene a “sane” context, we would have thought the person disturbed, speaking to someone who does not exist outside his own head. Now psychologists studying the phenomenon of hearing voices are asking us to consider two other possibilities: one is that people who hear voices may not be disturbed by them, and the other is that a person who appears to be speaking on a mobile phone might be speaking to one of his voices.

Pretending to speak on a mobile phone is just one strategy that makes life more bearable for the estimated 4 per cent of Britons who hear voices. The 4 per cent figure, as cited by the Hearing Voices Network, an educational and self-help registered charity for voice-hearers, is a conservative estimate. The real figure may be much higher, they say, because anyone who admits to hearing voices may be subjected to close, perhaps unwelcome, psychiatric scrutiny

Read more: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article1295311.ece

How I Tamed the Voices in my Head

Published in: The Independent, 6 March, 2007, By Kate Hilpburn

Eleanor Longden, 25, started hearing voices when she was a teenager. But, contrary to the usual perception of inner voices, Longden says hers weren’t destructive: “It was rather mundane, simply giving me a narration of some of the day-to-day things I was doing. In many ways, the voice was companionate because it was reminding me that I was carrying on with my responsibilities despite feeling so sad inside. There was something constructive about it.”

People like Longden who admit to hearing inner voices can generally expect two outcomes: a diagnosis of insanity, and potent medication. But a group of psychiatrists and psychologists believe it’s time we reconsidered labels such as schizophrenia and the drugs used as treatment. In fact, they believe we should get people to listen to, and actually engage with, the voices inside their heads.

Read More: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/how-i-tamed-the-voices-in-my-head-439083.html

In Your Head: Hearing Voices

Published in: Psychology Today, January 1, 2007, by William Lee Adams

Despite their association with mental illness, auditory hallucinations don’t always torment those who hear them. In fact, only one out of every three so-called “voice hearers” requires psychiatric help. The other two don’t experience difficulties and may even consider their voices supportive or inspiring.

“My voices know me better than anyone else, and they also protect and comfort me,” says Jacqui Dillon, head of a London support group for voice hearers. She and other group members report that voices can alert them to oncoming cars and suspicious passersby, provide encouragement during stressful times, and offer reminders to pick things up at the grocery store.

Whether they threaten or soothe, auditory hallucinations usually begin after trauma: Seventy percent of people who hear voices first detect them following physical or sexual abuse, an accident, or the loss of a loved one. “The emotion they feel about their trauma complicates how they interpret the voices,” says Sara Tai, a psychologist at the University of Manchester in England who studies why some hallucinators thrive while others end up in psychiatric care. Typically, the greater the trauma, the more likely voices will sound threatening.

Read More: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200701/in-your-head-hearing-voices

Experts call for ban on schizophrenia ‘label’

Published in: Daily Mail, 9 October, 2006

Schizophrenia should be abolished as a concept because it is unscientific, stigmatising, and does not address the root causes of serious mental illness, a group of experts said today.

The diagnosis, which emerged in the 19th century, is flawed and harmful, they claimed. It not only grouped together patients with widely ranging symptoms, but offered no explanation for their illnesses.

Once given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a person was labelled an incurable social misfit and placed at the mercy of a psychiatric system that mostly benefited the drug industry.

A new campaign called CASL (Campaign for the Abolition of the Schizophrenic Label) is said to be gaining increasing support from both patients groups and professionals.

It wants patients to be assessed according to their individual experiences and histories rather than blanket-categorised as “schizophrenic”.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-409472/Experts-ban-schizophrenia-label.html#ixzz1H2oOhJEG

Mad In America

I’m off to America tomorrow to help spread the word about the pioneering work of the Hearing Voices Movement. On Monday I will deliver the first session of the ‘Starting Hearing Voices Groups Training’ at the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community. It will be great to be a part of these important developments particularly as Gail attended the very first Hearing Voices Group Facilitation training that I ran in London back in 2005.

This training looks to continue the positive momentum of the Hearing Voices Movement in the United States, with the primary purpose of training people to start their own Hearing Voices Groups in the local area. I will be facilitating the training along with Oryx Cohen, Director of the National Empowerment Center’s Technical Assistance Center and former Co-Facilitator of the RLC Hearing Voices Group in Holyoke and Gail Hornstein, Professor of Psychology at Mount Holyoke College, Co-Facilitator of the RLC Hearing Voices Group and author of Agnes’s Jacket.

On Tuesday I will be interviewed by a filmmaker about my work, meet with members of the Recovery Learning Community in Worcester before going to deliver my presentation at Mount Holyoke College entitled –

Bad Things That Happen to You Can Drive You Crazy! –

Understanding Abuse, Trauma, and Madness and Working toward Recovery.

See this link for further information: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/news/stories/5682743

On Wednesday I will travel to Framingham where I will give a presentation at Advocates, Inc.

Before I fly back home on Thursday evening, I will meet Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic. Bob has agreed to speak at a fundraising event for the Hearing Voices Network when he is in London in November – watch this space for further info!

From Vicarious Trauma to Transformation

I’ve just got back from delivering a 2 day training course with Eleanor Longden on Abuse, Trauma and Dissociation, to 35 mental health professionals in Shrewsbury. I was really struck by people’s willingness and commitment to staying with some really difficult material. We spoke about the importance of having good support and the need to take really good care of ourselves when working directly with trauma, to protect us from the effects of vicarious traumatization.

Vicarious trauma, the process of change that happens because you care about other people who have been hurt, and feel committed or responsible to helping them, can lead to changes in your psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. When you identify with the pain of people who have endured terrible things, you bring their grief, fear, anger, and despair into your own awareness and experience. Your commitment and sense of responsibility can lead to high expectations and eventually contribute to your feeling burdened, overwhelmed, and perhaps hopeless. Vicarious trauma, like experiencing trauma directly, can deeply impact the way you see the world and your deepest sense of meaning and hope. Vicarious traumatisation is not the responsibility of clients. Organisations that provide trauma-related services bear a responsibility to create policies and work settings that facilitate staff (and therefore client) well-being. Each trauma worker is responsible for self-care, working reflectively and engaging in regular, frequent, trauma-informed supervision. There are many ways of addressing vicarious traumatisation. All involve awareness, balance, and connection.

Beyond vicarious traumatisation lies vicarious transformation. This is the process of transforming one’s vicarious trauma, leading to spiritual growth. Vicarious transformation is a process of active engagement with the negative changes that come about through trauma work. It can be recognized by a deepened sense of connection with all living beings, a broader sense of moral inclusion, a greater appreciation of the gifts in one’s life, and a greater sense of meaning and hope. Vicarious transformation is a process, not an endpoint or outcome. If we can embrace, rather than fending off, other people’s extraordinary pain, our humanity is expanded. In this receptive mode, our caring is deepened. People who have suffered trauma and abuse can feel that we are allowing them to affect us. This reciprocal process conveys respect. We learn from trauma survivors that people can endure horrible things and carry on. This knowledge is a gift we can pass along to others.

Due to popular demand we will be offering further courses this year on Abuse, Trauma and Dissociation in Nottingham, Cork and in London. See events section for further information.

Your Feedback

If you have heard me speak at a training event or conference, I’d love to get your feedback too. Just add your comments to the bottom of this post.

With thanks, Jacqui

A role model in the Hearing Voices Movement

For us Jacqui is unique and it is a great pleasure having known her for many reasons personally as well professionally. Jacqui survived terrible abuse and became strong by using her experience to learn from it. She is one of the few people who is able to really understand that the voices are related to her life history and even more important allow herself to feel it. This combination of understanding on a rational and emotional level became her power. This also enables her to be the caring mother of 2 teenage daughters.

As a professional from experience Jacqui is a role model in the Hearing Voices Movement. She has developed a qualitatively very good course in setting up and guiding Hearing Voices Groups. She has helped many individuals to better cope with their voices and their problems in their lives. She is a very good speaker and has a lot to tell about the voice hearing experience and their backgrounds. She has written many very good articles and book chapters. She especially clearly explains the interaction between different consequences of traumatic experiences like hearing voices, dissociation, self harm and eating disorders. She has a lot to give and a lot to teach professionals and also voice hearers. Besides all this she is Chairing the English Hearing Voices Movement and a member of the Board of Intervoice.

Marius Romme & Sandra Escher