‘I didn't know other people existed who hear voices…’ – qualitative perceptions of a hearing voices group for people with learning disabilities

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Group work for people who experience voice hearing in the mainstream population has been shown to have various benefits; however, there is little research describing hearing voices groups for people with learning disabilities. This study describes perceptions of a new hearing voices group for people with mild learning disabilities. Semi-structured interviews with twelve participants were conducted. This included three clients who attended the hearing voices group, three of their family members/carers and one professional. In addition, of those who were referred to the group but chose not to attend, one client, two family members/carers and two professionals were interviewed. Interview data were transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis was used to identify three overarching themes; the first ‘benefits of our hearing voices group’ described participants' evaluations and perceptions of the hearing voices group. The second ‘making the decision to attend’ covers factors that influence clients when deciding whether or not to attend a hearing voices group. In the final theme ‘positive and negative contributors to the voice-hearing experience’, participants reflected on factors that affect the voice-hearing experience. The hearing voices group was valued by participants; however, services should consider the barriers to attendance faced by some clients. Strategies for addressing these are discussed.

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