Hearing voices counselling and psychotherapy
To explain how we work with people hearing voices it is important to write first about how we understand mental illness. Whilst a purely medical psychiatric model looks for the causes in an imbalance of hormones, genetics and other physical reasons, the trauma model believes that our psychology is shaped by experiences and traumatic events and that these experiences can affect us in such a way that we start to experience symptoms such as hearing voices (auditory hallucinations). Often in treatment the two models are integrated.
Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained to work with trauma (larger and smaller traumatic experiences) hence our point of focus is on how we can reduce or eliminate the symptom, what support the person may need to live with the symptom and the root cause of the symptom. New research in psychiatry has discovered that the content of hallucinations (including hearing voices) is usually linked to traumatic experiences from the past. This is why we believe that it is important to get to know the voices – to notice when they occur, what types of voices or types of people are heard. This is done in the initial phase of the therapy and then continues throughout the therapy. The counsellor, in agreement with the client, will decide what approach they take and what support may be required.
An awareness of voices usually brings some insights and pain, which is then discussed and worked through in therapy. This can be a difficult, touching and painful process and a skilled therapist will be able to provide adequate support throughout this difficult time.
In addition to counselling and psychotherapy our practitioners usually suggest joining support groups organised by the Hearing Voices Network, where voice hearers can share strategies for dealing with the difficulties they experience. Voice hearing can be an isolating process and some of our clients come to therapy feeling very lonely. Support groups allow clients to break this isolation and to learn how to share their experiences of hearing voices.
If you are reading this article because you have started to hear voices recently, it is likely that you do need psychiatric medication or treatment. If our counsellors and psychotherapists have concerns about your mental wellbeing they may suggest you see one of our trusted psychiatrists to assist with the treatment or to provide a psychiatric diagnosis.
Below we have included a speech by Eleanor Longden, a voice hearer, which gives an honest and moving account of working through these experiences.