Interdisciplinary approaches to the phenomenology of auditory verbal hallucinations

Schizophrenia Bulletin 40:S246-S254 (2014)
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Despite the recent proliferation of scientific, clinical, and narrative accounts of auditory verbal hallucinations, the phenomenology of voice hearing remains opaque and undertheorized. In this article, we outline an interdisciplinary approach to understanding hallucinatory experiences which seeks to demonstrate the value of the humanities and social sciences to advancing knowledge in clinical research and practice. We argue that an interdisciplinary approach to the phenomenology of AVH utilizes rigorous and context-appropriate methodologies to analyze a wider range of first-person accounts of AVH at 3 contextual levels: cultural, social, and historical; experiential; and biographical. We go on to show that there are significant potential benefits for voice hearers, clinicians, and researchers. These include informing the development and refinement of subtypes of hallucinations within and across diagnostic categories; “front-loading” research in cognitive neuroscience; and suggesting new possibilities for therapeutic intervention. In conclusion, we argue that an interdisciplinary approach to the phenomenology of AVH can nourish the ethical core of scientific enquiry by challenging its interpretive paradigms, and offer voice hearers richer, potentially more empowering ways to make sense of their experiences.
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