Presentation at the Oxford Migration Studies Society

In February, one of our development workers presented at the Oxford Migration Studies Society about the work that Voices Unlocked does in Immigration Removal Centres. The talk gave an introduction to ‘Hearing Voices’, presenting the Hearing Voices Approach and explaining how it differs from the mainstream bio-medical approach. It then moved on to discuss Hearing Voices in spaces of detention, and Immigration Removal Centres more specifically.


In the Q&A/discussion, students expressed their curiosity about the effects of detention on mental wellbeing. They explained that because they had mainly learned about detention from more abstract political and sociological perspectives, they hadn’t thought so much about the pressures and stresses that individuals in detention are likely to experience. They reflected on how the high levels of uncertainty in Immigration Removal Centres – where, unlike prison, there is no limit to the duration of detention, or known outcome of detention – must be unbearable to live with.

We also had an interesting discussion about ‘intersectionality’ – the overlapping effects of the different categories by which a person is defined. We talked about the intersection of citizenship status (citizen vs non-citizen), race, gender, and mental health status. 

We look forward to future discussions with OMSS!


Facilitation course held for service-users at Shaftesbury Clinic, Springfield University Hospital

10 forensic service users have just finished our 3-day group facilitation course. One attendee had been an inpatient but is now living independently, returning to the ward employed as a peer worker. Three are living in a step-down rehabilitation service and the other attendees are inpatients of three different medium secure wards.

Material covered included language used to discuss experiences, ‘normal’ vs ‘not-normal’ beliefs, different understandings of why people hear voices, voices as messengers, the differences between a peer group and a clinical group, recovery journeys and the Eleanor Longden YouTube video. We also did facilitation skills looking at the role of a facilitator, safety within a group, opening up vs closing down conversations, debriefs and coping strategies.

We had a chance to problem-solve some issues with their current Hearing Voices Group and discussed how they want to use the training in the future. All who completed the training want to go on to co-facilitate their group.

After such a successful result, we plan to roll out group facilitation training for service-users to other organisations next year  🙂

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more!


New group launches at HMP Huntercombe

In December we wrote about the workshops for prisoners at HMP Huntercombe, a foreign national prison in Oxfordshire. They now have launched their men’s weekly Hearing Voices Group and we’ve heard it’s going well.

Since the launch, we’ve had a member of their staff on our one-day Hearing Voices Awareness training. Hopefully, we’ll be able to train more of their staff in group facilitation in the near future.

We shall stay in contact with Huntercombe, providing support for the group’s ongoing development. 

Voices Unlocked’s Hearing Voices Group Facilitation Training fills up within a week!

We have just announced our summer Voices Unlocked 3-day Group Facilitation Training and are already full to capacity! We no longer have to do much advertising for the courses, tickets were available for just over a week before we became fully booked.

Held over the 30th, 31st May & 6th June 2018, the training is open to people across the country who would like to develop Hearing Voices Groups in secure settings (we hold separate training for people setting up women-only groups).

Topics covered include:

  • Exploring diverse experiences & understandings of voices, visions & ‘psychosis’ in secure forensic settings
  • Coping strategies and pathways to recovery
  • Exploring power & empowerment within secure settings
  • Practical group facilitation skills, including dealing with difficult situations/problem solving

The course is free for those committed to facilitating a men’s/mixed Hearing Voices Group within a prison, IRC, medium or high secure unit.

Please email Jessica Pons if you would like to be made aware of the next facilitation course.

Workshops completed, we pass the facilitator baton to staff at HMP Huntercombe!

For the past 3 months, we’ve put on three 2-hour workshops at Huntercombe Foreign National Prison.

Staff attended facilitator training earlier this year. The next stage of getting a group launched was to give men who were interested in attending a Hearing Voices Group an introduction to the ethos and theory.

For our first workshop, we’d prepared to talk about different models of why people hear voices. Whilst this was covered, the workshop organically morphed into a group, the men supported each other when sharing their experience of seeing, hearing or sensing things others don’t.

The following two workshops continued in this vein of having a mixture of theory at the beginning (including coping strategies the men already used, what recovery might mean for them) AND then ending with a hearing voices peer support group.

We now hand the baton over to staff at Huntercombe. We’ll be at the end of a phone or computer to continue our support, we have confidence in you and the men. Good luck!

Legal Aid Peer Support Training


We’re offering free Peer Support training to legal professionals working with traumatised clients in legal aid on 18th January 2018.

In this one-day training, we will look at how the distress of detainees can affect staff and volunteers, and we’ll explore some coping strategies on how to manage our own reactions and emotions. We will also put in place the core principles of peer support so that as staff or supporters we are better able to support ourselves and others

For more information and to apply for a place, please register your interest or email Bonny Astor

1-Day Hearing Voices Awareness Training for people working in Immigration Removal Centres

We’re offering free Hearing Voices Awareness training to people working in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs). Training will be on 11th January at a central London location.

This one-day awareness training will specifically develop skills enabling people to work in a one-to-one capacity with people detained in IRCs who hear voices.

To register your interest or to find out more information, please go to our Eventbrite page or email Bonny Astor.

We’ve just come to the end of 2 group facilitation training courses!!

October has been a busy month for us here in the Voices Unlocked Team. We’ve held both our Women’s group 3-day facilitation training AND our Mixed Gender group facilitation 3-day training all in the second half of the month!

Here’s a photograph of an exercise we did in our Mixed Gender training attended by staff working in prisons, secure units and immigration removal centres.  It’s a list of coping strategies the training group had used when they’d overcome difficulties. We then talked about how these techniques could also be beneficial to voice-hearers.

pic of flipchart what helps us when we're stuck

Staff attended from prisons including HMP’s Bullingdon, Downview and Bullingdon, Eastwood, Wormwood Scrubs, Bronzefield, Pentonville, Isis and Winchester. We had a range of staff from the secure units Hellingly Centre, Trevor Gibbens Unit, Bracton Centre and Brockfield House. From Immigration Removal Centres we had staff from Gatwick and Brook & Tinsley House.

Bringing together people working in different types of secure settings and with different goals for the training  – e.g. setting up brand new groups, relaunching groups, becoming facilitators for groups already up and running  – enabled networking opportunities and a broad sharing of experience alongside learning how to facilitate hearing voices groups.

We shall follow up with all who attended and shall work with people closely in a range of ways to develop and sustain groups. Watch this space!



Do you support women in detention? – help us by filling in our survey

We are looking for feedback from people who work with women who have been detained in prisons, secure units or immigration removal centres.
Please help us understand how we can best support you through training and workshops by filling out this survey and letting us know what your women need.
You can either submit your responses anonymously, or you can include your personal details at the end. Please email Eve Mundy if you’d like to be added to our mailing list.



1-day training for people who support ex-offenders in the community

We’re offering free Hearing Voices Awareness training to ex-offenders and ex-offender organisations. Training will be on 8th November at a central London location.

This one-day awareness training will specifically develop skills enabling people to work in a one-to-one capacity with ex-offenders who hear voices.

To register your interest or to find out more information, please go to our Eventbrite page or email Jessica Pons. Please get in touch if you’re interested in attending!