For some years now, a movement called “Listening voices”, “Hearing voices” or “Between voices” has been developing . This movement proposes to accept as something natural and normal within our perceptual spectrum the phenomenon of hearing voices or the experimentation of other unusual perceptions.
It was in the 1980s that the psychiatrist Marius Romme, his patient PAtsy Hage, and the journalist Sandra Escher carried out a television initiative in which “voice listeners” were invited to contact the group and share their experiences.
It was many people, counted in the hundreds, who dared to do it. Many of them said that they were capable of handling these “unusual experiences”, while others had difficulty in doing so. (This certainly reminds us of the case of the famous mathematician John Forbes Nash ).
The research that planted the seeds of the movement
This research paved the way for years for the emergence of the Voice Listeners Movement, which defends the need to advocate for an alternative attitude to overmedicalization and to the treatment that is provided in much of today’s psychiatric services.
In this sense, this movement suggests that we cannot denature or dehumanize something so basic among people such as perceptual and sensory experiences.
Thus, according to what they propose, it is neither healthy nor positive to confront voices or other ” symptoms ” in the way we are used to doing. This is so because they are not a pathological symptom of any mental illness, although they occur in the presence of other signs or symptoms that do require a specific diagnosis (for example, schizophrenia ).
In other words, although these are “unusual” experiences, they can be understandable and, therefore, related to problems or trauma suffered throughout life. For this reason, from the Movement of Voice Listeners, they propose that this type of perceptions do not have to be “taken from the spectrum of normal perceptual experiences.”
In fact, as research indicates, hearing voices is a common experience among mentally healthy people, and therefore they do not fit into the scheme of any psychiatric disorder.
So what determines whether or not a person needs psychiatric treatment?
To answer this question, it should be clarified that this movement does not deny the need for there to be cases that need drug treatment, either because of the discomfort that is generated or because of the confluence of other problems that affect daily performance.
Thus, as indicated on his page, Dr. Paolo Fusar-Poli, a consultant psychiatrist at a support and treatment point called OASIS (located in London) indicates that “ problems begin when hearing a voice adds to other aspects of mental health, such as anxiety and depression, as well as functional disability, drug abuse, traumatic events … all of which put the person in a position to seek help. At that point, you may need services like OASIS ”.
These types of centers are dedicated to preventing and detecting prodromal symptoms of psychosis or complicated pictures that can further deteriorate the socio-labor and personal functioning of the affected person. In this sense, efforts are made to avoid falling into medicalization, overmedicalization, labeling and diagnosis of people who experience certain types of perceptions.
Thus, they end up opting for a cognitive-behavioral psychological treatment (first line of action for NICE ). In the first place, to safeguard people’s health and not fall into diagnostic errors that can enhance the appearance of chronic psychiatric problems.
Therefore it seems that The critical factor in determining the need for treatment is the degree of discomfort and functional disability associated with the experience of hearing voices. This can help preserve the mental health of people who would not actually have a proper psychiatric disorder.
In summary, the perspective of the “Entrevoces” movement suggests that auditory perceptions that we call abnormal are not a pathognomonic sign of mental problems such as schizophrenia and that even when they live with a mental problem, they have another treatment that is not traditional, based on pharmacology and confrontation.
Without a doubt, it is a novel bet, which can be very enriching when it comes to giving a twist to the way that our culture treats certain perceptual experiences. Experiences that, in principle, would not have to be confronted so intensely and on many occasions cruel.
On their website in Spanish we can find more information about this movement, as well as the proposals they carry out and how to contact them.