New Virtual Support Group: 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the Month

VOICES & VISIONS VIRTUAL SATURDAY SUPPORT GROUP
2ND AND FOURTH SATURDAYS OF THE MONTH
STARTING MAY 23, 2020

Explores living well with voices, visions and other unusual sensory experiences.

You can participate via computer or telephone.

Questions? Email: renea.mohammed@vch.ca or call 604-708-5276

Virtual Support Group Saturdays rev2-page-001

Logon & dial-in information for the 4th Saturday of the month:
Join Zoom Meeting
https://vancouvercoastalhealth.zoom.us/j/96896031133?pwd=T3dwc2Q2M3YrU3RZSGJyVStmbElkUT09

Meeting ID: 968 9603 1133
Password: 119643

One tap mobile
8557038985,,96896031133# Canada Toll-free

Password: 119643

Dial by your location
855 703 8985 Canada Toll-free
Meeting ID: 968 9603 1133

Password: 119643

Logon & dial-in information for the 2nd Saturday of the month:
Join Zoom Meeting
https://vancouvercoastalhealth.zoom.us/j/96189949737?pwd=S2pqcnBmaEE5eFBOMDRrOVhHeFlQdz09

Meeting ID: 961 8994 9737
Password: 731767

One tap mobile
8557038985,,96189949737# Canada Toll-free

Password: 731767

Dial by your location
855 703 8985 Canada Toll-free
Meeting ID: 961 8994 9737

Password: 731767

HOPE YOU CAN MAKE IT!

Hello,

Due to the Corona Virus, all groups in Vancouver are currently on break except for our new online support group. Groups in other areas may also be cancelled. We recommend you look at the contact information on flyers and check to see if the group is running before planning to attend.

Stay safe!

Warm regards,

BC Hearing Voices Network

Hearing Voices: Art & Storytelling Workshop, in Vancouver

Rory's story telling workshop flyer

Individuals who identify as hearing voices, seeing visions, having other unusual perceptions or beliefs, and/or living with psychosis are invited to participate in a six week program where they will create and discuss stories told through art and writing. The program will explore how lived experience can inspire works of fiction, as well as how creative self-expression and the art of storytelling can help us to make sense of our experiences. Participants will have the opportunity to experiment with a variety of processes and mediums, as well as to discuss the creative process in a safe, supportive group of peers, and encouraged to build their own creative practice outside of sessions. 

The program will incorporate principles from the Hearing Voices movement, namely, that we are all experts on our own lives, and that our individual stories and interpretations of our experiences are valuable. The program takes the stance that everyone has something valuable to contribute to the world of the arts, and that this is rooted in our uniqueness as people – including experiences such as hearing voices or seeing visions. 

All art supplies will be provided, including a sketchbook, but participants are welcome to bring any additional materials they would like to use. You do not need to be a client of mental health services. 

For more information, email hearingvoicesworkshop@outlook.com or call Rory Higgs at 778-689-1626. To register online, visit: https://forms.gle/12z9FDHFHfB3Zh2H8

 

Wanted: Hearing Voices Support Group Facilitators

Wanted: Hearing Voices Network Support Group Peer Facilitator

Closing:  Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019

Contract with: The CI&I Peer Support Program (Voices and Visions), Vancouver Coastal Health

Location of work: Various sites in Vancouver, BC.

Duration of placement:  1 year with potential to renew

Rate of Pay: $15 per hour (you are paid $30 per session).

The Vancouver Visions and Voices Groups are a peer-led support groups based on the International Hearing Voices Network. Their aim is to be a place where people who hear voices or see visions can give and receive support, share techniques for living well with their experiences and/or explore the meaning those experiences have for them. The groups are facilitated by peers who support the smooth functioning of the group and make Hearing Voices Network resources available to participants.

Summary of Responsibilities

  • Set-up of room and facilitate support group meetings – ensuring meetings run smoothly
  • Be open to a range of ways of understanding experiences
  • Ensure everyone has a chance to speak
  • Draw on Hearing Voices Network resource materials in discussions and make these resources available to participants
  • Share personal experience for the benefit of the group or individuals

Skills and Abilities Required

  • Lived experience of hearing voices, visions or having other unusual sensory experiences
  • Willingness to take group facilitator training & also attend an orientation to the Hearing Voices Network
  • Excellent listening and communication skills
  • Ability to attend sessions consistently and be highly reliable for attending sessions you have signed up for
  • Successful completion of a criminal record check (organized by us)

Time Commitment

Community groups run twice a month during the day. Our hospital group runs weekly Tuesday evenings. You would be part of a rotating team of facilitators which means you would not be attending every session for each group and so have some flexibility with your schedule. You can also choose which groups you are available for. Our groups are facilitated by teams of two Peers.

Start Date: ASAP

To apply:

Please submit a resume and cover letter to:

Renea Mohammed, Peer Support Program, Consumer Initiative Fund, Vancouver Coastal Health, #200-520 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4H5 (Telephone 604-708-5276; Faxes accepted to: Attention: Renea Mohammed, 604-874-7661)

If you wish to email your application send to: renea.mohammed@vch.ca with the following subject line: “HVN Group Application 2019”

No later than : Nov. 26, 2019

VCH Logo    LOGO

 

Co-existing with Voices by Golya Mirderikvand

It was exactly four years ago when my voice hearing experience first started. Dazed, confused, and convinced that spiritual beings were communicating with me, I was taken to the psychiatric ward of our local hospital, where I was certified for about two weeks. If you were to tell me then that these voices would still be around a few years later, I probably would not have believed you. I always regarded this experience as temporary and something that will come to pass; a short-lived spiritual training as I thought of it then.

The magical reality and beliefs I had come to accept, came to an abrupt end when I was given a mental health diagnosis by the medical community. Trying hard to make sense of my new experiences solely based on the medical model was a harsh new reality. After several months of various pharmaceutical drug treatments, I became disillusioned that the medical model alone was going to “fix” me. The voices were always there, constantly, no matter what medication or dose I was on. Thankfully, I caught on with the Hearing Voices Movement at a fairly early stage on my journey of recovery. I reached out to my nurse and asked that she put me in touch with a support group where I would be able to connect with other voice hearers. I went to the Hearing Voices Study Club and felt extremely relieved to connect with other people who had similar lived experiences. This group is a safe and welcoming space for people to share their experiences and alternative strategies that work for them. It was learning about these alternative approaches that gave me new tools to work with and ultimately healed me.

 I came to realize that the content of my voices actually matter and that they cannot be just silenced with medication. It was extremely helpful to talk about the content of my voices with a therapist who helped me deconstruct them and get at the root of the underlying messages, which were often times linked to my insecurities and core beliefs. I learned to engage with my voices constructively and set clear boundaries. In short, I have learned to co-exist with my voices. I no longer reject the experience and by accepting it, I have managed to establish an amicable co-operative relationship where there’s mutual trust and respect. These days, rather than talking to me and distracting me all the time, my voices pick certain pre-established times of the day to chat with me. I welcome this and let them have their moment. I feel in complete control of the experience and can simply turn it off when I don’t want it around. Why might I still want this experience around, you might ask, if I can very well make it go away? Well, this brings me to another important point: this experience can be made into a positive one. There is a good percentage of people out there who hear voices and have come to see their experience as life enhancing and valuable.

 Thanks to these alternative approaches that I have learned from other experts by experience, I have been able to live a full, engaging, and meaningful life, which involves me working full time and being an active member of my community.

My Journey with the Hearing Voices Network by KC Pearcey

I first discovered The Hearing Voices Network after speaking with my sister about my voice hearing experiences in the autumn of 2012. She looked up resources and information for me as she wanted to help me.

Looking up the Intervoice website brought me to The Hearing Voices Network. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that I was not alone and many people have similar beliefs as I do regarding their voice hearing experiences. Every time I was told I have a mental illness I felt stigmatized and invalidated. The Hearing Voices Network website validated my beliefs and my right to have them.

Early in 2013, my mental health team pointed me to The Voices and Visions group at Grandview Woodlands Mental Health Team. I started attending that group and it was the first time I had met other voice hearers. The group is a Hearing Voices Network group and adheres to their guidelines and principles.

In 2016 I took Peer Group Facilitator training and in 2017 I took Peer Support Worker training. I had decided I would enquire about volunteering for The Voice and Visions group at Grandview Woodlands when my social worker sent me a job posting for a position being advertised for that group. I immediately applied and was called for an interview. My interview was successful and I was hired for the position of co-facilitator.

I have been co-facilitating for The Voices and Visions group at Grandview Woodlands for about a year and half. I also have and am co-facilitating other Voices and Visions groups. I find it tremendously rewarding to be of service to other folks with their voice hearing experiences. Providing a safe space to share their stories and beliefs is of the utmost importance to me. Highlighting the group guidelines during each session is so validating as we always remind people that their beliefs are right for them and that we make no assumption of illness. This may be the first time anyone has ever said that to them.

Often-times attendees express their gratitude about this. All in all my journey with The Hearing Voices Network has had an extremely positive impact on my life and a blessing that I wouldn’t change for anyone.

Psychosis and Personal Mythology by Rory Neirin Higgs

fashion woman notebook pen
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Following the rise of the biogenetic model of psychosis, psychiatric doctrine has held that the cluster of experiences so-encompassed – voices, visions, unusual beliefs, and other non-standard modes of perception – are little more than chemical noise, devoid of any real meaning or relationship to a person’s life. Many clinicians maintain that encouraging patients to talk or even think about the content of their psychosis feeds an illness that should be starved, constructing psychosis as a kind of malignancy that invades and cannibalizes the afflicted’s senses.1,2 But this explanation doesn’t always fit comfortably to the contours of lived experience. Since my own diagnosis, I have come to think of my psychosis (or, as I have sometimes preferred, “personal mythology”) not as a disease that hollowed out my capacity for self-knowledge, but as a strange and lovely cipher.

For me, the grain from which voices, visions, and unusual beliefs take root is typically an inner impulse that I am not yet able to address directly. I am confronted with a reality that is too threatening or confusing to assimilate into my conventional belief system, and the thematic kernel of it finds other ways to communicate itself. For instance, while reflecting on an instance of childhood abuse, I recently found myself wondering whether there was something inherently wrong with me that could have provoked it. Unable to sit still with the possibility that others chose to harm me of their own volition, my thoughts paced towards alternative explanations: perhaps, as a child, some kind of mind control beacon was implanted in my brain that caused people to mistreat me despite their best efforts? On its face, this is an impossible contortion of logic. But in that moment, it was the only way I could translate my feelings of self-blame and denial about the cruelty of other people into a tolerable narrative about my life. Once I calmed down, I was able to reassess this belief – but made note of the autobiographical information woven into it, in the threads of insecurity, shame, and betrayal.

Traumatologists maintain that a central characteristic of traumatic memory is that it is incompletely processed and integrated – more of a gallery of disjointed images than a coherent narrative.3 Accordingly, research suggests that traumatized people are less able to articulate our experiences verbally.4 If ordinary life events are remembered, it may be more appropriate to say that traumatic ones are dismembered. To draw again from personal experience: some months ago, I decided to start talking to others about an abusive relationship I had been in, spanning several years. I was stymied by the realization that I didn’t know where to start. There was no beginning or end to what I could remember, no backbone of “and this is why it all happened” to bind the story together. I found myself with only scattered vignettes that I struggled to gather into a legible shape, like crushed glass rendered from what must have once been an ornate cathedral window.

It wasn’t long before peculiar beliefs began their restless turning over in my skull. In the past, these beliefs – or delusions – had grown rampantly where they sprouted, elaborating into something vast and sprawling faster than I could prune them. This time, they merely flashed through me, like the spark of some secret metabolism. I’ve learned that this reflex to mythologize is how I come to tell my formless stories. Literary trauma theory has investigated the idea that both autobiographical and fictionalized life-writing are a way of synthesizing meaning from traumatic debris,5,6 and psychiatry itself has employed related clinical practices, particularly during its psychoanalytic heyday.7 Delusion, I would argue, behaves similarly. It pulls symbolic and exaggerated elements into the orbit of an essential truth in order to describe its gravity. In storytelling about my life – even or perhaps especially in this abstract, subconscious form – I am drawing maps between memories, across the black and foaming gulf that would strand them.

The emerging field of narrative therapy has similarly embraced the power of storytelling. Narrative therapy holds that the stories we internalize about ourselves inform how we interact with the world, and that exploring the origin and significance of these stories can guide us in establishing new ways of thinking.8 Likewise, cognitive psychology has suggested that memory is not a photographic but a constructive process, involving the incorporation of our preexisting ideas – or narratives – about the world, and that recounting events to others helps us to recall information about them later on.9 To me, this again demonstrates the importance of storytelling in organizing memory. Perhaps, for those of us who have never had the opportunity to tell our stories in our own words, who have become accustomed to the grisly work of dis-membering, the personal mythology of delusion offers a sanctuary: a domain in which we are free to speak about our injuries without the intrusion of outside perspectives. Society cannot or will not follow us into this magical-metaphoric thicket. Here, we are free to imagine and reimagine our experiences in ways that would otherwise be forbidden to us.

I think of the stories I told, glossolalic, through my psychosis. I think of how documenting this mythopoetic otherworld was, for me, a kind of testimony, laying claim to my role as author and narrator of my past. And I think of how psychiatry’s response of enforced silence and forgetting only intensified my need for meaning-making – how urgent it became to excavate the things I had interred. Psychologists have observed that the content of an individual’s psychosis is often related to past experiences,10 but I would take this conclusion a step further. My voices, visions and beliefs have been not only a distorted reflection of life, but their own vital truth, running parallel and symbiotic to my “sane” understanding of the world. I am re-membering the past, now, returning the red and beating soul to the sterile, lifeless history I had cleaved from it. I no longer hold the beliefs that characterized my psychosis as literal truth. But I have great respect for the stories I have told, and will continue to tell.

References

  1. McCabe, R., Heath, C., Burns, T., & Priebe, S. (2002). Engagement of patients with psychosis in the consultation: conversation analytic study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)325(7373), 1148–1151. doi:10.1136/bmj.325.7373.1148
  2. Wang, E. W. (2015, October 1). Toward a Pathology of the Possessed. Retrieved from https://believermag.com/toward-a-pathology-of-the-possessed/
  3. Bessel A. van der Kolk, James W. Hopper & Janet E. Osterman (2001) Exploring the nature of traumatic memory. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 4:2, 9-31. doi: 10.1300/J146v04n02_02
  4. Miragoli, S., Camisasca, E., & Di Blasio, P. (2017). Narrative fragmentation in child sexual abuse: The role of age and post-traumatic stress disorder. Child Abuse & Neglect,73, 106-114. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.09.028
  5. Caruth, C. (1996). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  6. Henke, S. A. (2008). Shattered Subjects: Trauma and Testimony in Women’s Life-Writing. New York, NY: St. Martins Press.
  7. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). SUNY series in philosophy of the social sciences. Narrative knowing and the human sciences.Albany, NY, US: State University of New York Press.
  8. Morgan, A. (2002). What Is Narrative Therapy?: An Easy-to-Read Introduction. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
  9. Pezdek, K. (2003). Event memory and autobiographical memory for the events of September 11, 2001. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17(9), 1033–1045.doi:10.1002/acp.984
  10. McCarthy-Jones, S., & Longden, E. (2015). Auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder: common phenomenology, common cause, common interventions?. Frontiers in psychology6, 1071. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01071

A Luxury of Difference by Bradley Aldridge

 

You wake up one day, the world is different. That’s a lie, the world has always been different. Something is wrong, something is always wrong, and you don’t know what. You are eager to find out, ready to leap off the cliff that stands before you if only you could find its edges. You can’t find its edges. Maybe this cliff doesn’t have edges. Maybe you are wandering a desert in a planet with no oceans and no forests. Maybe you are lost for good.

The world moves slowly and you move fast, jumping through traffic with no intention of dying and this time the world respects your intentions. This time you get away with it. No scars or broken bones to show for it, only horns honked and insults hurled and shouted by the people in the cars who just don’t understand, do they? They don’t understand that you’re special, you have powers of which no one can dare to speak. You are special, you feel it in the music in your ears even when your iPod breaks.

You try to tell a teacher at school about the coffee machine plotting with the stapler to kill you, you laugh it off. Everything, once laughed off, becomes sane and normal and no one has to know just yet. They will all know soon enough, and so why does it matter if you’re still pretending to be sane? Maybe you are sane, really sane, the last sane person alive.

You dreamt of earthquakes as a child, disasters to kill your enemies and bring you new life. You always were a prophet of Biblical proportions, you could always hear God, you just forgot how briefly. And when you remembered, well, that’s when the world really fell apart.

Go to school in Ontario. Go to school on an airplane. Bring your voices with you free of charge, and feel them buzzing in the air as no stranger tries to talk to you. You don’t need people, you will realize, as you lie in the Ontario snow until your fingers turn purple and stare at the shapes forming in the sky. The psychiatrist you see through the school tells you this is mania. You decide you like being manic.

There is depression, outlined and mapped by your classmates and awareness campaigns and the antidepressants that everyone seems to be taking but you. You take antipsychotics, a luxury of difference. You go off your antipsychotics, because you are unhappy. Unhappy isn’t quite right. You are empty, numb, devoid of all human emotion and feeling. Being human is only one pill left not-swallowed away.

You receive clonazepam, you are told to bring ID to the pharmacy because some people abuse this drug. You decide you will be one of the people who abuses this drug. You google how to get high off it and you take a few extra pills on top just to be safe. You draw pictures, because isn’t that what people do when they’re high? And then you fall asleep, closing your eyes for just one second to awaken the next day in the afternoon.

The voices would like it if you burned your rather long fingernails. You get out your lighter and hold the flame to a single fingernail, which burns in such a painful way, but you do not mind. You do not mind when Satan tells you to cut the words, I AM FREE into your arm, and you do not mind wrapping a towel around your bleeding arm so you can go into the snow and the trees and light your meds on fire, a symbol of your new freedom. You bring your can of spray paint, and your lighter, and of course, the burnt offering: your medication. But this time the world does not allow it; the wind curls and hisses and kills the flame, all you end up with are flecks of red paint on the altar you constructed out of twigs lining the trails.

You tell your psychiatrist. This too is mania, this too is forbidden. This too is illness, and illnesses are to be cured. You don’t believe you have bipolar disorder. You go back to your dorm room and sob incessantly. It is true, then, you decide. You are sad and you are happy and both reach to unfathomable depths, both must be made smaller and safer and easier for others to digest.

You write a song about concrete and coloured glass in your first stay in a psych ward. Concrete is what you are to be, strong, sturdy, boring, bland. Coloured glass is how you imagine yourself at the height of your powers, fragile and dangerous if broken, but beautiful, spiritual even.

You tell everyone in group therapy about your disease, your mania. The leader of the group asks why you want to be manic so badly, when you are not, have not been, and will not be. You are confused as to why stating the diagnosis your psychiatrist gave you counts as pretending to be something you are not for some unstated nefarious purpose, but don’t worry, you are about to get a lot more confused.

You stop reading. The words do not dance, but lie dead on the page. You cannot discern their meaning. They are not meant for you anymore. You learn how to speak the language of angels, to see numbers on a hunk of metal and transform them into prophecy. You are good at picking dates. You are exceptional at deciding what will happen on these dates. The only small glitch in your self-made matrix is that nothing ever goes as you predict it, but small matter. Nothing ever goes how the doctors predict, either.

You return to Vancouver. You leave for Toronto. This time the voices include a newer, far more prominent member: God. You have remembered how to hear God, and the voice sounds like rainbows and raindrops and metal and mental symphonies, and you try to put the sacred words into the mere ordinary words of your tongue and you fail, because the language of humans cannot contain the language of God.

At the new university in Toronto, things are different from the last time you were in Ontario. Things are brighter, like you’re living in heaven already. Your fourth and fifth hospitalizations happen over the course of one month in Toronto, and when you’re not busy attempting suicide by overdosing on loxapine, you are talking to God on park benches and composing songs to express your devotion. You are not supposed to eat pork, God himself tells you. You tell the hospital. They tell the cafeteria and you wind up with a piece of paper that in large bolded letters says NO PORK next to a rather bland slice of pork on your plastic tray.

You ask to speak to a chaplain. You are told it would make your illness worse. You write down the words of God. A nurse asks to photocopy them, and you comply. You fly back to Vancouver, and you feel boxed in by this city. You felt boxed in by Toronto, no ocean to run to in times of trouble. But there is something more sinister about being boxed in by your home, about rather than being unable to run instead realizing the futility of running. But there is consolation still in the way the trees meet the sky where God must live.

Things could’ve continued like this forever if it weren’t for entropy. There was a time when you went to the forest to talk to God, there was a time when you jotted down prophetic wisdom on your cellphone. There was a time when you were a prophet and the world did not say you could not be, a time when you had hope for the future.

There was a time when you walked in Eden and spoke directly to God. The time passes, as all times do, but it feels more bitter and harsh than the passing of anything else.

You refuse to take your medication, you feel suicidal. The police come, the security guards come, the nurses come, the doctors come, the hospital comes directly to you, to the chair in which you are sobbing, and strips you naked, locks you in a concrete windowless room with no sky and no God.

There are no poetic words for trying to kill yourself, you are surprised to find. You go to kill yourself, and your iPod dies, the earbuds won’t work just right, and you are left alone. You always seem to be alone. You thought there would be music when you killed yourself, but there is none.

After gulping down the pills you gulp down charcoal, feeling a disgust that sticks to your bones. You wish to be dead. Someone asks how you are feeling. You say, Disappointed I’m not dead. You mean it.

That makes for your sixth and seventh hospitalizations. There are more to come. There is always more pain on the horizon. You are a wounded animal that knows when it is about to die. You have your intuition. You have your magic. You have your voices. You cannot scream without risking a seclusion room, and so the voices scream for you.

God comes back wrong, behind a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant standing next to a truck unloading boxes of locally made tofu. You have a vision, your feet leave the Earth and you travel to another planet where God fronts a band of Mormon missionaries singing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It is the least incomprehensible thing that happens to you while you are up in the sky.

The new God tells you every single person on Earth will die horrific, violent deaths unless you obey him. You make a blood pact with God to kill.

You are not a violent person, you think. You insist on keeping around containers to carry spiders away unharmed. You were nearly brought to tears by a high school debate over whether or not dropping a nuclear bomb could be justified.

You couldn’t stop thinking about all those bodies, all those lives, all those people on fire, burning and shrieking in pain as someone else’s cruelty kills them.

You can’t stop thinking about it now, for it is, after all, what you see in your continued visions. Piles of bodies. Piles of suffering impossible for any one human to ever fully comprehend.

And only you can stop it. With violence, with blood, with the perpetuation of the very same atrocity you strive to stop.

You never actually kill someone. You tell yourself you will do what God commands. But no matter the threat, no matter the cost, no matter how high the stakes of your disobedience, you cannot bring yourself to carry out an act of violence.

In compensatory obedience, you go for walks clutching sticks. Sometimes you swing the stick around, feel your power. You do not know who you are. The voices do.

You go for walks in the middle of the night in your pajamas and slippers, winding up in New Westminster. You shatter a glass on the floor to cut out the eyes infesting your muscles. You do crazy things. You are a crazy person.

Healing isn’t found anywhere you might expect it, you begin to suspect you won’t find healing at all. You confess the secrets of your traumas at the prompting of kind and gentle voices, you sob in Mental Health Team bathrooms.

You go back and forth. You are a prophet. You hear the voice of God. It is the highest blessing. You are a visionary. You have seen God. It is the deepest curse. You are traumatized. You have cut off parts of yourself that manifest themselves as voices. It is a way of surviving. You are ill. You hallucinate. You need medication.

With every new theory it always seems clearer and clearer. It is biological, it is psychological, it is spiritual. You are always right, to the exclusion of every previous version of yourself, until you are wrong, and then you are perfectly right to the exclusion of that previous version, and on and on spins your mind and its theories.

You keep searching for answers, there are none. You identify strongly with the Book of Job. You live, you suffer tremendously, your friends tell you that you deserve it, you cry out to God, God shows up in a whirlwind only to say, I Am All Powerful And Cannot Be Questioned, you are granted relief. You miss the whirlwind, and so you start scratching your skin again in the hopes the sores will regrow so that you can summon God back to Earth. But God is not summoned, and there are no more visions and you walk the sidewalks at night with only the neon light of gas stations against sunsets and storm clouds to guide you home, and you are hardly a prophet these days, and something inside you is starting to heal.

You awaken one day, not from a nightmare but from a dream, a true rarity of experience. The voices are a still calm as the day begins, and you are grateful, you are bitter, you are whole.

Six Open Access Articles on Voice-Hearing Published in 2019

by Bradley Aldridge

adult blur books close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

With many, if not most, academic articles finding themselves behind a paywall prohibitive to the average person interested in learning more about hearing voices from an academic perspective, and with many new articles being published constantly in a wide variety of journals providing a wide variety of opinions, it can be hard for the average voice-hearer to access the continually increasing pool of literature on the phenomenon which they themselves experience. With this in mind, I have selected six open access academic articles published within the past few months of 2019 that deal with the subject matter of voice hearing that anyone can read for free at any time.

AVATAR therapy: a promising new approach for persistent distressing voices

Tom K.J. Craig

Link to read the full article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313224/

The first article deals with AVATAR therapy, a type of therapy for voice-hearing that operates under the premise that “voices are best understood not simply as misattributions of internal thoughts, but represent hallucinated social entities that have personal relevance, meaning and purpose[.]” This understanding of voices leads AVATAR therapy to encourage voice-hearers to engage with their voices through the means of a computer generated avatar that is meant to be as close a replica as possible to a single one of the voices that the voice-hearer already hears, and in the process of engaging, to confront the avatar about derogatory patterns of relating between the voice (represented by the avatar) and the voice-hearer, and then change the relationship. The author concludes that while further study is needed to clarify the exact specifics of when AVATAR therapy is most helpful, “there is every reason to be optimistic” that AVATAR therapy will be able to be more widely implemented in the near future.

Compassion Focused Approaches to Working With Distressing Voices

Charles Heriot-Maitland, Simon McCarthy-Jones, Eleanor Longden, and Paul Gilbert

Link to read the full article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6367219/

This article deals with another type of therapy and its application for voice-hearing: compassion focused therapy. As the name implies, compassion focused therapy aims to use a compassionate approach towards helping people with a variety of life experiences, one of which can potentially be voice-hearing. The authors take the approach that “[t]here is a strong association between voice-hearing and childhood traumas […] meaning that many voice-hearers have, as children, experienced subordination to a dominant other […]. This is likely to have led to the development of highly sensitized threat-monitoring systems, especially for threats from dominant powerful others who may have malevolent intent.” The authors connect this to the dynamic between the voice-hearer and their voices, noting that “a common form of relating to voices, which involves feelings of being in relation to a more powerful figure […], as subordination to one’s voices is closely linked to experiences of subordination and marginalization in other social relationships […].” The proposed solution to this understanding of the origin of hearing voices is to replace the “hierarchical social organization” which may have played a role in creating and shaping the voice-hearing experience with “supportive and caring behaviour.” The article goes on to detail different aspects of how to foster this supportive, caring and compassionate environment, and some proposed strategies for dealing with voices themselves, concluding by contemplating whether the questions posed by this theoretical framework for understanding voices “can also provoke new questions to help us reconsider the nature of voice-hearing itself.”

Beyond Trauma: A Multiple Pathways Approach to Auditory Hallucinations in Clinical and Nonclinical Populations

Tanya Marie Luhrmann  Ben Alderson-Day  Vaughan Bell  Josef J Bless Philip Corlett  Kenneth Hugdahl  Nev Jones  Frank Larøi  Peter Moseley Ramachandran Padmavati  Emmanuelle Peters  Albert R Powers  Flavie Waters

Link to read the full article: https://academic.oup.com/schizophreniabulletin/article/45/Supplement_1/S24/5305662

This article is an article that most definitely picks up the challenge left behind in the conclusion of the above article, attempting to forge new pathways for how we understand voice-hearing and how we ought to understand it. Opening by acknowledging that “[t]he observation that trauma can play a significant role in the onset and maintenance of voice-hearing is one of the most striking and important developments in the recent study of psychosis[,]” the authors then go on to argue that “the finding that trauma increases the risk for hallucination and for psychosis is quite different from the claim that trauma is necessary for either to occur.” This theoretical framework leads the authors to seek out new ways of understanding voices, beyond either a purely biomedical model or a purely traumagenic one. What they identify are four patterns of voice-hearing experience: pattern I: “psychosis-like” presentation, pattern II: “trauma-related dissociation” presentation, pattern III: “simple trance” presentation, and pattern IV: “incidental” hallucinations. They come to the conclusion that while trauma can be one pathway to voice-hearing, this does not mean there are not other pathways as well.

Psychosocial characteristics differentiate non-distressing and distressing voices in 10,346 adolescents

Else-Marie Løberg, Rolf Gjestad, Maj-Britt Posserud, Kristiina Kompus, Astri J. Lundervold

Link to read the full article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00787-019-01292-x

This study compares psychosocial factors in the voice-hearing experience of over ten thousand adolescents, coming to the conclusion that there are two distinct groups of voice-hearing adolescents, which they categorize as those who are distressed by the experience of voice-hearing and those who are not distressed. They identify that “[n]ot being disturbed by the voices was primarily related to social dysfunction, in addition to the experience of trauma, distractibility, affective symptoms, higher school grades, male gender and older age[,]” which is contrasted with the findings that “[p]erceiving the voices as disturbing was related to the experience of bullying and trauma, negative self-worth, and self-efficacy, less family support, dysregulation of activation, distractibility, self-harm, anxiety and younger age.” The authors additionally note that for the distressed group, “[n]egative self-worth was the strongest predictor.” The article ends with a hope that differentiating between those who are distressed and those who are not distressed by their voice hearing experience “may aid referral practices and treatment decisions in services for psychosis or high risk for psychosis.”

Metaphor framing and distress in lived-experience accounts of voice-hearing

Zsófia Demjén, Agnes Marszaleka, Elena Seminoc and Filippo Varese

Link to read the full article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17522439.2018.1563626?needAccess=true

This study employs linguistic analysis of metaphors as a methodology for understanding the voice-hearing experience. The authors begin by noting the diversity of voice-hearing experiences and suggest that “[d]istress is generally not caused by the mere presence of voices, but depends on: what the voices say, and how; the relationship that voice-hearers establish with their voices; how voice-hearers make sense of their voices and their perception of the “power” of the voices; voice-hearers’ perceived control over the voices and their ability to control important aspects of their lives[.]” The authors opt for the relatively unusual route of analyzing the metaphors voice-hearers use to describe their own voice-hearing experience to help determine what factors might play a role in the presence or absence of distress. The conclusion they come to is this: “different metaphors, even conventional and semitechnical ones, frame the experience of voice-hearing in particular ways in terms of agency and (dis)empowerment, and how this correlates with varying degrees of distress in our sample. We reported that, in our data, people who constructed themselves as disempowered and the voice as empowered – through, particularly creative, Violence, Movement, or Full Container metaphors, for example – were more likely to be distressed by their voices. This was linked to the broader notion of control, specifically the absence thereof. Of course, numerous contextual and social factors influence individuals’ specific choice of metaphor in a given situation. However, the framing effects produced by different metaphors are less variable in this sense, given that the same framing effect (e.g. in terms of (dis)empowerment) can be suggested by many different metaphors[.]”

Personal growth in psychosis

Mike Slade, Laura Blackie, and Eleanor Longden

Link to read the full article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313249/

The final article I have chosen to highlight is a brief, and perhaps even generic article to those familiar with the Hearing Voices Movement and associated theoretical frameworks, but nonetheless contains a message that is still held to be important by many. This message would be that: “even the most devastating periods of mental ill‐health can ultimately be a source of personal development.” Voice-hearing, it is suggested, can lead to, “a greater capacity for political activism, emotional insight, creativity, courage, and compassion for self and others.” The article discusses posttraumatic growth, noting that trauma is “both a cause […] and effect of psychosis,” and detailing some of the ways in which voice-hearers can grow both from the traumatic experiences which may or may not have prompted their voice-hearing in the first place, and from what can be the trauma of voice-hearing itself. The article concludes that “[t]he expertise of organizations such as the HVM may be needed in the mental health system[,]” a bold statement, yet an encouraging one, for as much as it is beneficial for researchers to seek to untangle the mechanisms behind the diverse and complex experience of voice-hearing, it is equally beneficial for voice-hearers to seek to share their expertise of lived experience of those who would seek to understand this deeply complicated and deeply human experience.

Hearing Voices Network Study Club Re-starting

Hi all,

Just a reminder that our next Hearing Voices Network Study Club Meeting is coming up on March 22 from 6:30-8:00 pm.

These meeting are open to everyone. People who have unusual sensory experiences, family members, friends, mental health service providers and people in the community who are just interested.

On March 22, will be watching a 15 minute presentation on “psychosis and normality” by Will Hall and then discussing.

Location is Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver in Multipurpose Room 2.

More details are on the attached flyer below.

Hope you can make it!

HVN Study Club Flyer 12-page-001

Hearing Voices Network Study Club Meeting: Feb. 22, 2019

Hi all,

The Hearing Voices Network Study Club will have its next meeting tomorrow, on Friday, Feb 22, 2019.

This group meets to discuss podcasts, videos and articles related to the International Hearing Voice Network.

The group is open to everyone: people who hear voices or have other unusual sensory experiences, family members, service providers and people in the community who are just interested.

Please see flyer below for more information.

We meet at Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver, in a NEW ROOM: MULTIPURPOSE ROOM 2 from 6:30-8:00 pm.

At our meeting this Friday, we will be watching a video presentation from the 6th World Hearing Voices Congress titled: “Odysseying with the sirens: Struggling towards recovery in times of crisis”. Robin Timmers talks about hearing voices, recovery & emancipation: Lessons learned and future challenges.

You can see the talk at the following link or wait to watch it with us:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0XpkWcAiso
 
Hope you can make it 🙂

Wanted: Hearing Voices Network Peer Facilitator for Vancouver Groups

Wanted: Hearing Voices Network Support Group Peer Facilitator
Closing:  Thursday, February 28, 2019, 4:00 pm

ONE contract with The CI&I Peer Support Program (Voices and Visions)
Location of work: Vancouver
Duration of placement:  1 year with potential to renew
Rate of Pay: $15 per hour

The Vancouver Voices and Visions Group is a peer-led support group based on the International Hearing Voices Network. Its aim is to be a place where people who hear voices, see visions or have other unusual sensory experiences can give and receive support, share techniques for living well with their experiences and/or explore the meaning those experiences have for them. This group is facilitated by peers who support the smooth functioning of the group and make Hearing Voices Network resources available to participants.

Summary of Responsibilities

  • Set-up of room
  • Facilitate support group meetings – ensuring meetings run smoothly
  • Be open to a range of ways of understanding experiences
  • Ensure everyone has a chance to speak
  • Draw on Hearing Voices Network resource materials in discussions and make these resources available to participants
  • Share personal experience for the benefit of the group or individuals
  • Attend facilitator team meetings as required

Skills and Abilities Required

  • Lived experience of hearing voices, visions or having other unusual sensory experiences
  • Prior experience with group facilitator training and facilitation of a group is an asset, but not required
  • If you don’t have prior group facilitation training, you must be willing to attend a training
  • All applicants must be willing to attend an orientation to the International Hearing Voices Network.
  • Excellent listening and communication skills
  • Ability to attend sessions consistently and reliably
  • Successful completion of a criminal record check (organized by us)

Time Commitment

We have a number of groups running at different sites in Vancouver on different days and some evenings. You could choose which sites you wish to help with depending on your needs and ours. You would be part of a rotating team of facilitators. Facilitation is done in pairs.  Each session you facilitate requires a two hour time commitment.
Start Date: ASAP

To apply:
Please submit a resume and cover letter to:
Renea Mohammed, Peer Support Program,
Consumer Involvement & Initiatives
Vancouver Coastal Health
#200-520 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4H5
(Telephone 604-708-5276; Faxes accepted to 604-874-7661)
Please do not email your application.

No later than : Thursday, February 28, 2019, 4 pm

Hearing Voices Network Study Club: Jan 25, 2019

Hi all,

The Hearing Voices Network Study Club will have its next meeting on January 25, 2019.

This group meets to discuss podcasts, videos and articles related to the International Hearing Voice Network.

The group is open to everyone: people who hear voices or have other unusual sensory experiences, family members, service providers and people in the community who are just interested.

Please see flyer below for all our booked dates.

We meet at Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver, in a NEW ROOM: MULTIPURPOSE ROOM 2 from 6:30-8:00 pm.

At our meeting this Friday, we will be listening to a podcast about voice hearing available at the following site:

https://mosaicscience.com/story/hearing-voices/

Hope you can make it 🙂

Renea

___________________________________________________
Renea Mohammed, BA, MLIS, Coordinator
Peer Support Program, Consumer Involvement & Initiatives
Vancouver Mental Health & Substance Use Services

Tel: 604-708-5276

Please Note: I work 3 days/week (usually Wed, Thurs, and Fri).

HVN Study Club Flyer 11