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A pilot trial examining the effects of veteran voices and visions, an adaptation of hearing voices groups for a large public health system in the United States

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2023 Sep 19:207640231196747. doi: 10.1177/00207640231196747. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: The Hearing Voices Approach, a community-based peer-led support group model, is generating interest as a novel way to engage with psychosis. Hearing Voices (HV) groups are run by peers, ‘experts-by-experience’, and emphasize group ownership and community-building rather than adherence to a therapist-led, predetermined structure. Diverse beliefs about experiences are respected and viewed as potentially meaningful. Groups work within each individual’s explanatory framework to reframe understandings.

AIMS: This paper describes the effects of participation in Veteran Voices and Visions (VVV) groups, an adaptation of the HV approach, co-led by clinicians and Veteran peer support specialists, adapted for Veterans who have experienced psychosis and receive care at the VA, a large public health system in the United States.

METHOD: This mixed methods pilot study has a convergent parallel design, integrating quantitative and qualitative data from participants in pre-intervention and post-intervention assessments.

RESULTS: Over 16 weeks, quantitative analysis showed a statistically significant reduction in distress, due to auditory hallucinations, as measured by the Psychotic Symptom Rating Scales (PSYRATS). The Beliefs about Voices Questionnaire- Revised (BAVQ-R) results showed a reduction in malevolence and omnipotence and an increase in benevolence related to auditory hallucinations, but no change in resistance. Engagement showed a trend-level reduction. Qualitative data from midpoint (Week 8) and endpoint (Week 16) interviews revealed several perceived benefits from groups: 1) normalization and camaraderie, 2) increased hope and confidence, 3) self-understanding and reframing of experiences, and 4) building relationships outside of groups. Overall, VVV groups reduced distress due to voices, negative beliefs about voices, and perceived power of voices.

CONCLUSIONS: Study findings contribute to a growing body of literature indicating HV groups support those who have experienced psychosis by reducing social isolation and fostering community, which may facilitate social integration. Overall, our findings highlight the potential benefits of adapting HV groups to health systems.

PMID:37724417 | DOI:10.1177/00207640231196747

By Nevin Manimala

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