By Will Hall and Kate Hill
March 16, 2021
We are writing to formally and publicly declare the withdrawal of our support for John Herold as a facilitator, trainer, speaker or leader of any kind in the Hearing Voices Movement. We request that John step down from this role, including his involvement in Puget Sound Hearing Voices and Pacific Rim Hearing Voices, for the safety of the network, of his groups and of the individuals involved. We also ask the Hearing Voices Movement, Hearing Voices Network USA, INTERVOICE, and all organizations and groups to end any listings and referrals and end any financial, logistical, promotional, or other support for Herold in these roles.
Both of us (Will and Kate) are longtime facilitators, teachers, and advocates in the Hearing Voices Movement with experience across the US and internationally. Will has been a Board member of Intervoice – the world Hearing Voices Movement organization; was a co-founder of the Hearing Voices Network USA; is founder and Assistant Director of Portland Hearing Voices; and was co-founder of Freedom Center, which sponsored one of the US’s first Hearing Voices Groups. Kate was a Board member of the Hearing Voices Network USA; is Director of Portland Hearing Voices; and is a longtime facilitator and trainer in the Hearing Voices Movement.
We did not come to this opinion lightly, but as a last resort. We have attempted to resolve this privately. We looked into accounts by multiple male and female participants in Hearing Voices Groups with experience with Herold; we have personally observed Herold’s conduct; Will met with Herold at length; and Will met with faculty at the Process Work Institute where Herold studied. In our opinion, Herold’s behavior violates the principles of safe and trauma informed spaces crucial for Hearing Voices Groups. Both of us are former colleagues of Herold’s and have no reason to feel any animosity towards him. Our involvement with the Hearing Voices Movement means we share a sense of responsibility and a desire to protect others from what we consider to be risk of harm. We also aim to establish a precedent of proactive action that helps promote safe groups for all.
The Hearing Voices Movement and groups are peer-run spaces of mutual support intended to maximize safety for all. We hold all facilitators and trainers in the Hearing Voices Movement to the same standards: Hearing Voices Groups are not social clubs or bars; they are not to be treated as arenas of sexual pursuit. Being a Hearing Voices Group facilitator carries a higher burden of responsibility for caring, respectful, ethical conduct towards group members. People joining a Hearing Voices Group are often vulnerable and taking a personal risk of trust to meet a caring community. They have a reasonable expectation that the facilitator will follow fundamental ethical considerations.
Hearing Voices groups are also spaces for nonjudgmental listening and for welcoming of diverse viewpoints equally: facilitators should not advance their personal agenda by using Hearing Voices Groups to promote and teach a preferred psychological theory or method over others.
Under US law people who are trying to speak openly about unethical behavior face legal threats, retaliation, and silencing. Currently anyone can be sued and suffer huge financial costs to defend themselves – even if the suit is unjustified and they ultimately win the lawsuit. Defamation and libel are defined as making false statements, but true statements can still be impossible to make when you risk getting sued and losing a lot of money. When we contacted Herold about this statement, we received a threat of legal action.
We believe Herold has received repeated feedback about his conduct, and we have not seen him respond in a way we would expect from any facilitator and teacher in the Hearing Voices Movement. We would expect a sincere apology for harm done, and a willing distancing of leadership activities until proportionately appropriate restorations have been made. We are concerned that by creating an independent Hearing Voices network operating on his own, Herold has opened the door to allow greater impunity and avoidance of accountability for actions.
Again, we have not seen anything that indicates to us this pattern will change.
This is not an attempt to permanently “cancel” John Herold. It is within our values and the values of the HVN that there is always a path forward, for anyone. Given our view of Herold, we believe this pathway is very long and hard – and it is up to Herold. At the very least regaining trust would involve removing legal threats that can silence truth; making amends to people; a public accountability process; public testimony of change; and a track record of supervised small steps forward proving changes. Only when the entire community can see clear and concrete actions indicating change could we consider a return to our trust and to working with the Hearing Voices Movement. Yes that door is open, but it will take proof to step through. (We will update this blog post with any developments).
We encourage both the Process Work Institute and the Hearing Voices Movement to strengthen their processes for resolving ethical violations. Herold told Will he was required by the Process Work Institute to end work as a private counselor, which feels like a proper response to the ethical violations he described. He also told us he was asked to put a distance between himself and the Process Work Institute – but that meant him focusing his career instead in the Hearing Voices Movement as a facilitator. We believe that the risks involved should have been foreseeable to the Process Work Institute given the similarity of the roles.
(When contacted about this, the Process Work Institute was receptive to our concerns, and replied “This is really important feedback for our processes and we will certainly take it on board…. We will use this information to guide our ongoing work to support safe professional facilitation practice from all our students and graduates… We are committed to doing all we can to ensure ethical practice within the scope of our responsibility and duties.”)
We also all need to find ways to deal with the fear of legal action, where speaking the truth is met with the threat of financial harm which, for many people, can lead to poverty and all of its associated health problems.
We also regret that we (Will and Kate) did not take action sooner. All of us should try to notice signs of problems earlier. We apologize to the community for not acting when it might have made a difference. We hope that by speaking out now, others can be encouraged in this and similar situations. We all need to take action, speak up, and have more courage and decisiveness to deal with any problems with anyone as soon as they emerge, at the very earliest indications of trouble, even (or especially) when the misconduct is by someone seen as a leader in their community.
We appreciate the terrible dilemma between on the one side sitting in complicit silence and on the other side overreacting in vilification and scapegoating of a person. We realize that this statement doesn’t tell the whole story, and this is frustrating for everyone trying to get to the bottom of things. We absolutely do not want consequences for anyone that are disproportionate to the degree of the problem. At the same time, having examined this situation, and in light of multiple opportunities for change we feel were ignored, we are compelled to take this action and speak publicly.
We believe we are striking a fair balance between both protecting the interests of the Hearing Voices community and protecting the interests of anyone to be free of unfair accusation or excessive punishment. We feel we are taking a risk of retaliation by speaking up. We are doing the best we can. We also believe we are striking a balance between our personal duty to respond and the energy and time commitment asked of this situation: we are volunteers, not paid human resources professionals. Our concern for our community members led to our response.
We are saddened that it has come to this.
We certainly welcome any feedback or discussion. Again any update to this situation we will publish here. Will can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and +1 (413) 210-2803, and Kate can be reached at email@example.com. Also please contact us if you would like your name added to the supporter signatures.
Will Hall, Portland Hearing Voices, Founding Member HVN-USA
Kate Hill, Portland Hearing Voices
Sera Davidow, Founding Member Hearing Voices Network USA, Wildflower Alliance
Caroline Mazel-Carlton, HVN-USA Board of Directors, Wildflower Alliance Director of Training
Rachel Flanigan, Mountain Hearing Voices co-founder
Jeannie Bass, Hearing Voices Network USA Board of Directors
Dmitriy Gutkovich, Hearing Voices Network USA Board of Directors
Derek Pyle, Group Facilitator, HVN-USA
Dina Tyler, Bay Area Mandala Project, co-founder, Bay Area Hearing Voices