What is Human Givens Therapy?
Updated: Aug 16
Human givens is a new approach to therapy that encompasses the latest understandings from neurobiology and psychology. Popularized by the 2004 book by Joe Griffin, Ivan Tyrrell, and Denise Winn, human givens offers a holistic, scientific framework for understanding how individuals and society work.
Just as humans have physical needs for water, food, and shelter, they are born with emotional needs that they must meet. According to human givens, there are nine main emotional needs ranging from the need for security, autonomy, status, and privacy, to feeling connected to others through friendship, attention exchange, and a sense of belonging. People also have an innate set of resources, an instinctive knowledge that drives them to meet these needs. Together, these needs and resources make up the human givens approach.
What to Expect Human givens is unlike other types of therapy, psychotherapists who use this approach offer practical help that deals with mental and emotional distress in the here and now. They are not interested in spending a great deal of time exploring the past and its influences on patients’ issues or going on long, complex voyages of self-discovery into the patients’ psyche. In a short number of sessions, they aim to give patients the coping skills to address the immediate issue.
When It’s Used When people’s resources are used properly, and the environment is healthy, their emotional needs are more or less satisfied. They are emotionally well, their lives have meaning, and they flourish. When some of these needs are not met—perhaps because of misused resources, a toxic environment, or inadequate or faulty knowledge—individuals may become distressed and can develop mental health problems that negatively impact their lives and relationships. The human givens approach can help people overcome a range of emotional and behavioral difficulties, including anxiety, depression, stress, OCD, self-harm, relationship issues, trauma, PTSD, phobias, addiction, pain, anger, workplace stress, eating disorders, bereavement, psychosis, stress, and more.
How It Works The human givens approach looks at the areas where a person’s life is, and is not, working well. The goal is to identify the missing emotional need or misused resources in patients’ lives. Humans givens psychotherapists work with adults, children, and organizations. This pragmatic and adaptable framework allows therapists to tailor brief, highly personalized interventions that integrate the most effective elements of therapeutic styles, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, reflective listening, mindfulness, and guided imagery, with education and solution-driven thinking. Patients can expect to receive education about their specific problem. The human givens psychotherapist will also help patients take on a healthier perspective, learn the skills necessary to resolve their difficulty and rehearse making changes in their lives. Most patients see significant progress in a short time due to the practical, problem-focused approach to human givens therapy.