Speaker Bio (2) – Interventions in Mental Health 8th/9th November

Dr Paulann Grech – B.Sc.(Hons)(Nurs.),M.Sc.(Psych.)(Cardiff),M.Sc.(Hlth.Sci.),Ph.D.(Sheff.)

During the past years, Dr.Grech has been working first as a practitioner within the state mental health services in Malta and then as a mental health lecturer with the University of Malta. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing followed by an M.Sc. She finished her PhD studies at the University of Sheffield in 2014 and completed a Masters programme in Psychiatry with Cardiff University. She teaches within programmes of studies leading to a degree and master’s in Mental Health and also supervises the dissertation process of undergraduate and postgraduate students. During the past years, she has been responsible for the co-ordination of mental health placements as well as the formation and maintenance of a number of international student/staff exchanges and research agreements. In 2015, she was one of the three mental health professionals who set up the Hearing Voices Network in Malta which is now an established NGO. Her areas of interest are related to critical psychiatry, service user involvement and complementary/alternative approaches to understanding and managing mental distress.Paulann pic

Title: This is our voice: an overview of the Hearing Voices Approach

This aim of this presentation is to explore the Hearing Voices Approach which is promoted by an international movement. The first Hearing Voices Network was founded in the Netherlands in 1987 by the Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme, the science journalist, Sandra Escher and voice hearer, Patsy Hage. Since then, it has been established in more than 30 locations.

The international Hearing Voices Movement consists of the diverse groups that share some core values. These include: hearing voices, seeing visions and related phenomena, the most common being hearing voices. In this context, these experiences are viewed as meaningful and as having the potential to be understood in many ways. This helps to address the stigma and fear that is often related to hearing voices and similar experiences.

Coping with voices can cause great distress and individuals are often overwhelmed by their experiences.  The Hearing Voices Approach contests that the support offered should be based on respect, empathy, informed choice and an understanding of the personal meaning voices have in someone’s life.

This approach offers support through a number of ways. Primarily, information about ways of coping with voices is shared electronically, during activities and on a one-to-one basis. Importantly, this information is derived from and shared amongst voice hearers themselves who are at the leading front of the Hearing Voices movement. Additionally, Hearing Voices groups are set up in order to bring individuals with similar experiences together so that they are able to share information with each other – this often serves as a strong support method. Although initially these groups may be run by non-voice hearers, it is advisable to eventually empower the group members to facilitate the groups themselves.

During the past three years, a Hearing Voices Network has been established in Malta. The goal is to offer and promote self-help support for people who hear voices or have other unusual experiences, commonly described as a symptom of psychosis. An additional focus of the network is to raise awareness and provide education to health care professionals in relation to supporting individuals to cope with voices and similar experiences.

During the presentation, compassionate methods and tools that can be used in supporting those who experience voices and other unusual experiences shall be discussed. The ‘Maastricht Interview’ and the ’Voice-Dialogue Technique’ feature amongst these tools.  Although the Hearing Voices Approach is not intended to replace traditional methods of addressing voice hearing, it often serves as a useful adjunct in facilitating recovery. Thus its inclusion in the professional’s toolkit is important in order to enhance the quality of care on offer.

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