The Human Givens Approach


The Human Givens Approach is a set of organizing ideas that provide a holistic, scientific framework for understanding the way that human beings and society work. This framework encompasses the latest scientific understandings from neurobiology and psychology, as well as ancient wisdom and new insights gleaned from original research.

At its core is a highly empowering idea – that human beings, like all organic beings, come into this world with a set of physical and emotional needs. If those needs are met appropriately and in balance, it is not possible to be mentally ill. It is just not possible.

Evolved along with our complex set of needs, is our ‘innate guidance system’ designed specifically to help us meet our needs. This guidance system, together with our needs, makes up what we call the human givens. We come into the world with an instinctive knowledge of what we need and with a set of inner resources that can help us get our needs met, provided we use them properly and are living in a healthy environment.

Many have contributed to our current understanding of human needs. Among them are William James, Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. There was an outstanding contribution by Abraham Maslow, the pioneer of humanistic psychology, who first talked about a hierarchy of needs. It was Abraham Maslow who introduced the idea that, until basic needs are met, people can't engage with questions of meaning and spirituality – what he calls self-actualization.

Another notable contributor was William Glasser, who put forward the idea that fulfillment of people's needs for control, power, achievement and intimacy depend on their ability to behave responsibly and conscientiously; he argued vehemently that mental illness springs from these needs not being met.

So the human givens approach belongs to no specific people, certainly not exclusively to its co-founders Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell. It is simply the next logical step in our understanding of human beings and how to cultivate wellbeing on the most basic level.

The Human Givens framework enables us to see where a person's life is not working well and to work with them to tailor solutions for each individual using a combination of effective psychological interventions (as taught by Human Givens College), education and direct practical help, as appropriate. The insights the Human Givens Approach brings into what we all need to live fulfilled, satisfying lives also brings clarity to the idea of 'wellbeing' and points to concrete ways of achieving and maintaining such a state.

More information about the Human Givens Approach can be found here:

The Human Givens Institute

The Human Givens College

The Human Givens Foundation