The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC, now known as the Wildflower Alliance) has served as the primary source for Hearing Voices Group Facilitator trainings throughout the United States for the last several years, with significant support from Open Excellence to expand reach and training availability.
With the support of funds provided by Open Excellence in January 2021, we have been able to offer two on-line Hearing Voices Group Facilitator trainings to – in spite of COVID limitations – keep focus on expanding training access and group numbers. Of these two on-line trainings, one was focused as a ‘family track’ and the other was focused on individuals who have “lived experience” with hearing voices and other related phenomena. Approximately 40 new facilitators were trained during that process.
Additionally, these funds have assisted in our ability to sustain monthly national networking calls for existing facilitators.
Although funds directly provided by Open Excellence have now been exhausted, we are also happy to be returning to in person trainings and will be offering an in person Hearing Voices Group Facilitator training in October 2021. Additionally, by the end of 2021, we will have offered three full six-session courses (offered virtually by Zoom) on Hearing Voices and Unusual Beliefs as facilitated by Peter Bullimore and his team. We have also helped coordinate multiple events with Peter and his team and folks in Texas, and are in process of assisting Peter to organize trainings for 2022 with two different groups in Wisconsin. While work with Peter Bullimore and company has not been funded directly by Open Excellence, our ability to continue to focus on this work as supported by the Foundation has certainly contributed to many of these other developments.
The collaboration between members of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) team, Hearing Voices USA, and Israel began long before the pandemic, with Israelis often staying up to well after midnight to access the support of online Hearing Voices groups based in the US. The learning and connection has flourished during the pandemic particularly between the Western Mass RLC (now known as the Wildflower Alliance) and individuals and groups in Israel, with several online workshops facilitated by Caroline Mazel-Carlton and Natan Cohen. The excitement for the Hearing Voices movement is so strong that all workshops sold out and were repeated.
Both the three-hour introductory workshop and three-hour advanced workshop offered paradigm shifts and new skills in a culturally competent fashion with all slides and materials translated into Hebrew. This translation has also been the start of the process of preparing for a four-day in person Hearing Voices Group Facilitator training in Israel. Open Excellence is now supporting a full four-day facilitator training to be brought to Israel. Work has begun to tailor role plays and training materials to an Israeli audience. For example, identifying the equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA, an agency that not infrequently makes an appearance in people’s unusual beliefs when they feel they’re being spied on) in the United States in Israel for the purpose of exploring experiences in a way that is relevant to Israeli life.
The in person training was originally expected to be held in November 2021. However, due to COVID limitations, these dates have now shifted to spring of 2022. The hope is to bring the training to Israel in the spring so that the Network can begin to flourish and groups can be facilitated at the most accessible times and languages for the community.
In spite of date delays beyond our control, relationships between the Western Mass RLC training team and organizers in Israel continue to flourish.
The Hearing Voices Network (HVN) USA is one of over 20 nationally-based networks around the world joined by shared goals and values, incorporating a fundamental belief that there are many ways to understand the experience of hearing voices and other unusual or extreme experiences. It is part of an international collaboration between professionals, people with lived experience, and their families to develop an alternative approach to coping with emotional distress that is empowering and useful to people, and does not start from the assumption that they have a chronic illness.
The International Hearing Voices Movement consists of the diverse conversations, initiatives, groups and individuals around the world that share some core values. These include: hearing voices, seeing visions and related phenomena are meaningful experiences that can be understood in many ways; hearing voices is not, in itself, an indication of illness – but difficulties coping with voices can cause great distress; when people are overwhelmed by their experiences, support offered should be based on respect, empathy, informed choice and an understanding of the personal meaning voices have in someone’s life.
As a movement of diverse people, countries and ideas, we recognise the importance of hearing and including many voices. As such beside our basic values we do not speak with one voice. We welcome multiple perspectives and ways of contributing. Change can happen on an individual, group, community and societal level – so whether you are working towards making sense of your own voice hearing experience, sharing information in your social circles, trying to improve the support on offer to others or are creating systemic change – we welcome you.