It’s starting to seem like common sense to propose that every community should have its own Hearing Voices group or groups!
Hearing Voices groups aren’t just for those who see themselves as “ill” – they are for anyone who hears voices and sees a reason to meet with others and talk about the experience. And increasingly these groups include people who have other anomalous experiences, like seeing visions, having really different beliefs, or other kinds of “extreme states.” When people have a space to talk about these kinds of experiences in their own way, they can often figure out ways to handle them, and this can help many people reduce or even possibly eventually eliminate any need for other kinds of assistance such as mental health care.
According to the website of the UK Hearing Voices Network, which has pointers on establishing a hearing voices group is “not rocket science.” While it helps to have facilitators who know a lot about voice hearing, and especially people who have their own “lived experience,” such knowledge and experience is not required in order to start a group. Instead, the key ability is simply to establish a respectful and open minded forum for all to share and explore their own experience.
People interested in starting groups should also check in with Intervoice, The International Community for Hearing Voices which can provide free packets of books and DVD’s helpful to getting a group started. People in the US should also contact Hearing Voices USA for more information and guidance.
Here in my town of Eugene OR I’ve helped facilitate a hearing voices group for a number of years, but it has always operated within a clinical setting, which doesn’t fully meet the objectives of hearing voices movement groups. More recently we have organized our own group, Eugene/Springfield Hearing Voices, and this group will be free to everyone whether in the mental health system or not, and facilitated by people with lived experience. I hope to hear about new groups like this springing up all over!