Dundee workshop to learn about helping those who hear voices
Hearing voices in your head is much more common than many Scots think, and may be better dealt with by coping strategies than with medication, a workshop taking place in Dundee today and tomorrow will be told.
The University of Abertay Dundee and the Fife-based mental health consultancy Working to Recovery Ltd, co-directed by Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor who have an international reputation for their work in recovery and psychosis, are collaborating on a two-day workshop entitled “Talking to Voices” (12/13 December).
The workshop will introduce mental health workers to the relatively new technique of ‘voice dialogues’, which aims to help people who find their voices distressing to learn to live with and manage their voices rather than wasting time in an often fruitless quest for a ‘cure’.
Dutch research suggests that as many as one in 25 people hear voices or other ‘auditory hallucinations that have no physical origin in the outside world’. For some, the phenomenon is not linked to mental illness and can sometimes be a pleasant or reassuring experience.
However, for others the voices can be threatening or disturbing – creating anxiety, despair and fear. Often the voices carry some personal significance for the hearer, usually related to some intense emotional event in their past, such as sexual abuse in childhood. Voices can therefore have a great deal of power over the hearer.
Examples include victims of sexual abuse who hear the voice of their abuser or the voice of a screaming child that represents the abused’s inability to scream out their pain at the time they were abused.
Voice dialoguing focuses on helping voice-hearers to explore the history of their voices, and to identify the individuals their voices represent and the things that trigger them. Having done this, the voice hearer is encouraged to engage with their voices in a way in which they, not the voices, are in control. For some people, this can result in the voices going altogether. For others, the voices become less distressing and more manageable.
This week’s seminar will give mental health workers in Scotland a rare chance to hear international expert Dr Dirk Corstens, who works in the Hearing Voices Project of the University of Maastricht and is involved in treatment for voice-hearers. Dr Corstens developed the treatment programme, ‘Working with Voices’, and is an active researcher in this field.
The workshop also features Clinical Psychologist Rufus May from the Bradford Assertive Outreach Team. He has an interest in promoting self-help and recovery processes in psychosis. His ideas and thinking are influenced by in his own experiences of being a psychiatric patient when he was 18 years old.
Ron Coleman, Dirk Corstens and Rufus May will also be keynote speakers in a public “Hour of Power” seminar this evening (12 December), at Abertay University’s main building in Bell Street, Dundee, starting at 7pm. Tickets are available on the door, priced £10 (£5 for students and the unwaged).
Professor Sue Cowan of Abertay’s Tayside Institute of Health Studies said: “For people who hear voices that are distressing, finding a way of dealing with them is empowering and can be an important part of their recovery process. ‘Recovery’ in this context does not mean ‘getting back to the state you were in before’. It is not about cure, but rather about recovering a satisfying, optimistic and contributing life, even within the continuing presence of mental illness. For each person, recovery is a unique and individual journey.”