Hearing Voices Network

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Hearing Voices Networks, closely related to the Hearing Voices Movement, are peer-focused national organisations for people who hear voices (commonly referred in western culture as auditory hallucinations) and supporting family members, activists and mental health practitioners. Members may or may not have a psychiatric diagnosis. Networks promote an alternative approach, where voices are not necessarily seen as signs of mental illness. Networks regard hearing voices as a meaningful and understandable, although unusual, human variation.[1] In themselves voices are not seen as the problem. Rather it is the relationship the person has with their voices that is regarded as the main issue.[2]


In the past twenty years twenty-nine national Hearing Voices Networks have been established in the world. There are also regional networks in Australia (Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and southwest Australia), Quebec, UK (Greater London, southwest England) and the United States. The National and Regional Networks are affiliated to the international umbrella organisation known as INTERVOICE (The International Network for Training Education and Research into Hearing Voices) and often referred to as the Hearing Voices Movement. Within these international networks, the combined experience of voice-hearers and professionals have overseen the development of ways of working with people who hear voices that draw on the value of peer support and which help people to live peacefully and positively with their experiences.


The principal roles of Hearing Voices Networks are as follows:

  1. To support and develop local Hearing Voices Support Groups
  2. Raise awareness of the hearing voices approach
  3. To campaign for human rights and social justice for people who hear voices
  4. To provide information, advice and support to people who hear voices, their family, friends
  5. To provide training and education for mental health services and practitioners

Description and philosophy[edit]

The first hearing voices network was founded in the Netherlands in 1987 by the Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme, the science journalist, Sandra Escher and voice hearer, Patsy Hage.[3] This was followed by the founding of the UK network in 1988 based in Manchester, England. Subsequently Networks have been established in 29 countries over the world, including Australia (2005), Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Canada, Denmark (2005), England (1988), Finland (1996), France (2011), Hungary (2013), Germany (1998), Greece, Ireland (2005), Italy, Japan, Kenya, Palestine, Malaysia, New Zealand (2007), Netherlands (1987), Norway, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, USA (2010) and Wales (2001).[4] The first 15 years of the development of the global networks is outlined by Adam James in his book "Raising Our Voices" (2001)[5]

These networks provide support to voice hearers specifically through the establishment of local hearing voices support groups, where people who hear voices are afforded the opportunity in a non-medical setting to share their experiences, coping mechanisms and explanatory frameworks. These groups are run in different ways and some are exclusive to individuals who hear voices, whilst others are supported by mental health workers.[6]

National networks have developed considerably over the years and host websites, publish newsletters, guides to the voice hearing experience and workbooks where individuals can record and explore their own experiences with voice hearing.[7]

Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme, the co-author of Accepting Voices,[8] has provided an intellectual basis for these group. He advocates a view that the hearing of voices is not necessarily an indication of mental illness, and that patients should be encouraged to explore their voices and negotiate with them.

Hearing Voices Groups[edit]

The development of peer support groups for voice-hearers, known as “hearing voices groups” (HVGs), are an essential part of the work of Hearing Voices Networks throughout the world. For instance there are over 180 groups in England, 60 in Australia and growing numbers of groups in the USA. World Map of Hearing Voices Groups The groups are based in a range of settings including community centres, libraries, pubs, churches, child and adolescent mental health services, prisons and inpatient units.

Hearing Voices Groups are based 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. Hearing Voices Groups are intended to help people to understand and come to terms with their voices and begin to recover their lives.[9]

Members are encouraged to talk about their experiences, to learn what the voices mean for them and how to gain control over their experiences. In voices groups, people are enabled to choose the way they want to manage their experiences. Voices groups assist people to access information and resources so they can make their own choices. Furthermore, voices groups allow people to explore the relationship between their life history and their experience of hearing voices, should they want to do so.[10]

Studies have found that after attending hearing voices groups, members’ hospital bed use decreased. There was also a trend for less formal admissions. People used far more coping strategies and were able to talk to far more people about their voices after attending groups. Learning coping strategies was something people valued about groups and one of the common topics was to explore and experiment with different coping strategies. After attending groups, self-esteem increased. User empowerment also increased. Feeling more empowered is one of the aims of groups particularly valued by voice hearers and may be associated, not only with the voices themselves, but also with other aspects of recovery and getting better. People’s relationships with the voices were mostly improved. They heard the voices less frequently. The voices were perceived as less powerful (omnipotent) relative to them. People felt much better able to cope with their voices, and there were trends towards people feeling less controlled by their voices and feeling less alone. Perhaps most importantly, evaluations show that people improved in relation to what they had identified as their own goals for the group. [11][12]

See also[edit]


  • Barker, Paul K. (2011) [1995]. The voice inside. Manchester, England: Hearing Voices Network. OCLC 181679777.
  • Blackman, Lisa (2001). Hearing voices, embodiment and experience. London New York: Free Association Books. ISBN 9781853435331.
  • Coleman, Ron; Smith, Mike (1997). Working with voices: victim to victor. Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside: Handsell. ISBN 9781903199015.
  • Dillon, Jacqui; Longden, Eleanor (2011), "Hearing voices groups: creating safe spaces to share taboo experiences", in Romme, Marius A.J.; Escher, Sandra D. (eds.), Psychosis as a personal crisis: an experience based approach, Hove, East Susex New York, New York: Routledge for The International Society for the Psychological Treatments of the Schizophrenias and other pychoses (ISPS), pp. 129–139, ISBN 9780415673303.
  • Downs, Julie, ed. (2001). Starting and supporting voices groups: a guide to setting up and running support groups for people who hear voices, see visions or experience tactile or other sensations. Manchester, England: Hearing Voices Network.
  • Downs, Julie, ed. (2001). Coping with voices and visions: a guide to helping people who experience hearing voices, seeing visions, tactile or other sensations. Manchester England: Hearing Voices Network.
  • James, Adam (2001). Raising our voices: an account of the hearing voices movement. Handsell Publishing. ISBN 9781903199138.
  • Jaynes, Julian (1976). The origin of consciousness and the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780395207291.
  • Leudar, Ivan; Thomas, Philip (2000). Voices of reason, voices of insanity: studies of verbal hallucinations. London New York: Psychology Press. ISBN 9780415147866.
  • Longden, Eleanor (2013). Learning from the voices in my head. Cambridge: TED Books.
  • McCarthy-Jones, Simon (2012). Hearing voices: the histories, causes, and meanings of auditory verbal hallucinations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139017534.
  • Romme, Marius A.J. (1996). Understanding voices: coping with auditory hallucinations and confusing realities. Runcorn, Cheshire: Handsell Publications. ISBN 9789072551092.
  • Romme, Marius A.J.; Escher, Sandra D. (1992). Accepting voices. London: Mind Publications. ISBN 9781874690139.
  • Romme, Marius A.J.; Escher, Sandra D. (2000). Making sense of voices: the mental health professional's guide to working with voice-hearers. London: Mind Publications. ISBN 9781874690863.
  • Romme, Marius A.J.; Escher, Sandra D.; Dillon, Jacqui; Corstens, Dirk; Morris, Mervyn (2009). Living with voices: 50 stories of recovery. Herefordshire: PCCS Books in association with Birmingham City University. ISBN 9781906254223.
  • Watkins, John (2008) [1998]. Hearing voices: a common human experience. Melbourne, Victoria: Michelle Anderson Publishing. ISBN 9780855723903.

Articles, Chapters and Pamphlets[edit]

Also Ensink, Bernardine J. (1992), "Trauma: a study of child abuse and hallucinations", in Romme, Marius A.J.; Escher, Sandra D. (eds.), Accepting voices, London: Mind Publications, ISBN 9781874690139.
  • Siegel, Ronald K. (1992). Fire in the brain: clinical tales of hallucination. New York, New York: Dutton Books. ISBN 9780525934080.
  • Slade, Peter D. (1994), "Models of hallucination: from theory to practice", in David, Anthony S.; Cutting, John C. (eds.), The neuropsychology of schizophrenia, Brain, Behaviour and Cognition Series, Hove, UK Hillsdale, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., pp. 245–254, ISBN 9780863773037.
  • Slade, Peter D.; Bentall, Richard P. (1988). Sensory deception: towards a scientific analysis of hallucinations. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801837609.
  • Stephens, G. Lynn; Graham, George (2000). When self-consciousness breaks: alien voices and inserted thoughts. Philosophical Pychopathology Series. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262194372.
  • Tarrier, Nicholas; Harwood, Susan; Yusupoff, Lawrence; Beckett, Richard; Baker, Amanda (October 1990). "Coping Strategy Enhancement (CSE): a method of treating residual schizophrenic symptoms". Behavioural Psychotherapy. 18 (4): 283–293. doi:10.1017/S0141347300010387.
  • Tien, Allen Y. (November 1991). "Distributions of hallucinations in the population". Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 26 (6): 287–292. doi:10.1007/BF00789221. PMID 1792560.
  • Tiihonen, Jari; Hari, Riitta; Naukkarinen, Hannu; Rimón, Ranan; Jousmäki, Veikko; Kajola, Matti (February 1992). "Modified activity of the human auditory cortex during auditory hallucinations". American Journal of Psychiatry. 149 (2): 255–257. doi:10.1176/ajp.149.2.255. PMID 1734750.
  • Yusopoff, Lawrence; Tarrier, Nicholas (1996), "Coping strategy enhancement for persistent hallucinations and delusions", in Haddock, Gillian; Slade, P.D. (eds.), Cognitive, behavioural interventions with psychotic disorders, London: Routledge, pp. 86–103, ISBN 9780415102902. Read online.


  1. ^ McCarthy-Jones S (2013) Hearing Voices - The Histories, Causes and Meanings of Auditory Verbal Hallucinations, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp.346-354
  2. ^ Romme M. Escher S. Dillon J. Corstens D. Morris M. (2009) Living with Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery, PCCS Books/Birmingham City University
  3. ^ Escher S. Romme M. The Hearing Voices Movement, Chapter 28 page 385 in “Hallucinations” by Jan Dirk Blom and Iris E.C. Sommer, Editors Springer, New York; Dordrecht; Heidelberg; London (2012).
  4. ^ INTERVOICE World Map https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=206854668906561198640.0004d62ee0abdfd28256e&dg=feature
  5. ^ Adam James, Raising Our Voices: An Account of the Hearing Voices Movement, Handsell Publishing (2001)
  6. ^ Bracken, Pat; Thomas, P (24 March 2001). "Postpsychiatry: a new direction for mental health". British Medical Journal. 322 (7288): 724–7. doi:10.1136/bmj.322.7288.724. PMC 1119907. PMID 11264215.
  7. ^ Martin, P.J. (2000). "Hearing voices and listening to those that hear them". Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 7 (2): 135–41. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2850.2000.00276.x. PMID 11146909.
  8. ^ Romme, M. A. J., Escher A. D. M. A. C. (Eds.). (1993). Accepting voices. London: Mind
  9. ^ Downs J. (Ed), (2001) Starting and Supporting Voices Groups: A Guide to setting up and running support groups for people who hear voices, see visions or experience tactile or other sensations. Hearing Voices Network, Manchester, England
  10. ^ Casstevens, Willa J.; Coker, Joy; Sanders, Tia D. (2012) Mentored Self-Help: A Promising Approach to Exploring Voices, Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 14, Number 2, pp. 110-124(15)
  11. ^ Meddings S, Walley L, Collins T, Tullett F, McEwan B. (2006) The voices don't like it. Mental Health Today. Sep:26-30.
  12. ^ A Ruddle, O Mason, T Wykes (2011) A review of Hearing voices groups: Evidence and mechanisms of change, Clinical psychology review

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