Reflections on a Hearing Voices Network Training

The Hearing Voices Network training that I attended in the end of January turned out to be a time for self-reflection and personal growth. I experienced a mixture of validation and a profound sense of alienation. One of the trainers, Marty, sensed this in me and asked me to reach out after the training was over. In sharing my experiences and perspective with Marty in a lengthy email, I felt very heard. I know the truth about the way I have been treated locally and the importance of taking a best practice and adjusting it to local cultural contexts. Marty’s curiosity and ability to acknowledge and support my perspective means a lot to me.

Locally, I have tried to work with the hearing voices network in a collaborative manner. As a board member, I have faced a significant amount of objection to this from people with whom I have wanted to collaborate. Instead of feeling co-promoted, I have tended to face suspicion and have sensed a tendency to be marginalized and silenced. Some have objected to me expressing my work in trainings and two people even left the group with this as one of their complaints. Additionally, I have felt incredibly underestimated and slighted by some people with whom I yearn to collaborate.

As a neuro-divergent man I come with a mix of abilities and disabilities. The sense that people are judging my disabilities and using them to marginalize me goes back a long way for me. I had to repeat kindergarten and would not have been accepted, had my parents not been teachers at the private school I attended. When I brought home straight A’s my father said that I should not be able to get such high marks. I achieved a great deal in high school and graduated cum laude, but I lost my respect for school when I experienced stigma for having anorexia. I knew my writing was improving and yet my grades went down. My essay nearly got me kicked out of the school instead of receiving the praise it deserved. As a result, I chose not to go to the fancy schools I got into and continued to work hard living in the library when I wasn’t working.

During the training, I was validated that the jargon that was laid out matched much of the gooney-goo-goo jive/jargon that I co-created with people who attended special messages group over the years. I have been writing to sharpen this jargon for the past ten years. While my work is organized as a structural redefinition of psychosis (or special message crisis,) hearing voices network is structured around normalizing and accepting the experiences of hearing voices. They have “an other” section that includes many of the experiences I lived with for two years, and I have done some work to further define this.

While my groups cannot be acknowledged as part of the hearing voices network because they are professional, I feel I have done a good job replicating the values and ethics of the Hearing Voices Network movement quite naturally as I have become a professional who identifies as a person with lived experience. I hope that the fact that the same concepts have been learned in different locales might help validate the paradigm shift and legitimize the concepts. I am in favor of teaching professionals the lessons of the HVN so that we can get therapy specialists who better know how to work with experiences associated with hearing voices and special messages crisis.

At the same time, I had some important points reinforced during the training. For example, when I train people not to re-traumatize themselves, I may in fact alienate many participants. Doing this does not reinforce and equal and mutual relationship, it reinforces power dynamics that are toxic to many and prevents many from sharing their story. I had the opportunity to reflect on times I had done this in the community and lost participants as a result. This important point is something that I needed to have reinforced because I am often warned not to re-traumatize people as a clinician. This is something I can fix.

Another thing I learned from the training, is that I must do more to get off this uninhabited island I am stuck on. I need to reach out to people. I need to stop raging against things I have no control about and make friends like Marty. During the training, I had the opportunity to network with some people who had read my book or are willing to support me. Not everyone is working to exclude me. The more power I give to those feeling of exclusion the more real it becomes. When I get angry that the HVN excludes me, as I did during the training, I only give those critics who are looking to marginalize me the power and satisfaction that they can be successful.

I loved the HVN training and I think that the fact we have a handful of trained people is a massive opportunity to expand the formation of local groups. I met a grant writer in the training and perhaps I will be able to promote outreach groups to help those isolated in board and care homes. I know that to extend HVN groups to institutionalized peoples that we need to know the local culture and act accordingly. I think this can be done. I have done it for ten years and I hope to be able to do it for twenty more.

I have applied to present my six-hour training to CASRA Spring Conference. They have supported me in the past. I have also applied to present a small portion of my six-hour presentation and hope that at least one will be selected.

I have many posts I am trying to officially publish in a host of different venues.  This is a very frustrating process fraught with rejection. Still I have published the following posts on my blog you can see by clicking below: