Swinburne University hosted a conference titled Hearing Voices and Hallucinations: Research, Practice and Recovery at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne on 21st October 2015.

People with lived experience of hearing voices spoke as well as researchers from Australia and other countries. The people with lived experience, Nathan Grixti, Sue Belmore and Louisa Dent Pearce, spoke eloquently of their success in living meaningful lives involving peer work and empowering others to accept their voice hearing experiences and reframe their interaction with the voices to minimize any negative impact.

 

They emphasized the fact that hearing voices is a relatively common experience amongst the general population including those not accessing clinical services and commonly whilst people were still experiencing hearing voices they lead fulfilling lives. David Castle Professor of Psychiatry at St. Vincent’s and Melbourne University spoke. He said that at St. Vincent’s they had discarded the use of DSMV and that “schizophrenia does not exist”.  Professor David Copolov, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Monash University, who has extensive experience in hallucinations research spoke and remarked that there were no mentions of diagnoses or pharmacological treatments in this conference. Various speakers talked about new approaches to addressing ‘auditory hallucinations’.

Dr. Mark Hayward from the UK spoke about a new generation of therapeutic approaches that seek to modify the hearer–voice relationship. He spoke about his latest research evaluating the use of Relating Therapy.  Relating Therapy explores parallels between voice relating and social relating. Voice hearers who are submissive and passive in their relationships are found to be submissive with their voices and this can lead to distress. The Relating Therapy approach places emphasis on acceptance of voices and seeking to question the power of the voice through assertive engagement. Role play is used to practice assertive verbal and non-verbal behaviour. Preliminary statistical results are indicating a positive effect size of .7 indicating a large positive effect on the well-being of voice hearers. Sarah Fielding Smith spoke about her PhD research investigating new ways of understanding how hearing voices relates to experiences of self. Based on her research she suggest that “interventions specifically targeting aspects of self-experience, including self-affection, self-reflection, self-schema and self-concept, may be sufficient to reduce distress and disruption in the context of hearing voices.”( Fielding Smith, 2015, 1129) interventions aimed at modifying negative self-schemas are proposed. Dr. Flavie Waters spoke about her research which revealed a detrimental impact of poor sleep on those who hear voices. Prof. Renaud Jardri from France mentioned the fact that family therapy reduces relapse of psychosis by 20% and despite this evidence family therapy is rarely offered by clinical services.

Fielding Smith et al. ( 2015)  Bringing the “self” into focus: conceptualising the role of self-experience for understanding and working with distressing voices Frontiers in Psychology 6, 1129

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