Intervoice (International Hearing Voices Projects) is a charity, registered in the UK, that aims to support the International Hearing Voices Movement by connecting people, sharing ideas, distributing information, highlighting innovative initiatives, encouraging high quality respectful research and promoting its values across the world.
We are currently funded solely by membership fees and donations. Our trustees (‘The Board’) are elected at our AGM by members of the charity, and come from around the world. They include people with expertise gained through experience, training and/or profession, all of whom are passionate about the Hearing Voices Movement.
INTERVOICE is a close and respectful partnership between voice hearers – who are experts by experience, their carers and mental health workers, academics and activists – who are experts by profession.
It is most important to us that the network embodies these guiding principles and is structured in such a way that it safeguards and develops them amongst founding and future members.
The basic assumptions of INTERVOICE are:
- Hearing voices is a normal though unusual and personal variation of human experience.
- Hearing voices makes sense in relation to personal life experiences.
- The problem is not hearing voices but the difficulty to cope with the experience.
- People who hear voices can cope with these experiences by accepting and owning their voices.
- A positive attitude by society and its members towards people hearing voices increases acceptance of voices and people who hear voices. Discrimination and excluding of people hearing voices must stop.
INTERVOICE seeks to:
- Improve awareness of the civil rights of people who hear voices.
- Emancipate voice hearers and people who support them.
- Educate society about the meaning of voices so as to reduce ignorance & anxiety and to ensure the innovatory approach on voice hearing is better known by voice hearers, their carers, professionals and the general public.
- Demonstrate the wide variety of voice hearing experiences and their origins, and peoples’ approaches to coping and recovering from overwhelming voices.
- Increase the quality and quantity of mutual support available to all people and organisations involved in hearing voices work across the world.
- Develop effective and respectful ways of helping voice hearers to cope with and recover from difficult voice experiences.
- Have a strong impact on mental health practice towards positively supporting people hearing voices.
- Train voice hearers and professionals in alternative methods that serve recovery.
Within the network there are new interventions for voice hearers that have been developed in a collaborative way that can be described as groundbreaking work. This can be seen in areas such as how to relate respectfully towards people who hear voices, retrieve information about the relation between voices and personal life history, voice dialoguing, coping strategies and in recovery planning and outcomes.
In 1997 a meeting of voice hearers and mental health workers was held in Maastricht to discuss developing the further promotion and research into the issue of voice hearing. The meeting decided to create a formal organizational structure to provide administrative and coordinating support to the wide variety of initiatives in the different involved countries.
The new network was called Intervoice (The International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices). Intervoice holds annual steering group meetings, encourages and supports exchanges and visits between member countries and the translation and publication of books and other literature on the subject of hearing voices.
Intervoice was incorporated in 2007 as a not for profit company under UK law. In 2012, we registered as a UK charity, under the name International Hearing Voices Projects – known as Intervoice.
How we work together
INTERVOICE works differently from many other organisations , we regard ourselves as an alliance of people who share a common cause, here we explain why.
- Working in partnership
- Bridging the personal and professional
- Incorporating the knowledge of experts by experience
- Participation helps individual recovery processes, including for workers
- Encouraging diverse understandings:
Working in partnership
Experts by training (workers and academics etc) and people who are experts by experience are encouraged to work together, this means that national representatives from the hearing voices initiatives around the world are encouraged to attend our annual working meetings as “pairs” or “groups”. The expectation is that these pairings/groups are ongoing long-term working relationships (as in working together as equals) that continue outside of the meetings and that the couple/group prepare their presentations together. The advantage of this arrangement is that the perspectives of both the expert by experience and expert by training are included in all discussions and thereby feed into the decision making processes of the organisation.
Bridging the personal and professional
We believe that we do not need to maintain a worker/psychiatric survivor divide. This has been a very significant contribution to the success of INTERVOICE as an organisation and sets it apart from many other agencies and services working on mental health issues. The process is simple and involves the members (experts of experience and experts by training) committing themselves to bridging the worker/psychiatric survivor divide and developing real relationships with each other, as a result long term friendships have developed. This is more easily accomplished than might be imagined, having common cause and placing a stress on the equal value of everyones participation tends to breakdown the worker/psychiatric survivor user divide and gives space for a very different way of working and being together.
Incorporating the knowledge of experts by experience
We recognise people who hear voices have significant knowledge, although often have few opportunities to disseminate their knowledge. A key function of INTERVOICE is to develop experiential knowledge and to disseminate this with the objective of transforming mental health care to recovery and resilience oriented support. In our view experiential knowledge is equal to scientific knowledge. Persons with “psychiatric histories” own this knowledge and its value, including financial value should be recognised. For example, when voice hearers speak at workshops and conferences, we ensure they are paid the same fees as professional speakers (for instance psychiatrists).
Participation helps individual recovery processes
This, most especially, includes experts by training. Participation in INTERVOICE by experts by experience has proved to be beneficial to those involved including the experts by training, in effect the community development and educational approach has proved to have had unintended therapeutic value. For example experts by training have revealed that they have heard voices for the first time and experts by experience have been able to support them.
We repeatedly point out that we work together with people with histories of so called severe mental health problems, “the real patients”, in the language of mainstream mental health. This is significant for two reasons, firstly this is because articulate, coping voice hearers tend to be written out of the story as unlike “real patients” and secondly because, although people often join INTERVOICE with a “diagnosis” as their identity, the process of membership often leads to significant change in peoples’ perception of themselves as contributors and as whole people.
Encouraging diverse understandings
A key approach of INTERVOICE is the focus on seeking to change societies attitudes about hearing voices and the belief that this will lead to a change in psychiatry (we use the analogy with homosexuality and psychiatry). The group considers personal, political and spiritual understandings re. voices as having equal validity and invite presentations from anthropologists, spiritualists, psychiatrists, psychologists, voice hearers etc. We use poetry, music, dance to instill a creative atmosphere at the meetings and enjoy a meal together at the end of meetings. We value and recognise participation in meetings with tokens of gratitude such as flowers and small gifts. We always meets in non-Medical settings, often in “valued” buildings, most memorably perhaps was a meeting held in the ancient Town hall in Florence.