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The human givens approach origins

More and more people in the UK and overseas are recognising that the core set of principles incorporated in the human givens approach have enormous, wide-reaching potential — not only for for reducing emotional distress, improving mental health and education, but also for stabilising the human mind, creating harmony in and between communities, bringing order to schools and colleges, and making government and administration more just and effective.

These principles 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 effective.

In 1992 they formed the European Therapy Studies Institute (ETSI), whose aim was to discover 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, 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 MindFields College was founded to teach people about the practical application of this rapidly developing psychological knowledge. Since then, the training has been taken over by Human Givens College and over 200,000 people have attended Human Givens courses. Denise Winn joined as editor of The Therapist in 1997. By the end of 1997 the term ‘human givens' was being used so often that it stuck and the first monograph on the subject was published in 1999. In spring 2001 the journal changed its name to Human Givens to reflect its wider appeal and grew from strength to strength.

When they combined the insights provided by the human givens framework with the effective psychotherapeutic techniques taught by the College, many professionals found that this made their work 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 Givens Diploma Course was developed, and the first course was run in April 2000. Since then the course has proved immensely popular.

The approach continued to grow organically, refining as it was being taught and merged with other knowledge and feedback 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 scientific understanding) should be incorporated into the fundamental framework of the human givens whenever possible to increase its effectiveness.

The Human Givens Institute (HGI) was set up in 2001 as both the professional body of human givens therapists and as a means for people using the approach to keep in touch with one another and share ideas.


In 2003 the first edition of Human Givens: The new approach to emotional health and clear thinking was published in hardback to great acclaim. Demand was so great it was republished almost immediately and then came out in paperback.

Why we dream: the definitive answer, was first published in 2004 (with a paperback version in 2006).

A new 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. Highly practical and written without jargon, they are suitable for individuals and anyone who wants to help others. (Helpful CDs are also available.)

In their most recent book, Godhead: The brain's big bang, Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell reveal why science and mysticism are two essential aspects of human functioning and how both are linked to the human vulnerability to mental illness.

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 Human Givens e-newsletter, why not become a member of the HGI and receive the Human Givens Journal.

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Date posted: 14/02/2024