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Since the post, “How to Respond to Hearing Voices,” has been widely read on this site, I’d like to follow up with more information, especially since medication does not help everyone. As discussed on previous posts (Eleanor Longden & Hearing Voices Network), many “voice hearers” have found ways to live with the condition.  In a recent article in The Atlantic, author Roc Morin discusses a form of drug- free therapy favored by Intervoice, the international Hearing Voices Network.

Talk Therapy

The Intervoice web site lists four ways people usually respond to the experience of hearing voices:
 ignoring the voices (distraction)
 listening to them selectively
 entering into willing dialogue with them
 making specific appointments with them
Intervoice founder, Marius Romme, believes the first method rarely helps.  He places an emphasis on talk therapy, as detailed in Morin’s article, “Learning to Live With the Voices in Your Head.”

Morin takes the reader through talk therapy sessions where voice hearers learn to make connections between the symptom of voices and what they represent in a person’s life.  Discovering the links between the two can provide management tools and relief. Dr. Dirk Corstens, whom Morin interviewed, encouraged patients to talk about the voices, something traditional psychiatrists avoid.

“We try to make sense of the voices,” he says.  He takes patients through a process of analyzing the traits of the voices because the traits “help us understand what problems these voices represent.”1  Often, voices represent people from past experiences.

One of the patients (name not given) explained that after two years of therapy he began to see what triggered the voices and the feelings accompanying them.  “Once you start to learn to express yourself and work out these problems on your own,” he said, “the voices don’t have to act out their part.

The British Psychological Society released a report last week (Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia)in which they discussed the need to address delusions, hallucinations, and voices as more than meaningless symptoms of a diseased brain. Authors Daniel and Jason Freeman, writing about the report in The Guardian, note that research shows life experiences strongly linked to the experience of psychosis.

“As such,” they wrote, “clinicians cannot simply dismiss psychotic experiences as the deranged ramblings (“empty speech acts”) of mentally ill people, but must instead sit down with the individual and try to work out what lies behind their problem.”2

The Freemans quote a patient who “finally started psychological therapy treatment” 10 years after a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  “The difference CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has made is amazing,” he said, “—it has really transformed my life.”

As stated before on this site, I am not a medical professional and I do not care to promote one method of treatment over another.  I do realize that no one treatment has yet proved successful for every person suffering from symptoms called schizophrenia or psychosis.  In my opinion, the fact that medication often does not help should compel us to consider psychological and emotional origins, unrelated to biological causes.

This puts the burden on the person suffering to search for various treatment options.  You don’t need another burden, I know, but as Dr. Corstens says, “You can become mad from voices but voices by themselves are not the madness.”  Finding relief in order to function can prevent needless suffering.

Part 2 of this post will look at the ways other voice hearers have faced the condition, symptom, or trait, — whichever label you choose.

1       “Learning to Live With the Voices in Your Head,” Roc Morin, The Atlantic, Nov. 5, 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/learning-to-live-with-the-voices-in-your-head/382096/
2      “Delusions and hallucinations may be the keys that unlock psychosis,” Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman, The Guardian, Nov. 27, 2014.  http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/nov/27/delusions-hallucinations-psychosis-schizophrenia