The Hearing the Voice team would like to thank those who attended the HVN North-East Networking Event and the Interactive HtV Workshop which took place at Durham University on 10 May 2013.  Open to voice-hearers and their families, support group facilitators, and anyone working with people with lived experience of hearing voices, the event was attended by over forty people.  It was fantastic to see such a large turn-out, and we are very grateful to everyone who shared their time and expertise, and who showed an interest in our research.

The afternoon began over lunch with the Hearing Voices Network North-East Networking Event.  Jacqui Dillon, the national chair of the Hearing Voices Network in England, hosted the meeting and we were also fortunate to be joined by Rachel Waddingham, the manager of the London Hearing Voices Project. We learned that the Hearing Voices Network has made considerable progress in expanding its presence in the North-East over the last six months, with new Hearing Voices Groups developing in Sunderland, South Durham & Darlington, and Easington, among other areas.  These groups join the already established network of support groups in the region, which includes the Hearing Voices Groups in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Gateshead and Newcastle, as well as the ‘Unusual Experiences’ group in Durham, and the ‘Creative Minds’ groups in Harrogate and Bedale.

The second half of the afternoon was devoted to the Interactive Hearing the Voice Workshop led by our ‘Voice Club’ facilitator, Mary Robson. Charles Fernyhough and Angela Woods opened the session with a brief introduction to the project and our plans for future research.  We then heard from some of the key members of the HtV research team, including Pat Waugh, Chris Cook, Matthew Ratcliffe, and Mike White, who gave a brief account of their different areas of expertise and invited those present to break up into small groups in order to have more focussed discussions. It was fascinating to hear voice-hearers’ perspectives on the connections between voice-hearing and spirituality, literary creativity, philosophy, and the role of narrative and other creative practices in facilitating recovery for those who are distressed by their voices.  Informal groups also considered the function that errors in the monitoring of inner speech may play in the generation of voice-hearing experiences, how the latest developments in technology (e.g. smart phone and tablet apps) can help in the treatment of distressing voices, and the way in which voice-hearing is underpinned by activity in different parts of the brain (e.g. the inferior frontal gyrus and the primary auditory cortex) and the channels of communication between them.

In addition to all this, we discussed ways to reduce the stigma associated with voice-hearing, the difficulty in managing risk in Hearing Voices groups, and the way in which researchers in this area should not concentrate exclusively on ‘the voice’ that is heard, but also on the other emotional and bodily sensations that accompany the experience.  One of the key points we all agreed on was that the interpretation of voice-hearing experiences should always rest with and belong to the voice-hearer.  The Hearing the Voice team feels privileged to be able to learn from voice-hearers and group facilitators, and we look forward to continuing these conversations through meetings of the newly established HtV Reference Group, the Joint Special Interest Group in Psychosis, and other similar collaborations.

If you would like information on any of the support groups mentioned above, please email Victoria Patton or phone 0191 334 8163.

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