What Are The Human Givens?

What Are The Human Givens?

What are The Human Givens and why use them in therapy?

The type of psychotherapy that I practice is called The Human Givens. Given that there are literally hundreds of different types of schools of therapy out there, it makes sense to start my blog with outlining The Human Givens, and why I have chosen to work with this school.

I’ve always been a fan of using your strengths. I think it is much more empowering to focus on what you can do, and use that to move forwards, rather than hark back to mistakes or dwell on weaknesses. This positive approach is something that first drew me to The Human Givens approach.

One of their founding concepts is that every human being comes into the world with needs. These have to be met for it to survive and thrive. Some are obvious – like shelter, food and water. Once these are fulfilled, the needs become more sophisticated. It is when these needs are not met, that mental health can start to suffer.  Like nutrition, without these fulfilled needs we will slowly wither.

What are these needs? How are you doing with them all?


We need to feel secure and to have somewhere that we feel safe. It’s often when this disappears that people come to me. They may have started University or a graduate programme and everything feels new and unsafe. Or they have a new boss who has turned out to be a bit of a bully. In recent times we have had the pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine and now a fast rising price of living. Our sense of security is under threat.


All of us need to feel that we have some sense of control. Being micromanaged can be very disheartening for instance, and impacts on our happiness at work. If a partner suddenly decides they no longer want to be with us, our feeling of control over the relationship and even our future can disappear in an instant.


A lack of attention can make us feel unwanted. Attention from others can give us a boost of self-esteem. We also need to give others attention. Both giving and receiving attention helps us feel connected and that we are worth something.


We all need to feel connected to at least someone else who accepts us. It could be a lover, a friend, or your mum. It doesn’t matter. When that sense of intimacy is no longer there, when a relationship breaks up for instance, it can be devastating.


During the lockdown when families came together under one roof, many of us struggled with a lack of privacy. I include myself here too. My dad died right at the start of lock-down, and with a full house I didn’t feel like I could grieve properly. One day, I had to ask everyone to clear the house and go for a walk. I needed the space just so that I felt I could cry without worrying what others felt. This really brought home how important privacy is.


We all need that sense of belonging, a feeling that we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves. It might be a church community, your peer group at school or college, your work colleagues, or even a Dungeon and Dragons or Elden Ring online group. They all create a feeling of being part of the tribe, which makes us feel safe and wanted.


We need to feel some sense of status, that we matter. This doesn’t have to be the CEO or a role with a fancy name. Having the work that we do – any work- recognised and acknowledged is vital to our self-esteem.


Feeling that we are good at something feeds our self-esteem. It’s also key to getting on in your job and long-term career. Uncovering your strengths is a vital part of our therapy together.


Finally, this one often doesn’t rear its head until later in life, after we’ve got our basics sorted.  Often people come to me in their mid-life to discuss feeling a lack of meaning in their lives. This sometimes shows itself as a need to jump careers and do something more altruistic. However, it can equally be someone who has put their all into their career and is doing very well, and now wants someone to share their great life with.

Our Resources

People will often come to me when one or more of these needs are not being met. The good about being human though, is that we have resources that can help us work to meet them. In short, these resources include:

  • Our imagination – we can envision what life will be like when we have achieved what we want, and this both motivates us, and is a strong tool in moving forward
  • A complex long-term memory – we can look at past occasions when we have tackled something similar, and analyse what we can learn from the past to apply now
  • The ability to build rapport. Most of us can do this instinctively, and have been doing so since we were babies
  • Our emotions and instincts – if we allow ourselves to listen to them. People often know what they want/what’s the best choice, they just don’t slow down long enough to listen to their knowing
  • An unconscious ability to pattern match, which helps us know the world around us instinctively
  • An observing self – we have the ability to step back from our problems and assess. Linked to this is our
  • Rational mind – that can analyse and notice patterns of behaviour. I myself am a big fan of bright, shiny new ideas and often need to remind myself to stay focused and on track
  • Finally, we dream. This allows our brain to discharge worries from the previous day. When all is well, we wake up refreshed and ready to deal with the day ahead. This is why sleep is so important. (If you’re having issues sleeping, book in a session with our sleep clinic).


Our work together may involve using our imagination through visualising, or practising stepping into our observing self. As well as helping you where you are right now, these practices also set you up for success throughout life. You are learning to use your own resources and you can draw on these again and again. If you fancy learning what it’s all about, you can book a discovery session with me.