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Compassion for Voices: a tale of courage and hope

Compassion for Voices was created to engage non-academic audiences with the compassionate approach to relating voices, and for use as a therapeutic, educational and de-stigmatising tool.


Compassion for voices

Clinical psychologist Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland and animator Kate Anderson co-created a script that charts the therapeutic progression of a young man, Stuart, from being tormented by his voices, through establishing safeness, to developing the qualities needed to engage with his voices through compassionate dialogue. The team, which included a composer, a sound-effects specialist and people with lived experience of psychosis, used the script to make a film presenting an alternative way of relating to voices.

Historically, the primary aim of psychosis treatment has been to reduce or eliminate psychotic experiences using, for example, antipsychotic drugs. This has shaped the broader cultural view of these phenomena as being the undesirable symptoms of a disordered brain. The result has been the stigmatisation of people with such experiences, which is not only isolating and shaming for them, but can also drive them into an internal battle with their experiences, attempting to fight, control or suppress the voices. Compassion for Voices goes against the tide of therapeutic tradition and culturally engrained attitudes and offers a new approach.

The animation was chosen by the British Psychological Society to represent the work of clinical psychologists nationally and has received a special screening at the House of Commons. It has had more than 115,000 views on YouTube to date and is frequently used in therapy sessions and training workshops. The film has been translated into eight languages and is used for discussion in Hearing Voices groups across the globe. It was also featured in an award-winning TV documentary produced for the French-German channel ARTE.


 

You can hear Charlie and Kate discussing the project here:

 


Project feedback

I very much value the opportunities for visual research and script-development this project presented. It has greatly helped me to forge a more collaborative approach to script-development and film-making.
Kate Anderson, artistic lead

I have experienced both the value and the pleasure of creative collaboration. As I go forward in my academic career, I will continue to seek opportunities that encourage me to think outside the box, and to continue learning from others with wonderfully diverse skills and ideas in different sectors.
Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland, academic lead

It is wonderful to have found such a useful resource. I work with people who have these experiences and use a number of different methods to help them to dialogue between the voices, aiming for unity and not uniformity.
Mental healthcare practitioner

 

Read further project feedback the team has received  here.


Project team

Project leads:

Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland - a clinical psychologist, researcher and trainer, specialising in the science and application of Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). He is currently researching compassion in psychosis for an MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship award at King’s College London. He provides psychological therapies in NHS psychosis services, and in private practice. He also runs various compassion training workshops for practitioners and the general public. View Charlie’s researcher profile

Kate Anderson - an independent animation director. Following an MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art, Kate began her professional career with production company HSI London. Here she worked on a diverse array of animated shorts, music videos and commercials, gaining experience as both animator and director. Since 2010 she has been working independently, reaching out to new creative horizons with collaborators including documentary film makers, artists, and young people using music as a means to change their lives. For details of Kate’s past projects, visit her website.

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Other contributors:

Eleanor Longden - Eleanor has provided the voice of narrator for this film which was recorded by Nick Roberts at 5A Studios in London. Eleanor gave a very popular TED talk on her personal experiences with voices, with over 2.8 million views, which was one of the inspirations behind this film. Watch Eleanor’s TED talk

Rufus May - Rufus provided the voice of Stuart’s voices for this film, which was recorded by Alex Quinn. Rufus is an inspirational figure in the hearing voices world, probably best known for using his own experiences of being a psychiatric patient to promote alternative recovery approaches for people who hear voices. Visit Rufus’s website

Cicely Goulder - Cicely provided the musical composition for this film. Cicely is a London based composer/producer, she writes film-scores and is one half of electronic duo KALEIDA. Visit KALEIDA’s website.

Richard Keyworth - Richard provided the sound design and mix for this film. Richard is a multi-instrumentalist composer and sound designer for all manner of visual media. Visit Richard’s website.


Funders

Compassionate Mind Foundation
The Compassionate Mind Foundation is a UK charity that aims to promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion. The president of the Foundation, Paul Gilbert, is the founder of Compassion Focused Therapy, and the Foundation is the main organisation behind developing and teaching this approach to therapy. Visit their website.

Balanced Minds 
Balanced Minds is a London-based organisation, providing compassion-focused psychological services and resources. They offer therapy, supervision, and training workshops, with an approach grounded in the science of compassion. Visit their website

Medical Research Council 
The Medical Research Council (MRC) is a UK national organisation that aims to improve human health through funding research into all areas of medical and related science, including mental health research. The MRC are funding Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland’s 3-year research Fellowship on developing Compassion Focused Therapy for psychosis. Visit their website.


Compassion for Voices is a King’s College London project and was as part of the 2014  Collaborative Innovation Scheme for Early Career Researchers. It was led by  Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland, Department of Psychology, in collaboration with Kate Anderson, an independent animation director.

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