North Coast LHD 

Lead agency

Northern NSW Local Health District - Byron Sub-Acute Mental Health Inpatient Unit


  • Right type of care 

Program Overview

Providing the right support for people who experience auditory hallucinations or perceptual disturbance (hearing voices) is important. By providing the most suitable supports, people who are affected by hearing voices are able to better navigate their experience and develop positive coping strategies to reduce the impact this experience has on their mental health and wellbeing. To help improve the support for these people, Byron Sub-Acute Mental Health Inpatient Unit has introduced a regular, peer-led Hearing Voices Group. The work of the group is based on international best practice models1. The groups help people navigate their experience and discuss it in a supportive peer environment with other people who have had a similar lived experience. The program has been highly successful and helps promote community resilience and wellbeing. Recently the program received a ‘Big Ideas’ funding grant to further train clinicians and peer workers to run Hearing Voices Groups across Northern NSW LHDs.


While hearing voices is a common experience, it can be a very distressing experience for many people. The experience of hearing voices can often be traced back to experiences of early trauma2 and can often lead to social isolation, anxiety and poor mental health. In the past, people who hear voices have been treated with medication, however, many of these medications come with side effects, fail to address underlying causes and provide minimal relief. 

A lot of research has been done in this area to try and find alternate solutions to medication, most of the research has been led by people who have either, their own lived experience or experience supporting someone who hears voices. The large amount of work done in this space has led to strong evidence that focuses on therapeutic approaches, that help people understand their experience, navigate and address possible underlying causes1. 


To improve the experience for people who hear voices, Byron Sub-Acute Mental Health Inpatient Unit has led the development of a local Hearing Voices Group, which aims to help people understand and live with this experience. The Hearing Voices Group is peer led and is supported by the mental health team. The group uses evidence-based approaches, in this case, the Maastricht guide people through this experience. The Maastricht Approach was developed through the international hearing voices movement which includes people with lived experience, psychologists and other clinicians who collaborated in the research and development of the program.

Next steps

The Hearing Voices Group in Byron has been well received and highly successful, with the program now receiving additional funding through the ‘Big Ideas’ grants. This will support training and support for more clinicians and peer workers to be trained in this approach across Northern NSW LHD. Invitations have been sent out to mental health clinicians across the Northern NSW LHD to support further roll out of the program across other services across the region




  1. Corstens, D., Escher, S. and Romme, M., 2008. Accepting and working with voices: The Maastricht approach. Psychosis, trauma and dissociation, p.32.
  2. Watkins, J., Romme, M. and Escher, S., 2003. Hearing voices: A common human experience. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 57(2), pp.157-159.
  3. Corstens, D., Escher, S. and Romme, M. (2008). Accepting and Working with Voices: The Maastricht Approach. In: A. Moskowitz, I. Schäfer and M. Dorahy, ed., Psychosis, trauma and dissociation: Emerging perspectives on severe psychopathology. Wiley-Blackwell., pp.319–332.