Connecting People and Ideas in the Hearing Voices Movement

Why might people hear voices?

These are diverse experiences that can have many different explanations, including:

  • Spiritual experiences
  • Response to trauma and adversity (including isolation, poverty, racism, serious illness and childhood abuse)
  • Neurodiversity
  • Communication with ancestors and/or spirits
  • Part of a diagnosed mental health problem (e.g. psychosis, schizophrenia, PTSD, OCD, depression etc)
  • Response to difficult or overwhelming emotions (e.g. grief, anger etc)
  • Physical illness/injury (e.g. associated with migraines, epilepsy, head injury, fever, Parkinson’s etc)
  • Response to drugs (prescribed and unprescribed)
  • Telepathy

The right to self-define

At Intervoice, we prioritise the right of the person having the experience to define it in their own way. This is an intentional act. So many people who hear voices and/or have related experiences, have been told that their experiences have no meaning other than being signs of a malfunctioning brain. Whilst some people do hear voices as part of a neurological problem – such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s – this is not the whole story. We welcome spaces that help people find whatever meaning in their voices that works for them – rather than imposing a single model or idea.

Valuing uncertainty

With so many different possibilities, it is hard to say for certain why any given person hears voices. Whilst some people who hear voices or see visions can say with certainty what their experience means, others are less sure. The sense we make of our voices/visions can change over time, as can the way we relate to them. Some people find that they have multiple explanations that work in parallel (e.g. they may feel that the voices are linked to both trauma and psychosis, or a head injury and a spiritual experience). Some may find themselves going back and forth between a few different explanations. Others may no care at all what the ultimate truth is, but are more interested in how they can live their lives.

Voice-hearing, whatever it’s cause, is a human experience. This meaning-making is part of what it means to be conscious. We welcome everyone, however they feel about their voices.

Creating more supportive spaces for voice-hearers

Hearing Voices Groups are an integral part of the Hearing Voices Movement. First established by Foundation Resonance back in 1987, these groups can provide a safe space for people who hear voices and have related experiences to come together without fear of judgement. They can provide a space where people can feel validated, respected and able to talk about their voices/visions if they choose.

In addition to reducing isolation, Hearing Voices Groups can be a space where members explore some of the questions they have around the meaning of their voices/visions and how to navigate them. These are, for many, ongoing questions that we return to. The beauty of Hearing Voices Groups in terms of meaning-making is that they are not a 6 week course. We recommend that these groups are ongoing, enabling people to take part as and when they choose.