The distress that is associated with auditory hallucinations, or voices, is well documented. However, increasingly research into this phenomenon is also capturing those who cope with their voices, and live meaningful lives. Peer support is a popular and useful way in which to learn to manage the distress for voice-hearers. The Hearing Voices Network (HVN) acts as an umbrella organisation for which research, training and peer support groups exist (www.intervoiceonline.org). Despite the growing amount of peer support groups established, there is to date no published material on these groups. The purpose of this paper is to discuss these issue.
The present study used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis to explore the experiences of four informants across three New South Wales HVN groups.
Results suggest that the social connections, value of sharing and desire for more group members are all important within the group. Beyond the group, informants described the increased willingness to talk to others about their voice experiences, improvements in sense of self and a positive change in their relationship with their voices.
The study demonstrates the importance of peer participation in the mental health workforce and the provision of safe spaces for those with lived experience to share and learn from each other in meaningful ways. Research implications include the need for further research measuring outcomes on a larger scale for these support groups.
The author would first like to acknowledge and thank each one of the informants that chose to participate in this study, for being so giving of their time and for being so open and willing to share their experiences. This project would not exist if it were not for their courage to choose to share. The author would like to thank his supervisor, Dr Vanessa Beavan, for her time and skills in assisting to complete this project, also for having the confidence in the author to continue to expand the author's involvement and cultivate passion in the field of psychosis. The author would like to acknowledge and thank the support of the Hearing Voices Network New South Wales for this project. The author would also like to acknowledge the Hearing Voices Networks on a global scale that continue to challenge the traditional views of psychosis, in support of a humane and compassionate way of working with voice-hearers.
Dos Santos, B. and Beavan, V. (2015), "Qualitatively exploring hearing voices network support groups", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 26-38. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-07-2014-0017
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