Coping with Voices

Many people diagnosed with schizophrenia hear distressing voices and have difficulty coping with these voices. Current therapy approaches in the U.S.A. often discourage the discussion about the voices, assuming the voices are mere hallucinations and therefore meaningless. To be told that the voices are just a symptom of an illness can be very disempowering to a person. According to Dr. Marius Romme and Dr. Sandra Escher, hearing voices can be regarded as a meaningful and real event (although sometimes painful, fearful, and overwhelming), which speaks to the person in a metaphorical way about their lives, emotions, and environment. The central component of this process involves the clinician accepting the voices as valid and significant to treatment rather than directing the individual to ignore the voices. Their work became known as the Hearing Voices movement and began over 25 years ago. Their techniques are now actively used in 24 countries ( and 12 states (

Another empowering aspect of the Hearing Voices movement is peer support groups. Voice hearers around the world gather in small group settings to share their experiences and talk about their voices. The groups offer a much-needed social support system and an opportunity to discuss their voices in a nonjudgmental environment and share their stories of recovery.

An important outcome of this innovative approach is that a growing number of voice hearers have discovered their own ability to recover!

Santa Barbara Peer Empowerment, a project of the Independent Living Resource Center, is proud to announce peer support groups for people who hear voices. Our peer support groups are currently held on Saturday (for women only) and Sunday (coed) from 1-2:30 p.m. at the cafeteria of 411 East Canon Perdido Street.

We are actively searching for therapists who are offering this type of therapy or would like to learn more about it. We have a two-day workshop scheduled for the beginning of April that is designed for clinicians, counselors, therapists, and voice hearers to gain greater insight to these therapy techniques. Space is extremely limited, and preregistration is required.

For more information about these groups, workshops, and upcoming educational events, or if you would like to make a tax-deductible donation or participate in some other manner, please email us at

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