Coping with Voice Hearing: Tips for Carers, Friends and Family
- Accept that the voices exist, that they are a real experience for the person.
Find out as much information as you can about voice hearing, treatment, medication and side effects. Ask the voice hearer about their experience
- Offer good listening - this is allowing person to express their feelings, encouraging them to do so. Try not to interrupt or react critically or defensively to what is being said. Do not deny the experience because you feel sorry for the person but encourage them to talk.
- Show appreciation - give credit for the smallest of achievements, so success is given the focus not failing.
- Tackle problems as calmly and objectively as possible.
- Help empower voice hearer:
- help them to try and think and plan for what they want
- help them regain a sense of being in charge of their life
- find out about self help groups and see if your friend/relative voice hearer is interested
- Touch/massage - can help some people relax, feel safe, secure and loved
- Massaging shoulders, face and hands.
NB: but can be distressing if people who have had unpleasant experiences of being touched.
- Massaging shoulders, face and hands. NB: but can be distressing if people who have had unpleasant experiences of being touched.
- Laughter; you do not always have to serious to show that you care, doing something light hearted can help ease tension,
e.g. going see a comedy film, remembering funny experiences, ( do not use the "pull yourself together" approach)
- Practical help; sometimes day-to-day tasks can become extremely difficult for people. This pressure can be relieved by help from a friend but do not take over the task. Encourage them to do some of a task or help them to do a task.
- Advocacy; help person stand up for their rights, get the best treatment. Be as supportive as possible without taking over things the people can do for themselves.
- Look after yourself; this is extremely important, give yourself some time and space to relax. Find out about respite care so you can have holidays. Learn to say 'no' when necessary seek professional help,
counselling and support if you need it. Seek professional help to set limits on difficult behaviour. Reduce your sense of isolation by meeting with other carers
- Give the person who hears voices space and time alone when they need it.
- Encourage some activity and social contact each day (careful balance to strike between the stress of social interaction and becoming isolated).
- Ask person what they find reduces the voices, for example, being occupied and find out if they would like help with this.
- Help the person to feel stronger than the voices and give them the opportunity to talk about their voices. Talking about and with their voices helps many voice hearers to cope better.
- Benefits, check that you and the voice hearer are getting the right benefits.
- Reduce stress in the family by recognising and tackling causes of stress.
- Try to avoid being critical.
- Try to avoid over-protection / doing everything for the person.
- Try to accept that the voice hearer may not be able to express their love or gratitude in return.
- Try to offer voice hearer warmth and support.
- I highly recommend 3 books by John Watkins:
- Watkins, J. (1996). Living with schizophrenia : an holistic approach to understanding, preventing and recovering from "negative" symptoms. Melbourne, Australia: Hill of Content.
- Watkins, J. (1998). Hearing voices : a common human experience. Melbourne: Hill of Content.
- Watkins, J. (2006). Healing Schizophrenia: Using Medication Wisely. Melbourne: Michelle Anderson
Information about voices for voice hearers, practitioners and carers click here to read more...
Voices are usually associated with:
- Intolerable or unsatisfying living conditions
- Recent traumas (e.g. bereavement, loss of job)
- Future aspirations or trials
- Childhood trauma or abuse
- Emotional intolerance and control (from family/home environment)
Romme & Escher have found significant differences between coping styles in terms of the balance of power between the hearer and the voices.
- Saw themselves as 'stronger' than the voices
- Experienced more positive voices
- Experienced less imperative(commanding) voices
- Set more limits to voices
- Listened selectively to voices
- Communicated more often about their voices (shared their experiences with trusted others)
- Saw themselves as weaker than the voices
- Experienced more negative voices
- Experienced more imperative(commanding) voices
- Did not dare set limits on voices
- Tried to escapes from voices using distraction techniques
Copers are stronger, less threatened and more supported than non-copers