Human givens therapy
The human givens approach to psychotherapy is based on the premise that humans have a set of innate needs (or 'givens') and if these needs are not met, psychological distress can follow. Practitioners believe that these needs have been refined over thousands of years and that we have in-built resources to help us fulfil these needs.
When these resources fail to work and one or more of our needs aren't fulfilled, we may then suffer psychologically. By helping individuals establish which of these needs aren't being met, practitioners of human givens therapy can go on to strategise ways to fulfil these needs.
The ideas behind this approach have been simmering within psychotherapy for centuries, however this adaption into a type of therapy was introduced in 2003 by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell. On this page we will look at what the human givens are, how human givens therapy works and the associated theory of dreaming.
What are the human givens?
When we talk about 'human givens' we are talking about the innate needs a human requires for physical and mental well-being. According to practitioners of human givens therapy, there is a set of human givens that need to be fulfilled in order to be mentally healthy. It is thought that this knowledge of what we need has been programmed into us via our genes, and our requirements have evolved and adapted according to modern life.
There are two sets of human givens: physical and emotional.
Given physical needs
Our physical needs are relatively simple - as humans we need air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, sufficient sleep and shelter from the elements. Without these, we would not survive for long. In addition to these essential needs, other physical requirements include the need to exercise our muscles and stimulate our senses. We also instinctively seek out a home where we can grow, reproduce and raise our young. This may all sound very primal, but these are the desires and needs we've inherited from early man.
Given emotional needs
Our emotional givens are somewhat more complicated and have adapted as we have evolved. At the root of these givens is a desire to connect with the outside world and seek fulfilment. When these desires aren't met we can suffer emotional distress in various forms, leading to mental illness.
The emotional needs outlined within human givens therapy are as follows:
- Security - A need to find safe territory and an environment in which we can develop fully.
- Attention - A need to both give and receive attention.
- Sense of autonomy and control - Being able to make choices and having a sense of responsibility.
- Emotional intimacy - Knowing that at least one person accepts you in your entirety.
- Feeling part of a community - Knowing you are part of something bigger.
- Privacy - Having the opportunity to reflect and consolidate experiences.
- Sense of status within social groupings - Knowing you are valued within a social setting.
- Sense of competence and achievement - Knowing you are competent and successful at something.
- Meaning and purpose - A feeling that comes from being stretched in what we do and what we think.
Both sets of needs can have an effect on one another, so all need to be considered within human givens therapy. As well as these givens, practitioners of the therapy believe that we have guidance systems within ourselves that help us to fulfil these needs - these are called our resources.
These resources include:
- The ability to develop long-term memories, allowing us to add to our knowledge and learn new things.
- The ability to connect with others by building rapport and empathising.
- The ability to imagine - helping us to take our attention away from our emotions and problem solve in a creative way.
- The ability to think rationally, analyse and plan.
- The ability to be objective.
- The ability to dream, metaphorically defusing un-acted upon expectations.
When these resources do not work correctly, this in turn leads to the un-fulfilment of human givens, which can cause emotional distress. Human givens therapy looks to establish whether or not there is a problem with the resources and if so, how to rectify this.
How human givens therapy works
The human givens approach is focused on the present and looks at practical solutions to emotional distress. Through discussion and various techniques used by the therapist, the therapy aims to establish which need(s) are not being met, why they are not being met and how this can be changed.
The therapist will tailor solutions for each individual based on their personal experiences and concerns. While the therapy is considered relatively new, it is thought to be helpful for a range of different issues including anxiety, depression, anger management, addiction and relationship difficulties.
The expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming
The purpose of our dreams is a hotly debated topic within the psychiatry world, and as part of the human givens approach, Joe Griffin has outlined a theory. This theory - known as the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming - suggests that the purpose of our dreams is to allow us to 'act out' unfulfilled emotional expectations.
What this means is that as animals we become emotionally aroused regularly, but in many cases it would be inappropriate to act on it - an example of this would be if we were incredibly angry with someone, but were unable to express this. The theory of dreaming suggests that our dreams are metaphorical representations of these unfulfilled urges. There are three key points within the theory:
- Dreams are metaphorical translations of expectations we have when we are awake.
- Any expectations caused by emotional arousal that are not acted upon become dreams during sleep.
- Dreaming works to deactivate the emotional arousal by completing the expectation pattern metaphorically.
Within human givens therapy, your therapist may ask you about your dreams as the metaphors often have therapeutic value. Through your dreams, your therapist may be able to help you understand what is emotionally troubling you in more detail.
If you want to find out more about human givens therapy, we would recommend speaking to a counsellor or therapist offering this approach to see if it could help you.