HVN Promotes Support Groups

by Elizabeth Gorski, LSW

The Hearing Voices Network has at its core the establishment and promotion of Hearing Voices Network (HVN) Groups. These groups seek to promote personal acceptance and understanding and interpersonal support and connectivity. The only pre-requisite is that people come together out of shared anomalous experiences.

That HVN mutual aid groups are becoming increasingly available to people whose experiences differ from the dominant culture is to be celebrated. People who hear voices and have other anomalous experiences and beliefs all too often have found themselves ostracized, isolated and ashamed. HVN groups offer the opportunity for inclusion and support.

The Hearing Voices Network approach is one of partnership. While the groups are exclusive to voice hearers and others with similar experience, the network events and meetings are open to families, friends and treatment providers.

Many who lead and attend networks are actively seeking complements and/or alternatives to existing treatments. For far too many, existing treatments for psychotic disorders impede quality of life, risk the emergence of life threatening health issues and are ineffective in managing challenging experiences. The search for additional ways to respond is understandable.

In this way the emergence of Hearing Voices Network groups is not different in motivation from the emergence of AA. In the 1930’s many who sought alcohol treatment were viewed as incurable and existing treatments had deleterious effects. In starting AA, Dr. Bob and Bill W. were convinced of one thing, that alcoholics needed the support of another alcoholic. This concept of peers helping peers is the underpinning of HVN Groups. Today AA enjoys a complementary relationship with treatment; over 93% of alcohol treatment facilities embrace AA. As a society we acknowledge the possibility and many times likelihood that AA will provide sufficient support to help someone abstain from alcohol. We also acknowledge the possibility and likelihood that others will need formal treatment to achieve their goals.

HVN Groups do not propose to be the answer to the complex issues that face many people who hear, see, and believe things that others generally don’t. HVN groups strive to provide a safe place for people to shed the shame and stigma that so often interferes with being open about their experiences and seeking answers that support recovery.

It is my vision that HVN groups and approach will be embraced by our larger society and our treatment communities in the way that AA is today, as an empowering and effective approach to building a life with meaning and purpose.

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