As human givens therapists, we know just how effective a therapy it is, but we are also aware that it is not well known! So we wanted to give you the low-down on how it came about, what the basis of the therapy is, and why it works so well. 


How Human Givens Therapy began

The Human Givens approach has grown organically since the 1990s. The approach was developed from research conducted by a group of psychologists and psychotherapists. Three leading figures from the start were Joe Griffin, Ivan Tyrrell and Pat Williams. The group wanted to bring greater clarity to work on mental health. They identified there were many excellent strategies across each of the different psychotherapy models. However, there was no one model that could individually tackle all of the issues presented by a client.  

By researching various approaches and focusing on what worked and why it worked, they created a combined theory. At the core of this combined approach was a fundamental basic understanding of what human beings need. Therapists need to employ the most effective elements of CBT, Behavioural Therapy, Psychoanalytical Therapy and NLP. Additionally, they considered recent scientific research in neuroscience about how the brain processes trauma and the reasons why we dream.

In 2001, the Human Givens Institute (HGI) was founded to act as the professional body for human givens therapists. In 2004, the Human Givens Foundation (HGF) was established as a registered charity. The foundation promotes continued research and education into human nature and mental health. It considers what is needed to treat and care for those suffering from mental illness. In 2010, the Human Givens College (HGC) was established providing a training program for therapists.


A useful resource 

The Human Givens website provides many useful resources for anyone looking for quality wellbeing information. It covers a range of mental health topics, in addition to forms of emotional distress and behavioural problems. The website also provides many free articles about how the Human Givens approach is being used. It also contains an online register of human givens therapists currently in private practice. In addition, it provides advice about what to look for when searching for an effective therapist or counsellor.


What is the Human Givens Approach?

The Human Givens Approach is an organised set of ideas. These provide a scientific and holistic framework for understanding human nature. This combination of the latest scientific research with ancient wisdoms and philosophies has established a modern model that works. 

Using this science-based approach, therapy sessions are structured to tackle only the issues that are causing the client problems. The approach focuses on solutions rather than the client discussing their entire history. Therapy is incredibly effective and results are achieved in far less time than many other types of treatments.

At the core of the approach is that all human beings have a set of needs. If these needs are appropriately met then the person will flourish. To achieve these needs, every person is born with an instinctive guide map alongside a set of innate resources. If all the needs are met well then it is not possible to become mentally ill. The innate resources and the physical and emotional needs are our “human givens”.

The Human Givens framework enables us to see where a person’s life is not working well. We can then tailor individual solutions using a combination of effective psychological interventions, education and direct practical support. The framework provides an overarching approach to ‘wellbeing’ providing what we all need to live fulfilled and satisfying lives. 


What are the innate Human Resources?

Our innate resources are those biological templates that naturally develop as we grow into adulthood. They include our abilities to learn from experience, plan, judge, imagine, relate, empathise, develop a moral sense, remember, etc. They are continuously evolving. If, however, they are not fully developed or become damaged we can suffer greatly. Ideally we will have the ability to: 

  • develop complex long-term memories which allows us to learn
  • be creative and focus our attention away from our problems
  • connect and empathise with others
  • analyse, consider and question what is happening 
  • have awareness of what is happening around us and our survival toolkit 
  • be objective and look at things rationally.
  • have an unconscious pattern matching process to understand the world around us
  • process emotions that we haven’t acted out (via dreaming)


What are the innate Human Needs?

We use our innate resources to meet our emotional needs. These needs are different from the four physical needs we have to survive which are air, food, water and sleep. The emotional needs that we require to be met well in healthy ways are to have:

  • an environment which allows us to feel safe
  • a sense of both giving and receiving attention, allowing us to feel seen and heard
  • the ability to make choices in our own life and have some control
  • a feeling or understanding that we derive meaning from the world around us
  • time and space to privately reflect and consider our thoughts and feelings 
  • a sense of belonging to the wider community
  • the sense that at least one person accepts us just as we are, warts and all
  • a feeling that we have status within a group
  • a sense of achievement in at least one area of our lives 


How mental health issues occur

It is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species. Without our physical needs being met we will die. Without our emotional needs being met we will survive but we won’t thrive. We need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. 

Ideally, we would use our basic resources, our human givens, to get our emotional needs met. However, mental health issues occur when our innate resources are not working properly resulting in our emotional needs not being met. 

This happens for three reasons: 

  1. Because we have damage to the innate guidance templates, caused by trauma, emotional or physical. 
  2. We have grown up in or are living in a toxic environment that is preventing the needs from being met or has instilled damaging learned behaviours or 
  3. We are misusing our imaginations, creating situations that the brain then learns as dangerous and creates faulty patterns from. 

States such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders or addiction develop because something is being misused or is missing in our life. Here are a few examples: 

  • A person who is grieving may drink alcohol to mask the pain. They may then withdraw from their life affecting their sense of community and status. This may result in depression. 
  • A child who is living in a controlling environment preventing them from being able to make decisions in their life may stop eating to regain an element of control. They may develop an unhealthy relationship with food as a means of retaining the control. 
  • A person whose imagination is misused may develop an increase in fears about safe situations. These fears may escalate into an anxiety disorder. 


How Human Givens Therapy works

As stated above, a Human Givens therapist will use a variety of tools and methods to help get to the root of your problem. Using a science-based approach alongside tried and tested therapeutic methods, provides a rounded framework to promote wellbeing. 

The therapist has been trained to understand humans and their needs and they will embrace a holistic approach. They are not reliant on one ‘model’ of therapy which creates a fluid and flexible approach. The focus is both individual and solution based with an approach that is right for you and what you need. By looking at the barriers that are stopping you from getting your emotional needs met, whether they are trauma patterns or environment, they can bring your life back into balance, The therapy provided is practical and will provide you with a toolkit of skills you can continue using long term, after the therapy has finished.

 This holistic process can assist with changing unhelpful thinking patterns, reframing and providing perspective on problems, help you rehearse changes you wish to make, ease emotional distress and build emotional resilience and skills such as communication and assertiveness. 

To find out more, or to book a free consultation, head over to our website for useful information and downloads or to simply get in touch. 

With warmest wishes, 

Russ and Tanya  


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