Practical Advice

The Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa NZ like to empower voice hearers, friends and family to work together to support and help each other. Part of this is sharing what we find helpful and what we don't. In this section we would like to share articles on this topic. 

Three Phases found amongst People who Hear Voices

The following information was sourced from

The Startling Phase

  • Most voice hearers describe the onset of the experience as being quite sudden, startling and anxiety provoking, and can vividly remember the precise moment they first heard a voice.
  • The age of the onset of the initial experience of voices varies widely, as does the intensity of the startling phase, which appears to be most severe when it occurs during adolescence. The confusion seems to be less when voices are heard from an early age, or did not make an appearance until later in adulthood (In a survey 6% heard voices before the age of 6; 10% between 10 and 20; 74% after 20).
  • Voices are often triggered by traumatic or emotional events such as accidents, divorce or bereavement, illnesses, psychotherapy sessions.

The impact of the voices fall into two main types:

Some people perceive the voices as helpful and they evoke a feeling of recognition. These people feel the purpose of the voices is strengthening them and raising their self-esteem. The voices are experienced as positive and as an understandable aspect of their internal selves.

Others experience the voices as aggressive and negative from the very beginning. For these people the voices are hostile and are not accepted as part of themselves. They suffer from negative voices that can cause chaos in their minds, demanding so much attention that communication with the outside world is extremely difficult.

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Practical Information for People who Hear Voices

The following has been reproduced from

Voice hearers can find themselves experiencing an overwhelming world and their power of reason may be virtually extinguished making it impossible to go about their lives. Open discussion with others offers a means of helping you to accept your voices.

Communication between voice hearers gives you the opportunity to share experiences and to learn from one another. This can be achieved by joining or setting up self help groups, such as those established by the Hearing Voices Network.

Voice hearers say it is important to discuss voices, in the process, it is possible to learn to recognise their games and tricks, as well as their pleasant aspects, and to identify patterns which are specific to given situations. This can help you to be better prepared for future onset of voices. Voice hearers may think they are alone in hearing voices. This makes the experience unpleasant and produces feelings of shame or the fear of going mad. Anxiety often leads to the avoidance of situations which might trigger the hearing of voices, and this seriously blocks self development. Anxiety severely restricts freedom of movement, and strategies of avoidance often seem to exacerbate the problem.

Voice hearers seek explanations to account for their voices. A personal approach to understanding can be helpful and there are many disparate perspectives used by voice hearers. An explanatory theory is essential to the development of a coping strategy. Unless some meaning is attributed to the voices, it is difficult to begin to organise a relationship with them in order to reduce anxiety. Perspectives which discourage voice hearers from seeking mastery of the voices tend to yield the least positive results.


Read more: Practical Information for People who Hear Voices

What is it like to Hear Voices?

The following article was kindly provided by

It is difficult to explain what it is like to hear "voices", particularly if you have never heard voices yourself. However, the experience of hearing voices is not as alien an experience as it is generally thought to be.

Firstly, it may be the same as hearing a voice in the normal way through your ears, the difference being that the "voice" has no physical cause - but like normal voices, there is variety and every experience has its differences. You may think you have never experienced this, but are you sure? You may have had the experience of hearing someone call your name only to find that there is no one there. Indeed, research shows that especially for people recently bereaved, it is not an uncommon experience to hear the voice of the recently deceased person.

As well as hearing voices through the ears, people also hear voices as if they are thoughts entering the mind from somewhere outside themselves. This is not the same as a suddenly inspired idea, which people usually recognise as coming from themselves, rather the thoughts are not their own and would seem to come from outside their own consciousness, like telepathy.

A good example of this is the experience of recalling a rhyme or tune, which you find yourself repeating unconsciously under your breath and which keeps going through your head again and again. You can even find yourself humming it. You never took a decision to start thinking of it and it's difficult to stop thinking about it. The difference between the tune and "voice thought" which appears as words in your mind is that it may go on to speak coherently to you and even engage you in conversation. You, yourself are not responsible for it and you have no idea what this "voice" is going to say next.

Read more: What is it like to Hear Voices?

Advice for Whanau, Friends and Caregivers of Voice Hearers

Hearing Voices is more common than people think.  It is a normal but unusual experience. However, it can be a frightening experience for both the hearer and those around them. The person hearing voices may become ill from not being able to cope with them. Family members may be unsure how to react. Research has shown that 70% of people who hear voices can rate the experience to some sort of trauma which has occurred in their lives. This can be physical or emotional trauma. Some research has also linked voice hearing with the use of recreational drugs such as Marijuana, P, and LSD etc.  

Voices often respond to what is happening around the voice hearer. Therefore, they can tell the hearer that the person they are speaking to is trying to harm them or that something bad will happen if they talk about their voices.

This can lead to feelings of fear and vulnerability, resulting in the person reacting differently to those around them or becoming isolated from others. It is important at this time that they have someone who will take the time to listen to them and to offer them the loving support they need to deal with their voices.

Read more: Advice for Whanau, Friends and Caregivers of Voice Hearers

Understanding Your Voices

The following article was written by one of our Support Group Facilitators and was published in our May 2009 newsletter. 

Distraction techniques such as the use of MP3 players can be helpful to relieve distress from voices. But to be able to take control of your voices, you must accept that there is some link with yourself. Once this happens you start to take responsibility for your recovery and can start to work out the meaning of the voices. I would like to share some of my insights with you inthe hope they may help to do this.

Voices can be similar to dreams and nightmares. You can have good and bad experiences, which can be very profound and very real. Some people describe hearing voices like dreaming when awake. Interestingly one of the triggers for psychosis is sleep deprivation. Just as in dreams the voices can be presented in a symbolic way that makes it hard to see the association with ourselves. The voices may have larger than life personas that exaggerate the emotion involved making it hard to understand, just as Shakespeare tells stories that portray common themes and emotions, but we have to see past the costume and language before we can understand what is happening.

Read more: Understanding Your Voices