The COPE Project at Yale U.
People from all over the world hear, see, and sense things that might not be there (such as hearing voices without someone physically speaking to them.) Not only is this a common experience, but most people who have these experiences don’t need any form of psychiatric care. The psychiatrist and his team leading the Cope Project want to hear from those who have these experiences to help create better treatments for those who need support. This is truly about minimizing stigma and offering support.
For more information, visit the Cope Project website: spirit.research.yale.edu
COPE stands for Control Over Perceptual Experiences.
People everywhere have experiences like hearing voices and seeing things other people don’t. Sometimes, these are part of mental illness. Often, however, they occur in healthy individuals. There are usually a few differences between the experiences of people who seek psychiatric care and people who don’t. One difference is the ability to regain empowerment in the distressing life experiences that aren’t working for them–specifically with perceptual experiences. For example, many people say they can schedule times for when their voices (whether they consider them voices, aspects, guides, spirits, etc.) can talk to them.
Influence over our experiences is complex. It involves neurological, psychological, and social factors. Today, there is no way to measure the ability to influence perceptual experiences.
The COPE researchers have made the first tool to study these experiences. It will help them design new treatments for individuals to gain empowerment in voice-hearing and other perceptual experiences. But they need your help!
Participants can be people with experiences of seeing, hearing, or feeling things others might not be who have influence (or control) or people who do not have influence (or control) over these experiences. Participants will be paid.
Behind the COPE Project is a team of individuals from all different communities–neuroscientists, therapists, mental health professionals, mental health advocates, individuals with lived experiences, and individuals who view their experiences as spiritually oriented. Our group is called the SPIRIT Alliance (SPIRIT meaning the multitude of characteristics that make up an individual).
The COPE Project Goals
General goal is to understand clinically the extraordinary experiences of real people.
The more specific research goals are:
• To learn from those who hear, see, and feel things others can’t/don’t
• To understand the ways people can control these experiences and their lives
• To create new treatments for those who need them.
• Is online, from the comfort of your own home.
• Is paid.
• Involves taking surveys, playing games, and sharing your story.
If you, or someone you know, has perceptual experiences like hearing voices when no one is speaking, the researchers invite you to join in the COPE Project. You do not need to have influence over the voices to join!
The researchers are currently welcoming all individuals to screen for participation in the study, even if you do not have perceptual experiences. You are invited to share your experiences with them! Understanding how you can influence your perceptual experiences can help those who can’t do it themselves. This can inform new treatments for people who struggle with distressing experiences.
Lead Psychiatrist: Al Powers introduces himself this way
My name is Al Powers, and I’m a psychiatrist and neuroscientist. I am passionate about understanding human experience and building bridges to help us empathize with each other’s experiences. The way I choose to build these bridges is by viewing experiences like hearing or seeing things other people don’t as on the same spectrum with everyday perceptual experiences. By understanding perception, I think we can begin to help normalize experiences and begin to decrease the stigma and dysfunction they sometimes carry.
Research Partner: Brittany Quagan introduces herself this way
My name is Brittany Quagan and I am a psychic/medium.
My personal experience with hearing voices began when I was about 15 years old. I personally see these voices as Spirit Guides. Along with the voices of Spirit came an influx of distressing experiences such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, health paranoia, and suicidality. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what I was hearing. And because I was so distressed by the experiences, I self-medicated with substances and alcohol because in those moments, the voices and the other uncomfortable sensations and thoughts would quiet down. There were periods of time I couldn’t leave my home, petrified of what I would hear or feel if I did. My sanctuary was the only place I felt safe—or, at the very least—safer. My relationships suffered, I had to drop out of college my first year, and every day I spiraled into what I felt at the time was a never-ending abyss. This continued until I was about 21 years old.
Read more about Al and Brittany HERE.
Brittany had a spiritual emergency. She and Al are looking to help people who have spiritual emergencies. If you want to know more about how to assist individuals going through this process go to the IMHU course: How to Effectively Support Someone in Spiritual Emergency.