Whether it’s my traumatic past, spiritual or a mental health condition, I’m struggling with them right now. What helps?
Frequently, when a voice hearer first enters mental health services, the first thing they are offered is medication, usually antipsychotics. For some people medication helps reduce the frequency of their voices or quieten them down making them more manageable. Others find they tranquillise them into caring less about hearing voices, or help with sleep and anxiety. However, some individuals find the medication does not help at all or even makes their voices worse.
All medications have side effects, and some people may feel that the side effects they get from medication are worse than the experience of hearing voices they are intended to treat. It is good practice that the individual concerned should be given control of decisions around their medication and always be given high quality information about the benefits and risks of proposed medications in order to make their own informed choices. Some people believe this to be a human rights issue.
Many voice hearers (but not all) find different support groups, psychological interventions or therapy helpful. Hearing Voices Groups are safe spaces where voice hearers can come together and talk about their experiences. This sort of peer support often means sharing difficulties with people who understand them; learning coping strategies such as distraction and soothing techniques; learning to negotiate with their voices; making friends; and reducing the social isolation people often experience as a result of the stigma of illness.
Other interventions may also help. Many mental health professionals are trained to teach voice hearers strategies drawn from mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy which aim to increase the voice hearer’s capacity to cope with their experiences. More formal psychological therapy may help people understand why they hear voices, and help them to change the relationship they have with their voices in a way which gives them more control over their experiences, promoting feelings of empowerment and self-efficacy.