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BOOK REVIEW: Life with Voices by Dmitriy Gutkovich

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To be even more precise, Life with Voices: A Guide for Harmony by Dmitriy Gutkovich is a complex and detail-oriented user manual for the Voice Hearing community and voice hearers. The review of this book comes from the vantage point of a voicer hearer, or more specifically, someone who once heard voices. I write from the perspective of the prosumer. I have a schizophrenia diagnosis. 

However, I do not hear voices anymore. As a part of my ‘medication management, I am prescribed an Intramuscular Injection (IM) monthly to ‘control’ my ‘symptoms.’ Since the IM injection, I have successfully controlled my ‘symptoms’ for ten years. One of my ‘symptoms’ is hearing voices. Voice hearers do not consider hearing voices a symptom of an illness. They would liken my framework for understanding, living, and coping with my symptoms to an extension of the medical model.

I am also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). When thinking about how to frame this review, I thought the reader should be aware of my own lived experience, the framework for managing my illness, and a professional role as a therapist, mental health researcher, and professor of family-oriented treatment (Family therapy). While I think of myself in my personal life as managing an illness, I fully support the Voice Hearers movement. 

I also fully support Dmitry’s book on a professional level. Dmitry’s book is a critical document supplementing the movement with its highly thought-out road conjectured blazon when it comes to the purpose and usefulness of Life with Voices!

Dmitriy’s book is not only complex, but it is also nuanced, thought-provoking (no pun intended), and at times, exhilarating as the reader discovers the usefulness and accessibility of this guide to hearing voices.

Life with Voices is six chapters. The first chapter serves as both an introduction and a preface. With this said, the author frames his approach for conceptualizing the writing of the book and his methodology for its layout for the benefit of the reader in terms of accessing its concepts and value. The following chapters ‘beliefs’, ‘conflict,’ ‘combat’ and ‘ecosystem’ are fundamentally the tools Dmitriy lays out to help Voice Hears with a road map in how to live with their voices in greater harmony as the author would say and in the subtitle of the book. The final chapter has several gestures and nods to the Voice Hearers’ Movement. The following steps forward, how Dmitriy envisions this book as a part of the grand tapestry and narrative making sense of a shattered and fragmented mental health community.

When I say this book is a manual, I mean it. Life with Voices is not a novel. It is a reference book. On the level of accessibility, this manual/guide has a few flaws that readers cannot overlook. Most academic textbooks that carry any worth are highly accessible. Within their pages are sections devoted to just that: accessing the text. Life with Voices leaves these reference sections conspicuously absent from the text. 

If there is a second edition of this book, I recommend that the author create a few sections in the back of the book for the reader to access the text more intuitively and with greater ease. For example, a key terms section with definitions, page numbers in which these terms are in the text, or perhaps an appendix with diagrams and visual representations of some more elaborate and complex terms/concepts.

I am also left concerned about the longevity of this work overtime. How can scholars follow up and build upon this work without a reference or employment cited section? There is a notation in the final chapter for academics tasking them to complete additional research. However, this is not an easy task without accessibility and the birth of the textual lexicon.

While the lack of research is undeniable, I have to wonder if some of the terms used throughout this work are original or if “some credit for this work does belong elsewhere,” as the author notes in the final chapter. While the author’s metaphors are undoubtedly his essential terms and concepts, I would hazard to say they must already exist within the Voice Hearers community. These are theories would also reinforce some of the author’s ideas. The author gestures to the text such as the ‘standardizations’ and uses language to elaborate. These are just some of the many metaphors used to make his work more understandable to the reader.

Life with Voices is rich and laden with metaphors. Metaphors are the primary mechanism for illuminating some of the author’s more complex concepts and unpacking them. While reading, I found myself admittedly lost in some of the more ornate and elaborate metaphors. However, after reading on further, I sometimes rediscovered my understanding of the author’s message later in the text as the metaphor(s) took another more familiar (perhaps) turn. 

In most cases, there is no question that I could relate to both the author’s metaphors and as a person who has heard voices in the past.

Voice hearers can benefit from struggling with fewer ‘internal contradictions’ as they learn to bring their ecosystem into greater harmony with the techniques offered in Dmitry’s guide.

In summary, there is an abundance of positive qualities to the book Life with Voices by Dmitry Gutkovich to highlight. 

The sheer unmistakable richness of the text and levels of magnitude are nuanced when unpacking vitally essential concepts when living with voices and establishing a more peaceable and cheerful voice ecosystem. This much is made more apparent with the author’s prose throughout the work, and I commend the author for taking on such a challenging subject matter and breaking it down as sufficiently as he did in Life with Voices. 

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice in New York City. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist, and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a ‘2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10’ award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes about his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

‘I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery,’ Guttman says. ‘After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my ‘break,’ I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others.’

‘In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity, and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and Recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients.’

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