What is the Hearing Voices Movement?
The Hearing Voices Movement was begun by Dr. Marius Romme, a professor of social psychiatry, science journalist Dr. Sandra Escher and voice-hearer Patsy Hage in 1987 – after Hage challenged Romme about why he couldn’t accept the reality of her voice hearing experience. As voice hearer Ron Coleman has said, if someone is hearing voices, something real is happening. The movement challenges conventional wisdom in other ways also, challenging the notion that to hear voices or have other unusual sensory experiences necessarily needs to be understood as mental illness but may instead be seen as a normal part of the continuum of human experience, an experience that is sometimes even valued. Having said that, our groups sanction the right to interpret our experiences in any way, including illness.
The International Hearing voices Movement consists of the diverse conversations, initiatives, groups and individuals around the world that share some core values. As articulated on the U.K. hearing voices site, (https://www.hearing-voices.org/hearing-voices-groups/), these core values are:
Hearing Voices Groups are based firmly on an ethos of self help, mutual respect and empathy. They provide a safe space for people to share their experiences and support one another. They are peer support groups, involving social support and belonging, not therapy or treatment. However, groups do offer an opportunity for people to accept and live with their experiences in a way that helps them regain some power over their lives.
Hearing Voices Groups welcome the diversity of experiences and views of their members. Rather than seeing one belief system as more valid than another, all explanations for voice and visions are valued. There is no assumption of illness. Groups recognise that all members have expertise to contribute to the group, no one member is more important than another.
All Hearing Voices Groups are centered around the needs and aspirations of their members. Rather than being solely focused on voices and visions, group members are welcome to talk about any issue that is important to them.
Hearing Voices Groups recognize the importance of being user-centered and are working towards being truly user-led. Each member has an important part to play in determining the direction of the group, keeping it healthy and upholding its ethos.
All Hearing Voices Groups should be as confidential as possible, with members being fully aware of any limits to this. Wherever possible, what is discussed within the group should stay within the group.