Today I went to a workshop run by A Disorder 4 Everyone “Accepting Hearing Voices – A Non-Medicalised Perspective”. Many of the attendees were therapists and counsellors like myself who wanted to explore how best to support people who are voice hearers.
I thought how odd this is as it is one of the few subjects not covered in most training and we are made to feel inadequate when faced with someone who has these experiences yet over and over again, told that listening to someone is the crux of good help. This is a subject I am interested in having seen people in great distress, feeling they are at the mercy of voices that may have started out as a way of coping but somehow took over. Often the things the voices say are hard to listen to.
One of the statements that made an impression on me was when Jacqui Dillon said “Hearing Voices is not a problem, the problem is the problem in a society that refuses to allow people to hear voices”. It is recognised that there are many people who hear voices and have neither had a diagnosis, or been through the Mental Health system, “2 in 3 people who hear voices function well” (Romme & Esher 2001). People who hear voices and seek help, often find themselves caught up in a world where they lose control and are not herd, encouraged to try to repress the voices and whatever they are trying to communicate. Eleanor Longden relates her own experience of this in a Ted talk The Voices in my Head Eleanor Longden.
Many people, who have a problem with their voices or are diagnosed with psychosis, have unprocessed trauma, issues that have not been dealt with, an overwhelming life event. This can include a negative power imbalance like extreme poverty, racism, childhood abuse, loss of a parent… the usual suspects. This would suggest the issues are the same, so then can helping be the same?
It has often been said that the main benefit of counselling is being listened to, I would like to be of assistance to voice hearers and I know I can listen. As we say in counselling, the client is the expert, we are just the facilitator – holding the space. Listening with compassion and finding what works for each person. I can do that. I am not an expert but I also have some insight into how to move forward.
(I took some information from AD4E and some from the Working to Recovery Website)