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on 28 August 2005
I manage a supported housing project for people with mental health problems, and I have found a number of useful insights in the Human Givens approach.
Most compelling, I believe, is the excellent work the authors have done on studying the role of sleep in our emotional lives, particularly the vicious circle of excessive rumination, exhausting amounts of REM sleep, lack of energy and motivation, and so on.
The authors' undogmatic approach is welcome - taking whatever appears to be most effective from various therapies. This is not new, however. For example, Arnold Lazarus has for many years done similar work with his 'Multimodal' model of therapy (Stephen Palmer has written about this approach in the UK).
The book is also refreshingly unafraid to point out the failings of much theory and practice of therapies that simply encourage rumination on the past, to the exclusion of finding practical ways to feel better in the present. Many authors have, I feel, trodden too carefully around this area, being almost apologetic in pointing out the harm that such approaches can do. Griffin & Tyrrell should be applauded for their honesty here. Those who would dogmatically reject this book because it criticises such approaches might ask themselves whether they are more interested in being right than in doing what works for their clients.
I think there are, however, a couple of areas where the book lets itself down. Firstly, the references, though they exist, are not thorough or detailed enough for my liking. Often they simply refer to a book, without any further detail of the evidence it is supposed to contain.
Also, the tone of the book is that the Human Givens approach is revolutionary, and that it is uniquely in tune with 'human nature'. Here, one gets suspicious that the authors have been encouraged to present their (valuable) insights as a dramatic new way of doing therapy, simply in order, perhaps, to make people take notice.
Their main points are presented as revolutionary, but as I see it are for the most part uncontroversial and well understood. As others here have pointed out, the three main points are (paraphrasing):
1. The brain is a pattern-matching machine.
2. Emotion comes before thought.
3. The more emotional we are, the more difficult it is to think reasonably.
Points 1 and 3 are self-evident as far as I can see. Useful to bear in mind, but hardly revolutionary.

But my main issue is with point 2, and what I regard as the authors' misrepresentation of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Their contention is that CBT says thought comes before emotion, and that that is wrong. They take CBT's ABC model of emotional disturbance (Activating event, Belief, Consequent emotion) and replace it with their APET model (Activating event, Perception, Emotion, Thought).
But it seems that these two models are saying essentially the same thing. The 'Perception' part of the APET model is what CBT calls an 'automatic thought' - completely out of our conscious control. The authors here have assumed that in CBT terms a thought must be 'conscious'. But CBT doesn't do that at all. CBT's main point is to discover what our 'automatic' thoughts are, examine them for their truth, logic or helpfulness, and repeatedly rehearse more helpful thoughts until THOSE thoughts become automatic. It is revealing that the authors don't even mention the CBT concept of 'automatic thoughts' - a glaring omission that suggests they may have been equally unscholarly elsewhere.
The authors describe the Perception part of the APET model(p194): "Information... taken in through the senses is first pattern-matched by the mind to innate knowledge and past learnings... which in turn gives rise to an emotion, E." A more perfect description of 'automatic thoughts' you could not wish for. Sensory information filtered through "past learnings" - or in CBT terms: "underlying/ core beliefs". The difference between the APET model and the ABC model is purely semantic as far as I can see.
Where I do have some sympathy with the authors on this point is that CBT often doesn't make clear enough the distinction between automatic and conscious thinking. In my own work I call the distinction "automatic versus deliberate thoughts". Griffin and Tyrrell get round the potential confusion of talking about two types of "thoughts" by calling one of them a Perception. This may indeed be an easier way for some clients to understand the model. But I think in future editions the authors should acknowledge that this model's contribution is a useful semantic one, otherwise clients who come across CBT may get stuck in unnecessary chicken-and-egg confusion about what came first, the thought or the emotion?
In all, I'd highly recommend the book, mostly for its insights into the crucial role of sleep in our emotions, and its ability to cut through a great deal of psychobabble and talk about what actually works to help people feel better.
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on 10 May 2013
I'm studying psychology and also, from a personal point of view, had mislaid my mojo. I was impatient with the first 90 pages, which went into detail about REM sleep...........but it all became apparent.......and interesting.....and mind blowing! From an academic (and future professional) point of view, I will be looking at the Human Givens courses. From a lay point of view, the core principles are so easy to help you review the bits of your life that need attention and some oomph and then simple to tweak. I've been trying the principles on my friends too and we're all brimming with ideas and enthusiasm.
Be patient (if necessary) with the first part of the book, it's worth finishing!!
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on 22 November 2009
I got divorced, had a heart attack and a complete nervous breakdown during which I got suicidal, insular and aggressively antisocial. In a nutshell, I was in a mess. My counsellor recommended this book because I wanted to know the nature of the illness I was battling. I am not an expert on psychiatry, psychology or the leading lights or concepts surrounding human behaviour. But WOW, this book helped me to understand me, why I do and think, patterning matching and so much more. I am now happy and healthy, use what I learnt to help others and would highly recommend this book to any sufferer. Professionals may criticise it but I think of it as a road to understanding and selfhelp.

Jon White
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on 30 July 2011
i first about human givens at a mental health workshop and after some research decided to give this book a go thank heavens i did.
the book as given me a new perspective on dealing with my own depression which is benefiting me as i write if you've an open mind i suggest you read this great book
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on 27 December 2011
I read Dreaming Reality by the same authors before I read this book. Human Givens takes a necessity-based approach to mental health. Rather than conjuring up sophisticated psychological ailments the authors elucidate the strong link between lacunas in basic needs and mental illness. Their most important contribution is the ''Expectation fulfilment theory" which asserts that excessive dreaming caused by unacted upon emotion causes fatigue, drepression and helplessness. Their major premise is buttressed by the finding that REM sleep-the point within the sleep cycle at which we dream-usually occurs once all the regenerative stages of sleep have occurred. These lower regenerative stages are required for tissue repair as it is in these stages that salubrious hormones and growth factors are released. However excessive emotional arousal, that is repressed, is acted out during REM-sleep in order to delete the temporary emotive cerebral programme (as well as its accompanying motor programmes eg punching or kicking a foe/oppressor) thus skipping the stages of the sleep cycle which proceed it. Thus while depressives may go to bed earlier they still wake feeling lethargic and sluggish. This book is erudite, insightful, accurate and an excellent guide for parents with children/teenagers suffering from psychological trauma. I have a Bsc in Neuroscience and thus I have always found psychological theories of emotion to be void of the scientific vigour required to publish in a respectable journal. Tyrell and Griffithin have conducted numerous experiments and draw on an inordinate/voluminous catalogue of experimental data to adduce their theory. Furthermore they are aptly critical of psychobabble and supercilious gibberish. I strongly recommend this book.
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on 10 January 2010
I recommend this book if you want to improve the quality of your life and the lives of those you engage with both personally and professionally.

I came to it not as a professional but as a graduate with a business background, who has personally experienced ineffective psychodynamic counselling, and the book has engaged my interest to such an extent that I now want to attend some of the authors' seminars, to further my understanding of their holistic strategies for coping with a whole range of life's ever increasing mental problems, from stress to depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Human Givens counselling approach provides sufferers with positive help on their very first session and is generally successful in weeks (or months) rather than years. Of particular interest is their rewind technique for people suffering from PTSD and the empirical study proving how powerfully effective it is: and Human Givens and Education could prove revolutionary within the classroom and has the potential to greatly improve the working lives of the teachers and subsequently provide a much better standard of education for the future generation.
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on 21 December 2011
This book gives a real insight into mental health issues and much more. It is easy to read and explains in great detail the importance of dreams. It is a must for anyone working with children with autism or children with emotional problems. It helps us to understand ourselves and others. Brilliant.
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on 4 September 2013
After reading this book I really have to wonder why the approaches discussed in it have not already become 'mainstream' in the psychology/psychiatric/counselling professions. I personally find this book to be one of the most sensible I have ever read about this subject matter. Written in a way that is approachable by the layman it is full of insightful knowledge about the reasons we dream, the importance of the emotional givens and the way HG therapy is conducted. I highly recommend this book.
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on 10 June 2008
It's very easy to dismiss the new ideas in this brilliant book as 'tosh', as I see one reviewer has done, however, considering the current state of society today and the soaring rates of depression, anxiety and addiction, it is clear to me that the issues of mental health treatment and provision must be thought about afresh since services are largely failing to halt, let alone reverse, these appalling trends. I've read this book and it does just that: the authors think through the problems we face and offer fresh insights about them that could transform society. The approach they call "working with the human givens" (which I think is a sensible name for innate physical and emotional needs that all of us are born with) means working from what we know about living things, of which we are but one example. It fills a gaping void in the understanding of emotions and the treatment of a wide range of mental health disorders. If you're bright, you'll get it. It is beautifully written and rich in common sense and practical solutions as well as offering real insights into the causes of mental illness, and I found its speculations about the nature of consciousness really exciting.
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on 6 May 2012
Apart from the final chapter, which was a digression on the authors part to one of their cherished personal theories I believe, this book is excellent. It demystifies the stress response by explaining what is known to date about the physiological processes that drive stress response syndromes. Ground breaking when published and still essential reading today.
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