HV Approach


  • Accepting that hearing voices (and related experiences) are valid human experiences.
  • Respecting each person’s framework of understanding and beliefs about their experiences.
  • Fostering and enabling the safety and wellbeing of all.
  • Promoting hope
  • Creating safe spaces to come to and share experiences, and network for deeper connection
  • Believing in each person’s resilience and capacity to take control of their experiences and recover
  • Working collaboratively and inclusively with other services to develop knowledge and use holistic approaches to recovery.
  • Fostering and supporting self determination and self empowerment
  • Encouraging service providers, families and friends to join and connect with us as allies


Essentially, the Hearing Voices Approach was born out of a conversation between two experts – one an expert by profession and another an expert by experience.  Professor Dr. Marius Romme and his patient voice hearer Patsy Hage, along with Dr Sandra Escher were the founders of the hearing voices movement, and it is through their, and others, courage and action that many thousands of people worldwide have benefited.

In 1987, in Maastricht, Netherlands, Professor Dr Marius Romme, a social psychiatrist and Patsy Hage, a voice hearer, went on Dutch television with the support of journalist Dr Sandra Escher to speak about voice hearing and asked people who heard voices to contact them.

Following the TV program: ·

  • 750 people responded
  • From that group, 450 heard voices
  • 300 of those could not cope
  • 150 were able to handle them

Research following on from this response led to the establishment of Holland’s Resonance Foundation – the first self-help group. This led to the first Hearing Voices conference in Maastricht, Holland in 1988, aiming to raise awareness of the voice hearing experience, which ultimately led to a worldwide movement that works towards supporting the recovery of those who are distressed by hearing voices.

After seeing what they had achieved in Holland, community development worker Paul Baker brought the approach to the UK in 1990. Just 13 people attended the first UK Hearing Voices Manchester conference, however, since then interest multiplied rapidly as voice hearers themselves took up the gauntlet. Today there are more than 190 voices groups within the UK alone.

Around the world, groups of voice hearers meet and talk, sharing viewpoints and strategies to support each other, telling their stories and exploring ways to work with, rather than against, their voices in order to reclaim control and rebuild their lives. In many places these groups have blossomed into small and large organizations that we call Hearing Voices Networks.


Mainstream biological psychiatry has regarded the phenomena of voice hearing as a ‘delusion‘, a  ‘symptom of psychosis‘ or schizophrenia4.  In fact, it was commonly thought that what the voices say and the meaning that this experience has for the person concerned was meaningless.5

Furthermore, talking to someone about the voices they hear was, historically, thought to be ill-advised and likely to reinforce the ‘delusion‘6. Treatment with medication was, and still is, considered the front line treatment offered to voice hearers within the mental health system by mainstream biomedical model psychiatry, and is likely to be recommended (or legally enforced under the Mental Health Act, 1996) with the aim of eliminating the voice(s).

However, from the perspective of many voice hearers (especially those diagnosed with ‘treatment resistant schizophrenia’, this is not always as effective as hoped.

Even whilst on the ‘newer’ atypical antipsychotic drug ‘treatments‘, approximately 50% of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia still hear voices7. Such treatments often produce severe, disabling side (direct) effects, which can affect a person‘s quality of life and physical health8. This combination of problems produced a dilemma for both voice hearers and service providers.

Responding to this dilemma, the Hearing Voices Movement emerged.

Romme and Escher‘s collaborative research with voice hearers sparked the Hearing Voices Approach.  The drawing on insights and research that has been produced have significantly changed the way the phenomena of voice hearing is understood and responded to today.

Such research has demonstrated that hearing voices is a natural variation of human experience9.  Current research (Beavan, Read, & Cartright, 2006) supports early studies that have found that hearing voices is a relatively common human experience that needs to be accepted and supported (Tien, 1991; Romme, & Escher, 1993; Romme, & Escher, 1996; Millham, and Easton, 1998; Beavan, Read, & Cartright, 2006; Watkins, 2008; McCarthy-Jones, 2012).

In addition, since the early days, there has been significant research which shows that there is a relationship between past or recent traumatic, or intensely emotional, events (i.e., accident, divorce, loss of a loved one through death, sexual or physical abuse, love affairs, pregnancy & birth) and the onset of voice hearing (Read, 1997; Hammersley, Read, Woodall, & Dillon, 2008; Read and Bentall, 2010; Read and Bentall, 2012; Varese et al. 2012) – some suggesting 70% of adults and 85% of children (Escher and Rome, 2010; Romme and Escher, 2005).

According to Martin (2000), Romme & Escher‘s suggestions for changing entrenched perceptions of voice hearing are, that professionals should attempt:

  • To accept the patients experience of voices;
  • To try to understand the different language patients use to describe their frame of reference as well as the different language the voices use for communication;
  • To consider helping the individual communicate with the voices;
  • To stimulate the patient to meet with other people with similar experiences and to read about hearing voices in order to diminish the taboo and isolation.

To learn more about working with voices, contact your local Hearing Voices Network today and learn about Hearing Voices Groups and Training in the Approach.