The diverse functions of hearing voices peer-support groups: findings and case examples from a US national study

Gail Hornstein, Alison Branitsky, Emily Robinson Putnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Hearing voices peer-support groups (HVGs) enable people coping with voices, visions, or other unshared perceptual experiences to explore the particularities and potential meanings of their experiences while receiving support from others facing similar challenges. HVGs have now spread to 30 countries on five continents, and many members report profound life changes as a result of participating. Yet systematic research exploring how and why these groups work is still in its early stages. To understand the diverse functions that HVGs can serve, we analyzed the experiences of 111 group members across the US, who provided detailed accounts of their voice-hearing histories and group participation. Using phenomenological and thematic analyses, our collaborative team of voice hearers and researchers identified key elements that make HVGs distinctive, including their prioritizing of self-determination; de-emphasizing behavioral targets or pressure to change; respecting and welcoming multiple frameworks of understanding; cultivating curiosity about perplexing experience in any form; and fostering egalitarian collaboration and genuine relationships among members seen as “experts by experience.” We illustrate the dynamic relations among these elements through case examples, and then outline comparisons between HVGs and other types of groups, as well as directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches.
Early online date23 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Hearing voices groups
  • auditory hallucinations
  • mental health
  • peer support
  • psychosis
  • qualitative research

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