An app to help people cope with ‘hearing voices’

Reframing Studio is currently involved in a design project for Parnassia Groep to help people recover from psychosis. Temstem is one of the three outcomes of this project: a smart phone application for people who hear voices and are obstructed by them in their daily activities. The design is the result of a close collaboration between designers, psychotherapists, and people who suffer from psychosis. 

"It is going well, he makes jokes en arrives happily at meeting. Downloaded temstem app in I-Phone and the exercises seem to have seriously diminished the voices. He is happy with that. Coach noted that he is willing to go outside and is less introvert. The fears are a great deal less prominent."
actual Psychiatrist report

Imagine, that you are constantly followed by a bully with a loud voice. The voice repeatedly tells you that you are a bad person, that you are worthless, and that nobody loves you. How would you feel if you were constantly threatened, that you have to obey, or else something terrible will happen to your family. Imagine being laughed or ridiculed in everything you try or do…


People who hear voices can have this experience every day, some people almost continuously. For others, these voices sound like familiar people who neglected them, or physically or sexually abused them. People who seriously suffer from hearing voices often withdraw out of fear or confusion. This happens gradually, but may eventually result in losing contact with friends and family, employment problems, and increasing isolation from society.

Temstem is an iPhone-application developed to counteract this detrimental vicious circle. Temstem enables people to keep participating in common daily activities and offers exercises that encourage them to actively grow stronger in their relationship to the voices.

a tool, built from games

Temstem is foremost a tool for people to distract themselves from the voices they hear, and to actively exercise and strengthen themselves in relation to these voices. However, Temstem makes use of two games for this: taaltikker & woordlink. Taaltikker offers a set of words during a predefined time, within which the user has to tap the number of syllabi. The aim is to correctly tap the number of syllabi of as many words as possible, and to repeatedly improve your high score. Woordlink offers two sets of words, and the user is prompted to form correct combinations: two words that form a correct word by linking them. Each level contains a predefined set of combinations and the aim is to find all of these in the least amount of time possible.

three working principles

Temstem is based on three working principles:

1. Activation of the language-producing region of the brain

2. Working memory tasking

3. Boosting confidence

1. By playing a word game, one activates the language production areas in the brain. This same area becomes active when ‘hearing voices’. Playing the game thereby overrules hearing voices, offering a way to distract oneself from the voices.

2. Actively recalling a moment the voices were imposingly present, while using your working memory for a different task at the same time (playing a game), causes an overload: the working memory has difficulties in performing this dual task. The working memory is not capable of keeping the memory intact, which means that the memory becomes less vivid and causes less emotional distress.

3. From level 3 onwards, the user is guided to actively strengthen him- or herself in relation to the voices. The user is asked what impact the voices cause and to what misconception of oneself this leads. Temstem subsequently elicits contrasting feelings by developing personal rewards. For instance, some users feel worthless due to the voices, while others feel in danger. Using Temstem counters these feelings to activate feelings of worthiness and safety respectively.

Temstem is the winner of the Rotterdam Designprijs 2013.
Posterprijs categorie Zorginnovatie: 'Herstel van psychose door desígn’ Uit het juryrapport: 'De eerste prijs ging naar "Herstel van psychose door design’, gepresenteerd door David van den Berg en tot stand gekomen door een samenwerking tussen Parnassia, TU Delft, Reframing Studio. Studenten Industrieel Ontwerpen draaiden een dag mee in het leven van mensen met psychose en kregen de opdracht een product te ontwerpen dat herstel van psychose en sociale inclusie zou bevorderen. Het eerste product dat hier uit voortgekomen is temstem, een gratis app voor mensen die stemmen horen. Dit hulpmiddel biedt taalspelletjes aan die het werkgeheugen van de stemmenhoorders dusdanig belasten dat dit intrusieve stemmen verdrijft of vermindert. De app is nu beschikbaar voor de iPhone/iPad en Android toestellen.’ Nadere informatie Kenniscentrum Phrenos Tel. 030 – 2931626 / 2971195 kcp@kcphrenos.nl / www.kcphrenos.nl
Health and Science
Project kick-off: 
November 2012
Project delivered: 
November 2013
Media design
Project size: 
Project developers: 
Beatrijs Voorneman
Erik Kieskamp
Femke de Boer
Gijs Ockeloen
Nynke Tromp

The temstem app is available in the App Store and Play Store

Health and science
Media design
© Reframing Studio