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History of the HG approach

The set of principles incorporated in the human givens approach grew out of the work of a group of psychologists and psychotherapists who were trying to bring greater clarity to the way people who become depressed, anxious, traumatised or addicted are helped, as well as making such help more reliably and consistently effective.

In 1992 they formed the European Therapy Studies Institute (ETSI), with the aim of discovering why some psychotherapy approaches appeared to work and others didn't. ETSI quickly gained several hundred members from a wide variety of professions whose support enabled them to publish a journal, The Therapist.
Three leading figures from the start were Joe Griffin, Ivan Tyrrell and Pat Williams.

Attacking the efficacy question from a scientific viewpoint, they discarded any approach that was dogmatic or hypothetical, or that research showed was not helpful, whatever its practitioners believed. They also incorporated what they could glean from the therapeutic wisdom of other cultures and times. Then they took what was left, stepped back and set about understanding how it matched up to the emerging findings of neuroscience, always asking “why does this work?”

The result was a new synthesis of everything that can reliably be said to help human beings function well and be happy, together with remarkable new insights into the purpose of some long-unexplained brain mechanisms. These derived from the work by Joe Griffin on why we dream.

In 1996, Ivan Tyrrell founded the peripatetic MindFields College in order to teach people all round the UK and Ireland about the practical application of this rapidly developing psychological knowledge and the most effective therapeutic techniques for treating a wide range of emotional distress and behavioural problems. (Well over 175,000 people attended MindFields courses during its years of operation.)

By 1997 the term ‘human givens' was being used so often it stuck and the first monograph on the subject was published. Soon after that the journal changed its name to Human Givens to reflect its wider appeal and it grew from strength to strength when Denise Winn joined as editor.

Many professionals found that when they combined the insights provided by the human givens framework with the effective psychotherapeutic techniques taught by MindFields College their work was made so much more effective and rewarding that they were keen to study the approach in more depth. So, as a direct result of this demand, the Human Diploma Course was developed, and the first course was run in April 2000. Since then the course has proved immensely popular (it was later accredited by Nottingham Trent University as part of a collaborative MA programme in Human Givens Psychotherapy that it ran with MindFields College.)

The approach continued to grow organically. It was refined as new insights and research findings came to light and other knowledge and feedback was gleaned from the wide range of psychologists, teachers, counsellors, psychotherapists, nurses, social workers and others who completed the diploma.

In fact one of the fundamental principles of this approach has always been that we should never stop learning; new knowledge, insights and skills (when they are backed up with genuine scientific understanding) should be incorporated into the fundamental framework of the human givens whenever possible to increase its effectiveness.

In 2001, the Human Givens Institute (HGI) was set up to act as the professional body of human givens therapists and a means for people using the approach to keep in touch with one another and share ideas. Through its website, it also aims to provide a useful resource for members of the general public looking for good quality information about the causes of many forms of emotional distress and behavioural problems, as well as advice about what to look for when searching for an effective therapist/counsellor. The website also provides many free articles about how the HG approach is being used and the online register of human givens therapists currently in private practice.

In 2003 the first edition of Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking – the seminal work about the approach – was published in hardback to great acclaim. Demand was so great it was republished almost immediately and then came out in paperback. (Read the reviews by clicking here and then on the 'Reviews' button.)

Dreaming Reality: How dreaming keeps us sane, or can drive us mad, was first published in 2004 (with a paperback version in 2006). (Read some of the reviews by clicking here and then on the 'Reviews' button.)

A series of self-help books, Essential help in troubled times – the human givens approach, was launched to introduce new knowledge (about getting out of depression, curing addictions, liberating yourself from pain, releasing yourself from anger and mastering anxiety) to the general public. These have proved extremely popular (How to lift depression fast, for instance, has sold over 30,000 copies). Highly practical and written without jargon, they are suitable for individuals and anyone who wants to help others; the first titles quickly became best sellers and more are in preparation. (A range of helpful CDs have also been pubilshed to help both professionals and the general public alike.)

In 2004, a registered charity, the Human Givens Foundation, was established to promote research and public education into the 'givens' of human nature and their application into the treatment and care of those suffering from mental illness. One of the main aspects of the charity's work has been to carry out research into the effectiveness of the human givens approach to therapy, and not long after the Foundation was formed, the human givens approach had the UK's first Practice Research Network, set up and run by Diploma graduate, Bill Andrews. (All graduates of the HG DIploma are actively encouraged to contribute data to this ongoing nationwide project, which uses full outcome-measure data collected from hundreds of patients. (Results to date indicate that human givens therapy is highly cost-effective, with HG therapists helping the majority of clients make significant changes in an average of only four sessions.*)

In 2007, An Idea in Practice: Using the human givens approach was published to celebrate the ten years since the human givens' organising idea had first been published. It contained a wealth of articles and case histories about how the approach had been used by a wide range of professionals to improve, often dratmaticall, outcomes in their numerous, different fields. In 2008 the book was short-listed for Mind's Book of the Year Award.

In 2008, with a view to potential future regulation in the field of psychotherapy and counselling, Nottingham Trent University and MindFields College launched a collaborative MA Programme in Human Givens Psychotherapy, with those completing the full MA programme contributing futher to research into the approach.

The Human Givens College was set up in July 2010 to continue much of the highly-respected educational work that MindFields College had been doing so successfully for many years.

If you are interested in keeping up to date with information about the human givens approach and how it is being used, as well as signing up for our regular free
e-newsletter, why not become a member of the HGI and receive the Human Givens Journal.
Read more:
Why is the human givens approach important for psychotherapy?
Why we need to understand healthy minds
See the HGI's online archive, for a wide selection of articles, several of which discuss new insights and many others show how the human givens approach is improving the work of professionals in a wide range of fields.

* These results are currently being prepared for publication by Nottingham Trent University.

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Date posted: 14/02/2024