Living with Voices : 50 Stories of Recovery

This book is edited by Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, Jacqui Dillon, Dirk Corstens and Mervyn Morris, UK, PCCS Books in association with Birmingham City University, 2009, 346pp., (paperback), ISBN: 13 9781906254223

Living with Voices is an important addition to the new wave of publications which include and promote first-person narratives describing and explaining psychotic-like experiences.  This is the third book in a series on understanding and working with voices.  In the first two publications, Accepting Voices and Making Sense of Voices, Romme and Escher challenge the reader to think in a radically different way about voice-hearing experiences.  Accepting Voices is aimed primarily at voice-hearers and recounts the experience of 13 people who hear voices and have come to accept them and use them as part of their everyday lives. It focuses on techniques to manage voices and emphasises personal growth as an important part of the recovery process.  The second book in this series, Making Sense of Voices, is aimed at mental health professionals and outlines a structured approach to assessment, in which relevant psycho-social aspects of the voice-hearer’s life are explored and incorporated into the formulation.  In terms of treatment, it discusses self-help and social empowerment, psychological interventions such as CBT, and alternative therapies.

This new publication, Living with Voices, builds on these earlier publications by providing an evidence base for this successful new approach to working with voice hearers.  The evidence is found in 50 narratives of people who have recovered from distressing voices.  This book’s key messages are: 

  1. Recovery is possible and does happen;
  2. Voices are real and should be accepted as such by the voice-hearer and those supporting him/her; and
  3. Voices are understandable reactions to real life problems. 

Living with Voices is in two parts.  Part One consists of nine chapters, beginning with important steps to recovery, then moving on to a discussion of the harmful aspects of the illness model, causes of voices, accepting voices, making sense of voices, the role of emotions, and interventions on offer, such as hearing voices groups, psychotherapy and medication.  Part Two consists of the collection of 50 voice-hearers’ stories. The narratives transform what might otherwise be considered a meaningless symptom – auditory  hallucination – into an understandable and significant human experience, and one that happens as part of a  human journey, not as part of a  disorder.

The most helpful aspect of this book for me was the emphasis on hope and recovery.  The book begins and ends with these messages. Chapter One is about important steps to recovery with voices and discusses the various ways that people can and do recover.  The acknowledgements at the back of the book provide evidence of how the accepting voices approach has been picked up and developed in many countries.  Seeing evidence of the development and implementation of this successful approach around the world is inspiring and leaves the like-minded reader feeling part of a significant movement away from disempowerment and hopelessness and towards collaboration and  validation.

Vanessa Beavan, Clinical Psychologist and Past Co-Chair HVNANZ

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