Hearing Voices Groups are not rocket science. They are simply people with shared experiences coming together to support one another. They offer a safe haven where people who hear, see or sense things that other people don’t can feel accepted, valued and understood.
“I’d been living all these years in a strange isolated bubble, thinking I was unique, and then I realised there were all these other people just like me.” Ruth*
There are over 180 groups across the UK, including groups for young people, people in prison, women and people from BME communities. You can find Hearing Voices Groups across the world, in countries such as USA, Greece, Palestine, Japan, Australia and Denmark.
Hearing Voices Groups are based firmly on an ethos of self help, mutual respect and empathy. They provide a safe space for people to share their experiences and support one another. They are peer support groups, involving social support and belonging, not therapy or treatment. However, groups do offer an opportunity for people to accept and live with their experiences in a way that helps them regain some power over their lives.
Hearing Voices Groups welcome the diversity of experiences and views of their members. Rather than seeing one belief system as more valid than another, all explanations for voice and visions are valued. There is no assumption of illness. Groups recognise that all members have expertise to contribute to the group, no one member is more important than another.
All Hearing Voices Groups are centred around the needs and aspirations of their members. Rather than being solely focused on voices and visions, group members are welcome to talk about any issue that is important to them.
Hearing Voices Groups recognise the importance of being user-centred and are working towards being truly user-led. Each member has an important part to play in determining the direction of the group, keeping it healthy and upholding its ethos.
All Hearing Voices Groups should be as confidential as possible, with members being fully aware of any limits to this. Wherever possible, what is discussed within the group should stay within the group.
Different types of groups
Whilst all groups in our network should hold to these basic values, our network includes a range of different types of groups. The differences include, but are not limited to:
The membership of most groups is purely made up of people with lived experience of voices, visions and other unusual sensory perceptions. Some groups have open sessions that welcome family members and/or supporters too. Some groups focus on a particular group (people from specific cultural groups, genders or ages, for example). Others are open to all.
Our network includes groups in a range of settings, including: independent community groups; voluntary sector organisations; mental health teams; inpatient units; secure mental health units; prisons.
Whilst some groups are 100% user-led, with all facilitators having personal experience of voice-hearing, others are facilitated by people a combination of personal and professional experience. In some settings, groups may be facilitated completely by people with professional, but not personal, experience. Whilst these groups are no less valuable than any other, we would always encourage them to find ways of more actively involving people with personal experience in their running and facilitation.