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A Hearing Voices Group

John Exell

I help run a hearing voices group which I will describe, but first a brief introduction.

I am a voice hearer, diagnosed with suffering from Schizophrenia. Several years ago, I realised that the voices came from my mind, that they were my creation, my projection, dreams I had whilst awake. Previous to this, I thought that they came from other people. This realisation gave me almost complete mastery over my voices, and they gradually faded away. I still hear them when I am stressed, but am able to simply ignore them. They do not have much to say to me. The odd occasion when I am "ill", I can get carried away by them again and start believing that they are real, but this does not last long. I try to take it very easy during these times.

Earlier this year, I contacted my local Mental Health Services to see if they had an "expert" on voices. I met a very able psychologist, who was just about to start a local hearing voices group, and she took me on as her co-facilitator in the group. We run it for about an hour and a half, once a fortnight, at the local Mind. Mind was chosen because it was not part of the NHS, less formal, less controlled. It is an open group. There is no commitment required on the part of the participants, apart from us two. It is not compulsory. It is only open to voice hearers or ex-voice hearers, apart from the psychologist, who as far as I know, does not hear voices. Apart from us two, there are about four other participants. We are open to more.

The openness and loose structure of the group seems to suit us all very well, it adds to the flow of the conversation. Participants say things about their voices etc. that they have never been able to say before to anyone, I think to me especially, being a service user and voice-hearer, they seem to trust me more. The psychologist, being also busy with other things, often cannot make the group, I often run it on my own, which I seem to do quite well. We also have a cigarette break half way through, we all smoke apart from one user and the psychologist, we have to go into another room to smoke, which the smokers all do together, and the group often continues there.

Apart from the psychologist, most of us know each other socially as well, and the group has deepened our relationships. It is a very friendly group. We usually start by asking everyone how they feel, how their fortnight has been, if anything is going on for them, etc. The psychologist and me, and sometimes others, add helpful comments etc. If I need to, I say how I am too. If some-one is a bit withdrawn, we make a point of getting them to talk somehow. If someone is going through a bad time, we spend a lot of time on that person, and let them talk a lot. Often this process takes up the whole group, with everyone talking, about voices and other problems. The psychologist and me know about techniques for dealing with voices, and these often come up in the conversation. Sometimes, the group has a more formal part to it, with the psychologist giving a sort of lecture, often using the "white board", on voices or other aspects of schizophrenia. One of the main topics of conversation, apart from voices, is medication.

This seems to be the structure of our hearing voices group. It doesn't sound much, but a lot is said, it is enjoyable and friendly, and I feel it is extremely helpful and sows many good seeds. The participants come back for more. Before my realisation about my voices that I mentioned at the beginning of this short piece, I attended a different hearing voices group as a participant, not a facilitator. This was extremely helpful, it got me to think in depth about my voices, and sowed the seeds which led to my realisation about my voices.

I must say that it was also largely due to my private Nutritional Treatment (taking large doses of selected vitamins and minerals) which led to my realisation about my voices. I am still on a low maintenance dose of anti-psychotics.

John Exell