Roz Austin (University of York) recently ran an animal-assisted therapy research day at Waddington Street Centre (Durham), collecting material for her upcoming book. Several voice-hearers participated in these interviews, and Roz is eager to collect further testimony. Roz writes:
Roz with Otie.
Do you hear voices?
Do you like spending time with an animal?
Do you have an animal as a pet?
I would like to hear from voice-hearers about why it may help to spend time with animals.
I am writing a chapter for a book about why animals may help individuals who hear voices. The book is titled ‘The Practical Handbook of Hearing Voices: a guide to auditory hallucinations’. My co-editor is an open dialogue specialist called Mark Hopfenbeck. The book will be published by PCCS Books in 2020.
If you are interested in completing a short questionnaire, please contact me via email.
We have been asked by Loukia Chaidemenaki to circulate details of the following study on mystical experiences and voice-hearing. Loukia writes:
I am Loukia Chaidemenaki, licensed psychologist and student at the Art Psychotherapy Center in Greece, with an interest in learning more about the experiences of hearing voices and other unusual experiences. I am conducting research on the mystical experiences of people who hear voices, see visions or have other extraordinary experiences.
I am looking for men and women with such experiences, who would like to take part in my research study.
Someone who has experiences of hearing voice(s), seeing vision(s) and/or other extraordinary experience(s)
Someone who has an interest in spiritual, religious, transcendent matters and so called mystical experiences, having/or have had mystical experiences
Over 18 years old
What is the study about?
The aim is to explore theexperiences of the mystical among people who hear voices, see visions or have extraordinary experiences. The purpose is to explore multiple perspectives of people living with these experiences in order to better understand them.
We will talk about your experiences of hearing voices and how you and other people make sense of voice-hearing. I am particularly interested in talking about how experiences of the mystical and of hearing voice(s), seeing vision(s) or having other extraordinary experience(s) is understood by you; how you relate with spirituality and the way you interpreted/defined your mystical experiences; how these experiences might differ or relate to each other; how you cope with these experiences; whether you find any positive or safeguarding aspects in hearing a voice(s), seeing vision(s) or having other extraordinary experience(s); and your experience of sharing your encounters with the mystical with mental health professionals and your close environment.
Do I have to take part?
It is completely up to you whether or not you decide to take part in this study. If you do decide to take part you will be asked to sign a consent form. If you change your mind at any time during the study you can withdraw up to 2 weeks after our interview, without giving a reason.
What would I have to do in the study?
If you decide to take part in the study, you will do an online interview with me, the researcher, together with Georgia Feliou, the co-researcher. The session will be divided in two parts, an interview discussing your experiences and a second part where we will ask you to use colored pencils in order to describe, in the form of drawing, your mystical experience(s). If you cannot afford to buy the colored pencils and A3 paper, I can transfer the required amount to an account designated by you. The interview will last for approximately 60 minutes.
You will be given the opportunity for an online follow-up meeting, with us, the researchers. We can discuss your experience of the interview and our understanding of your experience, and you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
Where will the interview happen?
The interview will happen online (using an online medium, i.e. Skype) at a time convenient for you. We can decide this together.
Is the study confidential?
Yes, the study is anonymous and confidential. This means that no names or identifying features will be revealed in the study. The interview will be recorded and we will ask for a photograph of your art product. Some direct quotes from the interview may be used in the study write-up (journal article), however, quotes will not be linked with identifying features or names. In order to ensure this, in the consent form you will be asked to state your pseudonym with which your quotes will be addressed throughout the study.
The recording will be solely for internal use by the researcher to analysis of the relevant information. Only the researcher, the research team and academics at the University of Derby will have access to the information provided, which will be kept absolutely secured in an electronic file accessible only by the researcher. The information provided will kept up to 7 years. After this time period, all data provided will be destroyed.
What if I am interested in taking part?
If you are interested in taking part you can discuss this with someone independent, or contact me by email (contact details below). We can then discuss any further questions you may have about the study. Once we have spoken you can decide whether you would like to take part in the study or not.
I am interested in taking part, what do I do next?
If you would like some more information about the study or are interested in taking part in the study, please get in touch via email. The research has been ethically approved by the Art Psychotherapy Center.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope that you get in touch soon.
Please note that this study is independent from Hearing the Voice. If you have any further queries, you should contact Loukia via email.
Featuring over 60 shows and around 200 writers, poets, performers and community members, the festival explores the theme of voice and voice-hearing through readings, dramas, documentaries and panel discussions. Extended interviews with Hearing the Voice researchers will be broadcast at 10 AM on Thursday 21 March, Friday 22 March and Saturday 23 March. The interviews will cover many different aspects of our research, including the latest insights into the link between hearing voices and literary creativity and the role of voice-hearing in people’s experience of reading, as well as new ways of supporting people who are distressed by their voices and voice-hearing in people who have no need for psychiatric care.
You can download the full programme for this year’s Writing on Air festival here and join the discussion on social media using the hashtag #WOA19.
For a sneak preview of what we’ll be discussing, visit our Writers’ Inner Voices website, and explore how voices feature in people’s experiences of reading and writing fiction. You can also listen to the podcast below, recorded during our recent Literary Voicesexhibition at the 2018 Edinburgh International Book Festival.
We have been asked by Humma Andleeb(researcher with the McPin Foundation) to circulate details of the following information session on Virtual Reality (VR) therapy. Humma writes:
The McPin Foundation is hosting an information session about Virtual Reality (VR) therapy as part of the gameChange study. This will involve building a new therapy designed to help people who feel anxious in everyday situations (particularly people experiencing psychosis or paranoia).
The therapy immerses the wearer into simulations of everyday social situations using VR. Some VR scenarios will be available for people to test at the session.
When and where is the session?
Date: 9th November
Place: Newcastle University
What can I expect?
We will give people the chance to check out some games/activities on a VR headset. We will ask you a few questions about how you think the VR headset might be used and what you think the limitations are.
We are particularly interested in hearing from people who have experienced psychosis. We want to hear from people who are sceptical about VR as well as people who are excited about the possibilities.
Who do I contact?
Please contact Humma Andleeb via email or phone (020 7922 7872) if you want to come along. Places are limited so that everyone attending can have a go on the VR.
We provide tea, coffee and refreshments on the day. Participants will also be offered a shopping voucher as a thank you for their time. Reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed (please bring receipts).
Please note that this study is independent from Hearing the Voice. All queries should be directed to Humma (McPin Foundation researcher) via email or on 020 7922 7872.
From time to time, all of us are likely to have an experience of seeing or hearing something and then finding that other people don’t share the experience. It’s quite common to think about those experiences as being a bit unusual – maybe like a hallucination, or an illusion – but actually these “individual differences” in perception can be quite common.
One thing that makes a big difference is expectation: how our expectations shape what we hear and see is a big topic in psychology right now. A good example of this is the “Brainstorm/Green Needle” clip:
In this example, most people can here both brainstorm and green needle depending on what they think about hearing – although some people can only hear one, or tend to hear something in between. It has been suggested that both ‘brainstorm’ and ‘green needle’ have similar frequencies so the brain is forced to take a best “best guess” at what is being heard. That “best guess” is thought to involve our brains building an internal model or simulation based on the language we know, and then using it work out what we are hearing.
But expectation can’t do everything. Expectation does not really shape what we hear in another recent example: ‘Yanny or Laurel’. Polls across the Internet suggesting approximately 50% of people hear Yanny and 50% of people hear Laurel, with a very small percentage of people can hear both. This may be due to differences in the frequencies that can be heard by different people. But we can’t easily choose to hear one or the other, however strong our expectation.
Why does it matter?
Understanding the differences in how people perceive the world is really important – for understanding more about how the mind works, but also for understanding more “unusual” experiences. For example, it has been claimed that expectation might play a role in why and how people hear voices that other people cannot hear. A key question, though, is where differences in perception come from: why are some people stuck on “brain needle”, and other people able to change what they hear at will?
One idea could be that some people are more imaginative and creative from an early age. For example, some researchers have suggested that having a childhood imaginary companion (IC) may be related to differences in perception. This was demonstrated in one study reporting that 4-8 year olds with ICs appear to be better at detecting words in jumbled speech sounds than those without ICs (Fernyhough et al, 2007). Other research has also found that children with ICs tend to score higher on measures of creativity than those without ICs (Hoff, 2005) which might also be playing a role in hearing or seeing something that others can’t (Rominger, Fink, Weiss, Bosch & Papousek, 2017). Another approach is to think about life experiences that shape our perception. For example, stress and adversity in childhood is often linked to hearing voices in some way (e.g. Kilcommons et al, 2008). If so, it could be that expectation plays a different or more influential role for people who had more exposure to adversity in their life.
There is much to explore in terms of different factors that might influence differences in perception. We are currently running a project to investigate some of these issues. If you are keen to help, we are looking for individuals over the age of 18 to participate in a study at Durham University lasting 40 minutes. We are particularly interested in hearing from people who had an imaginary friend in the past. Each participant will receive a £7.50 Amazon voucher for taking part.