New research indicates that voice-hearers are at risk of epistemic injustice, are dismissed as unreliable sources of knowledge, and lack societal frameworks to understand their experiences meaningfully. The study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, explores how voice-hearers inside and outside the mental health system experience epistemic injustice.
The qualitative study results revealed that those who hear voices are highly stigmatized, lack a meaningful societal structure to make sense of their voice-hearing outside of the medical model, and are viewed as uncredible sources of knowledge. Despite this, access to spaces or “safe harbors” where voice-hearers experiences were validated and normalized was found to protect against the adverse effects of epistemic injustice.
The researchers, led by Pamela Jacobsen of the University of Bath, write:
“Research has highlighted the particular difficulties voice-hearers can have making sense of their experiences and integrating these into their self-understanding. Voice-hearers in receipt of mental health care, or ‘clinical’ voice-hearers, have reported having to explain their voices by adopting concepts that they may not feel entirely represent their experience, such as medicalized approaches, and being disempowered in conversation with professionals, causing distress and reinforcing self-perceptions of being ‘not normal.’”