History of Hearing Voices Networks (HVNs)

The Hearing Voices approach was originated through the work of Dutch psychiatrist, Marius Romme and a woman to whom he was providing treatment, called Patsy Hage, in the Netherlands in 1987. He witnessed the power of peer support first hand when he observed her and others receiving treatment at a local hospital. He saw that voice hearers impacted on each other simply by taking the space to talk frankly and non-judgmentally with one another about hearing voices.

Romme and Hage then went on Dutch television to speak about voices and to ask people who heard voices to contact them. An amazing 750 people responded to this and 450 of them were voice hearers, many of whom were seeking help to better cope.

Research following on from this response led to the establishment of the first self-help group. The first Hearing Voices conference was held in Maastricht in 1988, to give professionals an insight into the voice hearing experience. The Network has now gone on to become a worldwide movement.

The first UK Hearing Voices Group was formed in 1988 in Manchester. Following a national conference held in London in 1990, the Independent on Sunday newspaper published a prominent article on the topic which generated a lot of correspondence. As a result, a network was established across the UK of voice hearers and individuals who were interested in the experience of hearing voices. It is now estimated there are networks in 29 countries across the world and around 90 groups in the UK.

History of Hearing Voices Network Cambridgeshire

Hearing Voices Groups have run in Cambridgeshire at different places and times over the last 12 years. In 2015, fresh groups were re-established by three local charities –  Mind in Cambridgeshire, Lifecraft, and Peterborough & Fenland Mind. These charities were supported by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and staff of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Foundation Trust.

A fuller picture of our recent development is given below.

A conference at Anglia Ruskin in 2015 brought together people with an interest in this approach, with speakers including the well-known psychologist Rufus May. After this conference a network developed with the aim of ensuring that Hearing Voices Groups are provided for people in this region.

Following the conference, a working group of representatives from Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust, Recovery College East, Mind in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough & Fenland Mind and Anglia Ruskin University was established with the key aim of developing a network of Hearing Voices Network groups across the Cambridge and Peterborough region. This involved joint funding for a two day Hearing Voices Network training course set up with support from Camden Mind.

Around 25 people, including people who hear voices, see visions or have unusual perceptions themselves were trained to facilitate these groups. Training took place over two days in Huntingdon earlier in 2016. Much tea and coffee was drunk and we got to know each other by answering questions such as, “if you could have any super-power, what would it be?” In the Cambridge and Peterborough area there are now regular weekly groups, called “Voices Matter”.