Intervoice was founded by Professor Marius Romme, and Dr Sandra Escher. This page shares a message from these two founders.
Professor Marius Romme, MD, PhD
In 1987, I had no idea the impact that the discovery that accepting and making sense of voices was a helpful alternative was going to have. Yet, after twenty three years of work we have built a unique and formidable movement of voice hearers and allies that has brought about a big change in the way hearing voices are regarded and has found new ways of helping people overwhelmed by their voices.
There are many fears and misunderstandings in society and within psychiatry about hearing voices. They are generally regarded as a symptom of an illness, something that is negative, to be got rid of and consequently the content and meaning of the voice experience is rarely discussed.
The research of Dr. Sandra Escher and myself with over 300 voice hearers has shown that over 70% of people who hear voices can point to a traumatic life event that triggered their voices; that talking about voices and what they mean is a very effective way to reduce anxiety and isolation; and that even when the voices are overwhelming and seemingly destructive they often have an important message for the hearer.
Typically, in Western medical thinking hearing voices has always been associated with mental illness and frequently seen as a symptom of schizophrenia. Yet, we discovered many people who hear voices do not have a mental illness and never seek help. For this reason we are prepared to accept a range of explanations offered by people who hear voices, including spiritual ones, and believe it is essential to the process of recovery from overwhelming voices to understand the meaning of the voices to the voice hearer.
Whilst we are finding more holistic solutions to voices that cause mental distress then those offered by psychiatry. It is very important to stress that in our view voices are an aspect of human differentness, rather than a mental health problem. As with homosexuality, which was also regarded by psychiatry in recent times as an illness, the main issue we have to confront is the denial of the human rights to people who hear voices and our main task is to change the way society perceives the experience. Only if can we do this, do we believe psychiatry will change its mind about voices. That is why this website is so important.
With the support of the worldwide hearing voices network, voice hearers, some of whom have spent long periods of time in psychiatric care, have reclaimed their lives and are now able to say they hear voices and accept them as part of themselves. We believe this is a good time to make our work better known across the world.
Dr Sandra Escher
I am a co-founder from INTERVOICE. Actually Intervoice was given birth in Marius and mine living room. When over the next few years many voice-hearers and professionals reacted on our first talks promoting ‘Accepting voices’, we felt the need to structure this growing interest. In the first years around 80 people participated, now this number of people has grown to several hundreds. We felt the need to show the world that voice hearing was not a symptom of an illness but a human variation that needed more attention. So I organized national congresses, then international congresses and the first world congress in 2009 in Maastricht. It was always centered around voice hearers.
For me it is very important to give the voice hearers a voice of their own. I spend quite some time training voice hearers to become experts by experience. They needed to know as much as possible about their own experience also about the history and the diverse theoretical models as well. I participated in the Leonardo da Vinci training project in which I developed a voice hearing module in which voice-hearers were supported to write their own stories. Marius and I published several books with many of those stories. I saw that writing your own story is claiming ownership and a powerful tool in recovery. The Maastricht interview we developed together with Patsy and other voice-hearers is used in many countries. I think that together, voicehearers and professionals, we made a change in mental health care. It is up to the younger generation to continue this, and it has my passion to support those people.