Human Givens Psychotherapy


What are ‘human givens’?

We are all born with innate knowledge programmed into our genes. Throughout life we experienced this knowledge as feelings of physical and emotional needs. These feelings evolved over millions of years. They are our common biological inheritance, whatever our cultural background. They are the driving force that motivates us to become fully human and succeed in whatever environment we find ourselves in. It is because they are incorporated into our biology at conception that we call them ‘human givens’.

Given physical needs: As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breath, water, nutritious food and sufficient sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them we quickly die. In addition we also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. We instinctively seek sufficient and secure shelter where we can grow and reproduce ourselves and bring up our young. These physical needs are intimately bound up with our emotional needs – the main focus of the human givens psychology.

Given emotional needs: Emotions create distinctive psychobiological states in us and drive us to take action. The emotional needs that nature has programmed us with are there to connect us with the external world, particularly to other people, and to survive in it. They seek their fulfilment though the way we interact with our environment. Consequently when these needs are not met in the world, nature ensures that we suffer distress: anxiety, anger, depression etc. and our expression of that distress, in whatever form it takes, has an impact on those around us.

People whose emotional needs are met in a balanced way do not suffer mental health problems. Along with these physical and emotional needs nature has given us an internal guidance system to help us get these needs met. We call these ‘resources’ Our resources are the capabilities we have that enable us to meet our emotional needs.

Human Givens Psychotherapy is the therapy which has evolved based on this understanding of human nature. It is evidence-based, incorporating effective techniques research has demonstrated, that work, including from CBT, Neuroscientific, Positive psychology, neurolinguistics

What are my emotional needs & innate resources?

If our emotional needs are met in balance we cannot be unwell.

Our Emotional Needs include:

  • Security – safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully.

  • Attention (to give and receive it) a form of nutrition.

  • Sense of autonomy and control – having volition to make responsible choices.

  • Being emotionally connected to others.

  • Feeling part of a wider community.

  • Friendship, intimacy – to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are ‘warts ‘n all’.

  • Privacy, the opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience.

  • Sense of status within social groupings.

  • Sense of competence and achievement.

  • Meaning and purpose – which comes from being stretched in what we do and think.



Along with these physical and emotional needs, nature has given us an internal guidance system to help us get these needs met. We call these ‘resources’ Our resources are the capabilities we have that enable us to meet our emotional needs.

Some of our Resources include:

  • Long Term Memory

  • Ability to connect with others

  • Imagination

  • Emotions and Instincts

  • A Rational Mind

  • A Pattern-Matching brain

  • An Observing Self

  • A Dreaming Brain

All of these resources enable us to get our physical and emotional needs met.

 For more information on the Human Givens Approach go to the website of The Human Givens Institute