Continuing her series of articles about hearing voices, Jane Fisher considers a therapeutic approach to hearing voices following brain injury.
Nearly 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom experience traumatic brain injury every year. One of the many possible symptoms of traumatic brain injury is hearing voices. Most of us have what we call an inner voice, which is often a manifestation of our conscience, but some people have an additional voice that their brain perceives inside their head. Hearing voices can have long-term effects that can be particularly difficult to cope with; however, with the support of loved ones and therapy, symptoms can become manageable and the individuals who hear voices and the voices themselves can learn to live together harmoniously.
The concentration of this therapy is to promote personal control over the experience of hearing voices with the use of easily accessible devices such as tape-recorders, iPods or MP3 players. In this particular study, the individuals were asked to record their own inner voices while listening to a wide range of external stimuli. The study concluded that absolute music was the most effective external stimuli because it lessened the frequency and severity of the voices to the greatest effect. This type of therapy is manageable and efficient because it can be self-controlled. Individuals who hear voices can bring their music with them anywhere they go to help reduce the severity and frequency of their symptoms.
While this therapy is still in its infancy stages as far as practice is concerned since it has only been conducted in trails, in time, it could have revolutionary results. Avatar therapy proposes to create a create a three-dimensional manifestation (or Avatar) out of the voice inside the individual’s head. This manifestation will then be projected on a screen and the individual can communicate with it in order to better understand and respond to it. The therapist will be a third-party guest or host of sorts, there to monitor the conversation and improve the relationship between the individual and the manifestation of their inner voice. The trial runs have yielded positive results, as there was reportedly a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms when tried over a twelve-week period.
One significant reason why this particular therapy could prove to be revolutionary is because the inner voice often presents itself as overbearing. There is an element of fear in the unknown in a voice that stands alone; however, this therapy proposes to put a body and a face to that fear and help to build a more positive relationship between the individual and the voice in their head. Hopefully, avatar therapy is just one of the many ways that we will be able to use technology in the near future to assist those who experience traumatic brain injury.