Hearing Voices: A Social Constructionist

15TH June 2012
[email protected]
 MSc
Mental Health Leeds Metropolitan
University 2011(Supervisor : B.Penson)
 BSc (Hons) Social Science (Sociology and
Social Psychology) University of Bradford
 Care Coordinator at aspire, Leeds Early
Intervention in psychosis service (3 years)
 Previous diagnosis of psychosis
 Ex-voice hearer
 Honesty,
openness, straightforwardness,
clarity, individuality, respect, equality,
 Voice hearing as normal and everyday
 Voice hearing as amazing, serving a purpose,
not necessarily terrifying
 White British, female, middle class
upbringing, late 30’s, single, no dependants
 Sympathetic to psychiatry and psychology
 Use of Critical Psychiatry and Critical
Psychology perspectives
 Definitions
of voices/social constructionism
 Use theory to explore how voices are
constructed in West
 Discuss dominant discourses (psychiatry and
 Power, perceptions and perspectives
 Ideas for practice
 Research potential
 Voices,
sounds, music, noises
 External or unknown source/mind of hearer
 Psychiatry: auditory hallucination/symptom
 Magical, terrifying, empowering, destructive,
wonderful, annoying, incredible, hateful,
 Continuum, normal, everyday experience
 Beliefs
developed about the world, objects,
phenomena and people
 That are not defined by nature (Berger and
Luckmann (1966, 1991)
 “Nothing is real unless we agree that it is”
(Gergen and Gergen 2004)
 Nature has no life of its own (Searle 1995)
 Creates doubt and encourages reflection on
assumptions/beliefs and ideologies
 Berger
and Luckmann : voice hearing as
unnatural phenomena. Voices use language:
language is socially constructed
 Searle: everything socially constructed
 Potential for both social constructionist
perspectives to theorize voice hearing
 Assumption that voice hearing is socially
constructed in society
“Man is biologically predestined to construct
and inhabit a world with others. This world
becomes for him the dominant and definite
reality. Its limits are set by nature, but, once
constructed this world acts back upon nature.
In the dialectic between nature and the
socially constructed world the human organism
is itself transformed. In this same dialectic
man produces reality and thereby produces
 Object
becomes apparent with different
discourses around it
 No ultimate truth
 Communication with others, and voices
 Omnipotence: why?
 Construct clashes: with whom?
 Psychiatry
 Psychology
 Media
 Government
 Religion/spiritual
 Dominant social constructions
 Multiple perspectives necessary: choice
 Voices
as inner commentator to alert us to
 Voices not problem
 Coping research
 Construct/Formulation
 Writing
at a similar time to Berger and
 French philosopher/historian/sociologist
 Geneological approach
 Post-structuralist school (not soc construct)
 Looks at “madness” (not voices specifically)
 Looks at notions of “truth” and “power”
 Political/moral/cultural/time/space/place
“If illusion can appear as true as perception,
perception in its turn can become the visible,
unchallengeable truth of illusion.” (Foucault)
 Imagination, perception and reality?
 Voice hearer is subject where truth is sought
and power overlooks and operates upon
 Ultimate truth out of reach
 Historical
 Foucault and social constructionism
 Means whereby truth constructed and
inconsequential whether factually correct
 Foucault as empiricist – flawed?
 Medicine as dominant perspective
 Law as overarching controlling body
 Medical
 Psychological
 Social
 Spiritual
 Other
 Us
and them
 Language
 Medication
 Treatments in history
 Concept of mental illness/diagnosis
 Suppression of symptoms
 Continnuum perspective
 Many truths and realities around voices
 Problem
in psychology of individual and
result of life events?
 Therapy
as a means of social control?
 Definitions
of “normality” and acceptability
 Voice
hearing as a disability?
 Adaption to society (medication)
 Society adapting to voices hearing
experience? (acceptance)
 Anti-stigma campaigns
 Understanding
 Normalising
 Talking about voices
 CBT approach/Romme and Escher Maastricht
 Hearing Voices groups via HVN
 Providing choice about how to make sense
 Allowing people to reach own conclusions about
 Helping people cope with voices (strategies)
 Are
relationships that people have with their
voices similar to the relationships that
people have with people they know?
 What is the relationship between voices and
self esteem/low mood?
 Why are voices omnipotent?
Voice hearing is
constructed socially,
within and without a
complex set of power
dynamics, diversely,
across time, culture
and space.
 Many
ways of constructing voices within
society currently
 Psychiatry holds dominant discourse
 Continuum perhaps more valuable discourse
 Acceptance and non-stigmatising
 Campaigns and research
 Social constructionism as refuting itself
 You
meet someone who tells you they hear
 What would you say/do/ask in order to show
 Berger
and Luckmann “ The Social
Construction of reality”
 McManus (unpublished) MSC Dissertation
 Foucault
 INTERVOICE website/ HVN website
 Romme and Escher
 Ron Coleman

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