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Durham Research Online
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“Figuring out how to be normal”: Exploring how young people and parents make sense of voice‐hearing in the family context

Mayer, Claire and Dodgson, Guy and Woods, Angela and Alderson‐Day, Ben (2022) '“Figuring out how to be normal”: Exploring how young people and parents make sense of voice‐hearing in the family context.', Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 95 (2). pp. 600-614.


Objectives Making sense of voice-hearing—exploring the purpose, cause, and relationship with voices—is seen as therapeutically valuable for adults, but there is a paucity of research with adolescents. Family intervention is recommended for young people, yet little is known about families’ perspectives on, or role in, a child's voice-hearing. This study therefore aimed to explore how both young people and parents had made sense of voice-hearing in the family context. Method Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven young people who hear voices (six females, one male, age M = 17 years) and six parents of young people who hear voices (five females, one male). Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results The young people struggled to reconcile their voice-hearing experiences within themselves, wanted control, ‘normality’, and not to let their mental health hold them back. Parents saw the voices as separate to their child, who they were protective of, and came to an acceptance and hope for the future amidst continued uncertainty. Pragmatism, and shame, ran through parents’ and young people's accounts. Tensions between them, such as autonomy versus involvement, were also apparent. Conclusions Few participants had made sense of their experiences in any concrete form, yet hope, control, and getting on with their lives were not conditional on having done so. Young people valued the family as a safe, non-enquiring space to be ‘normal’ and not to talk about their experiences. While all had been challenged by their experiences, an energy and strength ran through their accounts.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:04 January 2022
Date deposited:09 March 2022
Date of first online publication:20 January 2022
Date first made open access:09 March 2022

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