Towards a definition of “hearing voices”: A phenomenological approach
Despite an increasingly comprehensive research literature on hearing voices, few attempts have been made to define the phenomenon and fewer still have sought to do so based on voice?hearers' subjective accounts. This paper uses a qualitative approach to develop a definition of hearing voices based on the essential characteristics of the experience. Fifty voice?hearers from the general population participated in semi?structured interviews exploring their voice experiences. Thematic analysis revealed five essential characteristics: the content of the voices is personally meaningful, the voices have a characterised identity, the person has a relationship with their voices, the experience has a significant impact on the voice?hearer's life, and the experience has a compelling sense of reality. Implications for treatment interventions include the importance of acknowledging that voices are real, supporting the person to make meaning of who the voices are and what the voices say, and making connections between relationships with voices and relationships with significant others in the person's life.