Wellness Blog

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Stairways staff experience 'Voices'

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

“You’re stupid; you’re going to screw it up!” “Look at you, you’re a mess!” “Don’t touch it!”

Imagine hearing these insults hurled at you while trying to carry out daily tasks or answer basic questions.

That was the experience a group of Stairways Behavioral Health employees had the opportunity to gain insight into during a recent auditory simulation workshop called Hearing Distressing Voices.

Hearing Distressing Voices is an innovative training program developed by psychologist and disability-rights activist Dr. Pat Deegan that helps people understand the challenges that face people with psychiatric disabilities.

During the training facilitated by Elena Caplea of Community Care Behavioral Health, participants listen to voices through headphones while completing a series of tasks such as taking a mental status exam, social interaction with the community and filling out word puzzles.

All Stairways employees who participated in the training reported having difficulty with concentration, memory and compliance with basic commands. Negative feelings, such as frustration and embarrassment were also the consensus among the group. Each member, however, said that the experience was illuminating and would cause them to be even more understanding.

Their experience was not uncommon for those who have taken part in the training.

On a June 2014 episode of his TV news show Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper hosted Deegan and took part in the simulation. When asked to complete tasks and answer basic questions, the usually astute broadcaster struggled, describing the simulation as “eye-opening,” “isolating” and “extremely unpleasant.”

In addition to listening to the voices, the workshop also includes a one-hour recorded lecture of Deegan, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager, explaining the experience of hearing voices and how people can respond to it.

To view Cooper’s experience with Hearing Distressing Voices and his interview with Deegan, visit http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/09/anderson-takes-part-in-an-experiment-to-help-understand-how-people-live-with-mental-illness/?hpt=ac_bn5.

For more information on Hearing Distressing Voices, visit https://www.patdeegan.com/pat-deegan/training/hearing-voices-training.

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