Get to know your voices over cup of tea or cake, psychologist advises people with psychosis

People with mental health problems who hear voices should have “get to know” appointments with their voices over a cup of tea or cake, a clinical psychologist has advised.

Service users, including those diagnosed with psychosis, should organise set times in comfortable surroundings to listen and converse with their voices.

This can enable a person to better understand what or who their voices represent, says Dr Rufus May, a pioneer of innovative non-medical and non-drug approaches to understanding and treating psychosis and other mental health problems

Dr May’s advice is part of new online handout he has written on how people who hear voices, particularly those that are negative or abusive, can “change the power relationship” with their voices.

Dr May advises people who hear distracting voices to: “make an appointment with your voices for a set period of time for example half an hour or an hour….Try to make it a welcoming atmosphere.

“Some people have found it helpful to make a cup of tea and have some cake or a candle lit to help make the atmosphere hospitable.

“Some Buddhists even offer voices some cake to eat! If the content is difficult to listen to or is complicated, try writing it down.”

The approach of Dr May, who works for Bradford District Care Trust’s assertive outreach team, is highly-regarded by many in the UK mental health sector. But some doctors have accused him of causing “unquantifiable damage” to patients.

Dr May’s handout includes advice on

* Getting to know a person’s voices, including information on their sex and age and whether they are judgmental

* Mind-strengthening exercises, including drawing, painting, Sudoku, guided visualisations, meditation, and prayer.

* Listening to voices. This includes attending to their symbolic meaning and writing letters to people represented by voices to address ‘unfinished business’.

* Talking or “dialoguing” with voices

* Working with the emotional issues the voices convey, such as fearful memories, shame, guilt and self-criticism

Dr May writes: “Changing the power relationship with challenging voices so they are not dominating your life is possible but it takes time.”

Read for yourself:
Changing the power relationship with your voices – online handout by Rufus May

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