Taking Back Our Power: Self-help/Peer Support


MCHVN Groups are social environments that encourage and promote:

• Self-empowerment

• Interdependence

• A view of participants as experts by experience

Hearing Voices Network Groups provide:

• Acceptance and a sense that one is not alone

• A safe place to talk about voices and visions

• An opportunity to learn what the voices mean and how to gain control over the experience

• An opportunity to build stronger social networks and supports

Voice hearers in Hearing Voices Network Groups:

• Share experiences

• Explore different ways of managing and coping with voices

• Access information and resources and learn about the recovery process

Participating in Hearing Voices Network Groups is a way to create a community of people with the common experience of hearing voices, seeing visions, or sensing things that other people don’t. Members in HVNGs empower themselves and each other through sharing an experience that is usually kept private.  Hearing Voices Network Groups offer a safe haven where participants can feel accepted, valued, and understood.

Core Values of MCHVN Groups adapted from HVN, UK


Hearing Voices Network Groups are based firmly on an ethos of self help, mutual respect, and empathy. They provide a safe space for people to share their experiences and support one another. They are peer support groups, involving social support and belonging, not therapy or treatment. Groups offer an opportunity for people to accept and live with their experiences in a way that helps them regain power over their lives.


Hearing Voices Network Groups welcome the diversity of experiences and views of their members. Rather than seeing one belief system as more valid than another, all explanations for voices and visions are valued. There is no assumption of illness. Groups recognize that members have expertise to contribute to the group, no one member is more important than another.


All Hearing Voices Network Groups are centered around the needs and aspirations of their members. Rather than being focused solely on voices and visions, group members are welcome to talk about any issue that is important to them.


Hearing Voices Network Groups recognize the importance of being user-centered and are user-led. Each member has an important part to play in determining the direction of the group, keeping it healthy, and upholding the ethos.


All Hearing Voices Network Groups should be as confidential as possible. What is discussed in the group should stay within the group.

Hearing Voices Network Groups Charter

MCHVN has its own culture, ethos, philosophy, and values. All groups that come together to focus on voices and visions are, of course, entitled to describe themselves as hearing voices groups but, unless they uphold the values of the Network, not all hearing voices groups are entitled to call themselves a part of the Montgomery County Hearing Voices Network.

While many voices groups work with the Network’s core values of acceptance and self-determination, many other groups work within the medical model of treatment of illness. We welcome the existence of treatment groups and their potential to help people, but we state clearly that they are not part of the Hearing Voices Network. Treatment groups and self-help groups are different.

There are many voices groups that fall somewhere in the middle between these two poles. These groups may be set up and run by mental health system workers. They may be in tune with the ethos and values of the Network but work within organizations that impose constraints and pressures on how the group must function. Despite such constraints, there are some among these groups that are genuinely working to empower members to eventually run their own group.

As a result of the above situation, there is currently a need to clarify the identity of the Montgomery County Hearing Voices Network through establishing criteria by which voices groups can be recognized as members of the Network or not. The following Charter identifies clear criteria for membership in the MCHVN. This includes criteria for full membership and criteria for affiliated status in recognition of groups that are not yet able to fulfill criteria for full membership.

Criteria for Affiliated Group Membership

The group...

  • Accepts that voices and visions are real experiences.

  • Accepts that people are not any the less for having voices and visions.

  • Ethos of self-help

  • Ethos of mutual respect, support and empathy

  • Attendance is voluntary and self-determined

  • Primary focus is sharing experiences- no more, no less

  • No assumption of illness

  • Freedom to interpret experiences in any way

  • Freedom to challenge social norms

  • Freedom to talk about anything, not just voices and visions

  • Not a 'treatment program'

  • Social group not clinical group

  • No clinical pressure on the facilitator to report back on attendance, participation, etc.

  • No one expert; all are experts

  • Ordinary, common language used

  • No discharge process

  • No risk assessment

  • Confidentiality within group is maintained as much as possible

  • Group is aware of any limits to confidentiality

  • Working towards fulfilling criteria for full membership

Criteria for Full Group Membership

The group...

  • No referrals needed

  • Group is a community to which people belong

  • Members join for as long as it suits them

  • Group open to people not using services

  • Group open to people from other geographical areas

  • Group does not meet within a clinical setting

  • Ethos of accepting people as they are

  • Group is not a form of treatment to make people better

  • Group decides limits to confidentiality

  • Equality between everyone in the group

  • Decisions are made by all the group together

  • Problems are worked out within the group

  • Responsibility lies primarily with the group not the facilitator

  • The group is facilitated by individuals who have lived experience of hearing voices --hearing, seeing or sensing things that others don't

  • Our aim is that facilitators have prior experience as members of a HVN group and have completed our MCHVN Facilitators Training

Fatal error: Class CToolsCssCache contains 1 abstract method and must therefore be declared abstract or implement the remaining methods (DrupalCacheInterface::__construct) in /home/content/68/10913468/html/sites/all/modules/ctools/includes/css-cache.inc on line 52