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The experience of hearing voices that tell you what to do

Precious, K. (2013). The experience of hearing voices that tell you what to do. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Voices that tell you what to do, or ‘command voices’, are often distressing and disabling. Despite this, our understanding of them is somewhat limited and currently there are few effective treatment options available. Research into this phenomenon has been largely quantitative and researcher-led, investigating the link between command voices and violence/risk, what motivates compliance with the commands and more recently, how to improve treatment options. Qualitative exploration of what it is like for the individual to have this experience has been neglected. The present study explored the experiences of 7 participants who heard command voices. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and the data analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Four super-ordinate themes emerged: ‘Unwanted experience’, ‘Engagement’, ‘Relationship with others’ and ‘Sense-making’. Nestled within these themes were sub-themes that explored a variety of different facets. The data revealed that hearing command voices was a distressing and unwanted experience that negatively impacted upon the participant’s quality of life, emotional wellbeing and social relating. It also appeared that participants had formed relationships with their voices. Despite finding hearing command voices confusing, all strove to try to make-sense of their experiences. The observations made are discussed in terms of implications to clinical practice, theoretical understanding and policy. It is proposed that the insights gained into the lived experience of this phenomenon may be helpful for Counselling Psychologists working with this client group.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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