Many mental health providers today are taught that it is not a good idea to let people who say they hear voices talk about their experiences- as this is thought to be colluding with the person’s delusions and is therefore not helpful in terms of treatment.
As such these providers tend to avoid the subject of hearing voices during conversations with people. They certainly are loath to acknowledge or affirm them in any way – which is part of the problem – because it can act as a barrier to effective treatment in many cases. Sometimes providers will actually try and argue with mental patients that their voices are “not real” but only delusions on their part. This is not a very good idea.
I see this a lot unfortunately when working with mental health system as a state certified peer support specialist.
In one case I remember the provider actually told the patient they were “lying” about hearing voices, particularly about whether or not someone was there or not there? Which is when I had to step in and talk with that provider privately out in the hallway. Which didn’t go over so well by the way because the provider felt I didn’t understand what I was talking about.
The point is, for these patients, they were not just “hearing voices” but were in fact actually carrying on conversations with them.
A much better approach is to allow that individual experiencing such challenges to openly talk about their voices in a non threatening way. Preferably in such a way that they are not further stigmatized in the process.
For me personally, if a patient says they are hearing voices – that is good enough for me to believe (that they believe) they hear voices. It does no good at that point to argue with them about whether or not they are actually hearing voices or not. Perception is reality in these types of situations.
There are also many different ways to hear or experience voices.
Voices can be experienced inside the head, from outside the head (or even in the body). Voices can also come through the radio, the television or from inanimate objects…
In addition voices may be one or many.
The voices may talk to you directly or about you in the 3rd person. It may refer to you by your name or another name…There are also different ways to hear or experience voices as well.
Some people experience non-verbal thoughts, images and visions, tastes, smells and touch – all with no physical cause and all sensations that they didn’t call or conjure into being themselves.
Voices can also be dream like.
We all dream and experience words, images and even sensations. When we are bored or tired we can drift off sometimes and have what is called a “day dream.” When we dream all sorts of strange things can happen to us… Especially in “pre-sleep” hypnagogic state. Hypnagogia is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep. When mental images first begin to appear within the minds eye. Mental phenomena that occur during this “threshold consciousness” phase include lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis .
In some case the person with mental illness actually believes that what they are experiencing in such dream like states – are really happening.
For some people, the voices might be present all day, every day and prevent them from doing normal tasks, things that we might take for granted or considered very ordinary.
Voices sometimes threaten to harm the person involved if they don’t do what the voice or voices wants them to do. That can be a huge problem if that person is not able to talk about it with someone who can relate to them. People who hear voices may not feel able to talk about them openly out of fear that others will not believe them.
Sadly today hearing voices are still considered by psychiatry as an “auditory hallucination” and as a symptom of conditions such as schizophrenic disorders, manic depression and psychosis. Which is only partly true in my opinion – often times there is much more going on here than what presents on the surface which is why self awareness, mindfulness of their condition are critically important.
The standard treatment today within clinical psychiatry is to treat that person with major tranquillizers and anti psychotic drugs. This however do not get rid of or eliminate the voices.
Sound research with people who hear voices has shown (both within and outside of mental health services industry), that “how” people cope with their voices (or don’t) depends not only on the content of the voice experience (which can be either abusive and devaluing or guiding and inspiring – or both) but on the “nature of the relationship with the voices.”
This is critically important.
If you believe the voices to be in control – you can’t cope; if you believe however you are stronger than the voices are, you can.
This means it is no longer a sustainable position to think of voices as part of a disease syndrome, such as schizophrenia. Instead hearing or experiencing voices can be regarded as a meaningful, real (although sometimes painful, fearful and overwhelming) experience that speak to the person in a metaphorical way about their life, emotions and environment.
Having discovered these kinds of relationship dynamics going on with people associated with hearing voices, psychiatrists and psychologists are developing new and novel techniques to help those individuals focus on their “experience” and get to know their voices better.
This is a radically different approach to the problem than the standard clinical model practiced today.
See video: Rufus May – Living Mindfully with Voices – Hearing Voices – November 8, 2012 – Copenhagen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNp-7DT2u8E
The new approach helps the people who hear voices to make space for the voices, to listen but not to necessarily “obey”, or “to engage”, but in their own time and space – on their own terms to learn how to control them within the context of their own explanatory framework and cultural belief.
This acceptance of the voices is crucial to growth and resolution. People who hear voices who have learnt these techniques can now say, “I hear voices, they are part of who I am but I control them they don’t control me”.
See video: My journey – Tony: Hearing voices http://www.youtube.com/watch…