In 1987 Patsy Hage said to her psychiatrist, Marius Romme, “You believe in a God we never see or hear, so why shouldn’t you believe in the voices I really do hear?” This was a reasonable question, Marius realized, and they – along with Sandra Escher – started what became the Hearing Voices Movement. Today the Hearing Voices Network is creating safe spaces for people and their voices – and other experiences perceived as “anomalous” – in 35 countries, expanding the frontiers of meaningful human experience around the world. In recent years the network has begun to support people who wish to ally with their families and social networks to redefine the crises they face together. This “Dialogue in a Time of Crisis” Town Hall will explore how the Hearing Voices Movement, like Open Dialogue, has been building the resources the world needs at this pivotal moment of in our collective history.Read More
Dear Fellow Dialoguers,
The surprising finding of the creators of “Open Dialogue,” the municipal response to “mental health crisis” that originated in Western Lapland, was that crises—including “psychosis”—tended to resolve when they shifted their focus from “treating” or “fixing” to simply fostering a safe space for dialogue. In a similar spirit, we have striven to provide a safe and welcoming space for for discussion of treatments that, at best, have not helped, and in many cases, caused harm. But we have also striven to change the narrative around how to respond to this pain and these crises.Read More
“During the first couple of days of a crisis, it seems possible to speak of things that later are difficult to introduce … It is as if the window for these extreme experiences may only stay open for the first few days. If the team manages to create a safe enough atmosphere through a rapid response and by listening carefully to all the themes the clients speak of, then critical themes can find a space in which they can be handled and the prognosis improves.”
— Jaakko Seikkula, in “Open Dialogues and Anticipations”
by Jaakko Seikkula & Tom Erik Arnkil
In the spirit of the quote above, Louisa Putnam and I put together the first “Dialogue in a Time of Crisis” town hall meeting in collaboration with Mad in America, HOPEnDialogue, and Open Excellence two weeks ago. We had heard many stories of friends and colleagues adapting their dialogical approaches during the COVID crisis, and we wanted to create a space to gather and learn as we all find a path forward. Over 360 people from 33 countries* joined the panel of Jaakko Seikkula, Rai Waddingham, Andrea Zwicknagl, Richard Armitage, and Iseult Twamley. Since then over 1000 people have watched or listened on YouTube.
Many of those responding spoke of being touched by the respectful atmosphere, with space and time allowed for thoughts to form, and new meaning to arise. This, to me, is the essence of the dialogic approach: finding our way forward in uncertain times by opening up, not ending, the dialogue. It seems paradoxical that when we are most afraid we would let go of the desire for a quick fix. But perhaps the fact that we are relational, social beings means that crisis brings out the need to look to the collective. The fact that so many people found their way to this forum and found comfort in it was, for Louisa and I and all that gathered to participate, very fulfilling. Equally fulfilling as the discussion and the reaction to it was the lively exchange in the chat section, as people from around the world signed on to say hello, meet, comment, and exchange contact info. Similarly, the Q&A was rich with experience and poignant in its immediacy.Read More
The voices that I hear were very amped up before our historic first facilitator training in Florida. Like a lot of voice-hearers when I experience something new, my experiences can become louder or more intense.
My Voices had questions about whether what we were about to try was going to work. Whether the two-track training we had recently developed, honoring the different needs of groups for voice-hearers and groups for their family members could have the same transformative power as the other trainings we had held across the country.
I decided to visit a peaceful place before the training began and headed to a nearby Japanese garden. As I bought my ticket to the garden, something caught my eye.Read More
In the United States, media representations of voice-hearers are rare and mostly negative. When our stories *are* shared, we are often portrayed as one-dimensional, irrational, violent or unable to contribute to our communities. Research indicates that one in ten people hear voices at some point in their adult lives, however; negative media representation leads many to stay silent about these experiences. We now know that that silence and isolation can make an experience of hearing voices more distressing and harder to navigate.
With the Hearing Voices approach, we create space for voice-hearers to share their experiences in all their individual complexity. We see over and over the healing value of articulating what our voices say, how long they have been in our lives, and what life events they might relate to. We have seen the importance of making room for trauma-informed and culturally-competent understandings of both why voices/visions occur and what healing practices are available.Read More
During the past year, we have been working toward a series of Mad in America Continuing Education webinars on something we haven’t focused on enough. That is the vital topic of how to make changes in real world programs that reflect the progressive reform agendas that reflect a “green” revolution in mental health care.
We have a series of monthly webinars starting on September 17 that we believe do this. There are 10 topic areas with nationally and internationally recognized experts in promoting this kind of system change. We will be discussing what’s worked and what we need to learn from what hasn’t worked. We believe that for anyone interested in radically improving mental health care, this is an essential course.Read More
It is widely believed that the only appropriate response to hearing voices and other unusual experiences is to deny and silence them by whatever means necessary.
In reality, hearing voices isn’t so unusual. Various studies agree that it is (at least) as common as left handedness (and much more so in certain cultures where it is more broadly accepted and even, in some cases, revered). ‘Hearing voices’ is considered an umbrella term, and also encompasses seeing visions, as well as smells, touch, tastes, and unusual beliefs that may not be common or shared.
The Hearing Voices approach offers a non-pathologizing, open way of understanding and supporting people through the experience of hearing voices. It is different from ‘care as usual’ in several ways.Read More
Andrea Zwicknagl’s presentation at the kickoff meeting of HOPEnDialogue, a new Open Dialogue international research collaborative, in Rome, Italy, July 2, 2019. Read by Guiseppe Salamina in her absence.
To learn more and to support this project, please visit https://mental-health-excellence.networkforgood.com/projects/72234-open-dialogue-research-developmentRead More
One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up thinking maybe we should begin to think of reforms in mental health systems as a kind of “green movement” with some striking similarities to the other greens: the green environment, a green economy, green energy, and so on.
The upcoming Mad in America Continuing Education series intends to use that as a framework for the ten webinars we will launch soon. More on that in a bit, but first, some quick background is in order.
An early leader of the Modern Green Movement was Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring (1962) laid out the dangers of detrimental effects to the environment caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides.
She made accusations against the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting these claims. These accusations could just as easily be applied to the cozy relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and the major psychiatric organizations as documented in Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove’s Psychiatry Under the Influence (2015).
We have two outstanding webinars of great clinical relevance and interest coming up on the Mad in America Continuing Education Project.
Registrations are open at: education.madinamerica.com/p/what-would-real-informed-consent-on-drugs-look-like
On March 19, Dr. Sandy Steingard will talk about what informed consent can and should look like in a real life community mental health program. Dr. Steingard has been a leader in this country and is getting increasing attention elsewhere for her courageous and research-based approach to psychiatry. She is particularly well-prepared to discuss issues related to the use of psychiatric medications. You can see notice of her webinar here along with the learning objectives she will be addressing.
We are asking for a registration fee of $75 but it covers all 6 of the webinars in this series. You can contact me if you want to discuss an organizational rate or discuss a scholarship option.Read More