Frequently Asked Questions
Who are Pacific Rim HVN online groups for?
Pacific Rim HVN online groups are for two audiences:
We define experiencers as:
Anyone who has (or has ever had) experiences that fall under the “Hearing Voices” umbrella including but not limited to: Voices, visions, extreme states, big moods, wild energy, unshared realities, unusual beliefs, special messages, tactile sensations, olfactory sensations, or any other extraordinary encounter with reality.
We take a broad view of what constitutes “hearing voices.” All experiences under the umbrella are viewed equally. Experiencers are not viewed as “more voice hearer” or “less voice hearer” based on which part of the umbrella they’ve experienced, how long they’ve experienced it, or how intensely.
All frameworks are welcome. People who believe their experiences are a sign of mental illness are just as welcome to attend as those who employ any other framework - and there are many.
We define supporters as:
Anyone who directly supports someone with these experiences in a non-professional role like parents, family members and friends. This excludes people who support someone in a professional capacity like therapists, psychiatrists and peer support specialists.
Note: Risk assessments and charting of any kind in Pacific Rim HVN meetings are strongly prohibited. For this reason we do not allow mental health professionals to attend our groups in a professional or observing capacity - be it therapist, psychiatrist or peer support specialist. However, if you are a professional with personal lived experience with phenomena that fall under the "hearing voices" umbrella and are interested in attending - not as a professional - but in order to explore your own experiences, you are welcome to attend.
Do you allow observers and/or researchers?
No. We don’t allow non-experiencers to come as observers or to attend meetings for research purposes.
If you’ve had experiences that fall under the Hearing Voices umbrella and would like to attend a group as an experiencer without sharing, that’s no problem. Sharing and receiving feedback are optional.
I'm a therapist. Can I come to a meeting to observe?
No, unless you either have/have had experiences that fall under the umbrella, or directly support someone in a non-professional capacity who does, like a friend or family member. If you are interested in learning about HVN on a professional level, our facilitators offer paid consultations and trainings for mental health professionals.
I'm a peer support specialist / peer counselor. Can I bring my peer to a meeting?
We do not allow peer support specialists / peer counselors to attend our meetings in a professional capacity. In other words, we do not permit peer supporters attending our groups "on the clock." Charting requirements as well as the power differential between a professional supporter and the person they support - even when subtle - compromise the freedoms and charter values in our meetings. We encourage peer support professionals to help the people they support discover HVN and attend meetings on their own. If you are a peer support specialist with lived experiences under the "hearing voices" umbrella and wish to attend a meeting in order to explore your own experiences - not as part of your job - we welcome your participation. And likewise, if you directly support someone in a non-professional capacity who has these experiences - like a friend, spouse or family member - and can attend as an unpaid supporter, not as a professional, we welcome your attendance.
Are supporters required to be accompanied by the person they support?
Pacific Rim HVN groups are open to non-professional supporters even if they attend without the person they support. In other words, non-professional supporters are allowed to attend by themselves.
That being said, we have a set of expectations and guidelines for supporters.
What do you expect from supporters?
Before you read our guidelines, we want to be clear that Pacific Rim HVN is a friendly and forgiving community that believes in your capacity to learn and grow. If you forget to follow some of these principles at first, we understand. It takes time to adjust to a new way of being. We take a realistic approach toward learning a new set of attitudes and vocabulary that depart noticeably from the language of mainstream mental health.
Here are our requests/guidelines for non-professional supporters in group:
1.) We request that supporters adhere to the Pacific Rim HVN Charter.
- We do not assume illness
- We assume unusual experiences are REAL even if they are unshared
- We firmly believe people are not less for having unusual experiences
- The focus is on sharing experiences, not telling each other what to do
- We encourage using plain language over diagnostic labels
- Our groups are social gatherings, not clinical, support or therapy groups
- We believe in self-determination
2.) We request that supporters speak to their own experience, not the experience of the person they support.
3.) We discourage supporters asking questions of the whole group.
4.) We expect supporters to not dominate meetings in any way.
5.) We ask that supporters attend with the mindset of a beginner, not an expert.
6.) While supporters are welcome, we expect them to understand that our groups are for primarily for experiencers, not supporters - and that it is a privilege for supporters to be able to attend.
7.) We encourage supporters to explore their own life. Sometimes supporters discover they are also experiencers, opening up another dimension of participation.
8.) If a supporter repetitively cannot adhere to these principles, the facilitator reserves the right to ask them to leave and/or stop attending.
Is HVN anti-psychiatry?
No! HVN was originally founded on the work of a psychiatrist, Dr. Marius Romme from the Netherlands, who became critical of his profession when he realized his training was not useful. HVN takes no official stance for or against psychiatry, however:
HVN is strongly against coercive/abusive treatment of anyone. The belief in self determination and personal choice is woven into the foundational fabric of HVN. Sadly, much psychiatric treatment involves coercion and force. Perhaps that's why many people think HVN is against psychiatry.
HVN takes a non-pathologizing view of the human experience. We do not assume unusual experiences are a sign of illness. That is a personal choice that belongs to the person who has those experiences, and we believe in the freedom to change our minds at anytime.
HVN groups do not offer medical advice. However, we are willing to have an open and courageous conversation about the merits/risks of any particular mental health treatment. Our groups are frequently attended by people with lived experience of many different treatments, and are encouraged to share their wisdom with one another.
Isn't HVN the same as NAMI?
Quite the contrary. Pacific Rim HVN and NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) are very, very different. For starters, Pacific Rim HVN does not assume illness. NAMI includes the phrase "mental illness" in their name - giving almost no space at all for other possible ways to view unusual or unshared realities. The illness framework - like the medical model - is just one of many frameworks and is by no means universally adopted in every culture or context. Participants in our meetings are free to choose their own framework to understand their experiences, are free to use more than one framework simultaneously, and are free to change their minds at any time. The belief that unusual or extreme experiences are a sign of illness (or anything else) is allowed - but not assumed.
It is a strongly held value in HVN that facilitators never dictate a framework or belief system to group participants. Doing so is considered an act of spiritual and intellectual violence. We do not tell people what their experiences mean, nor do we diagnose or label anyone or anything. Instead, we ask the lesser-known and refreshing question, what do your experiences mean to you?
We recognize that anyone who's had an interaction with the mental health system as a recipient of "treatment" has almost certainly been pathologized, labeled, underestimated and viewed as somehow less for having experiences that depart from consensus reality. In our meetings we are aware that many people who hear voices and experience altered and extreme states regard their experiences as meaningful and valuable - even if disturbing. The dialogue that can take place between people who adopt different belief systems holds a wealth of potential. We can learn from one another, and in the process, about ourselves, by sharing experiences and exchanging wisdom in an atmosphere of open-mindedness and mutual respect.