Looking at the Human Givens

January 9, 2007 at 6:41 am 63 comments

Update 22 Feb 2007: The tone of this post is rather hostile. See the comments for more reasoned arguments with the participation of Human Givens practitioners.

Recently, I’ve been reading The MindFields College Blog. An independent college, MindFields claims to be “the largest independent provider of training days and workshops for the NHS and social services and the only provider of the human givens therapy Diploma, up to post-graduate level.”

So what exactly are “human givens”? MindFields has a page about it. Apparently:

The biggest and most empowering idea at its heart is that human beings come into this world with a set of physical and emotional needs. These needs are human givens. When they are met well in the environment – we flourish. And when they are not met we become anxious and, if the situation persists, this can lead to greater suffering and mental illness.

Genius. And it’s an impressive list of problems that the human givens approach can be applied to:

This organising idea enables the College to bring clarity to the following: how to lift depression, manage anger, dissolve anxiety disorders (including PTSD), stop addictions, reduce pain, educate families and children more effectively and deal with the problem behaviours that arise in society. Training also encompasses working with people with Asperger’s syndrome, psychosis, self-harming and ADHD.

It also mows your lawn, picks up the kids from school and gets rid of unwanted facial hair. No, not really, but still, what an impressive list! And just as well, since “MindFields courses are recommended to all health professionals by PRIMHE (Primary Care Mental Health & Education).”

PRIMHE’s a chairity organisation, by the way. As far as I can tell, PRIMHE’s endorsement seems to stem solely from a quote by its chief executive, Dr. Chris Manning and a working relationship between the two organisations: “[PRIMHE] continued to work with wellbeing organisations (Wellbeing, Human Givens/Mindfields/Acuity Doctor) to promote leading-edge thinking and the wellbeing of NHS professionals (espy GMHWs) and staff”

You’d expect such a successful and compelling approach to therapy and mental healthcare to have some serious research and evidence backing it up, right? Well, for this we need to look a little further than Mindfields college.

A not-so-quick tour of the Human Givens behemoth

MindFields College is an independent and privately owned educational establishment. Based in East Sussex, it provides workshops, seminars and something called the human givens diploma at a number of venues around the UK and in Dublin. It’s run by Mr Ivan Tyrrell.

Now, “MindFields courses are supervised by the educational committee of the Human Givens Institute (HGI) and accredited by the European Therapy Studies Institute (ETSI).” (link). MindFields college itself is accredited by the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education.

Who founded MindFields? “MindFields College was founded by the European Therapy Studies Institute” (link).

Who’s a direactor at ETSI? “As a Director of the European Therapy Studies Institute … [Ivan Tyrrell’s] influence in the field of psychotherapy and counselling is considerable.” (link)

And guess who the directors of the Human Givens Institute are? “Its directors are Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell (the originators of the human givens approach), and Piers Bishop. Its chairman is Dr Farouk Okhai.” (link Joe Griffin (of whom more later), Piers Bishop and Dr. Farouk Okhai all happen to be tutors at MindFields College.

Quite incestuous, really. And I haven’t even mentioned The Human Givens Foundation, a registered charity set up to “promote research and public education into the ‘givens’ of human nature and their application into the treatment and care of those suffering from mental illness.”.

The Man From ETSI

So, what do ETSI do, other than “supervising” MindFields? It’s hard to say as they don’t appear to have a web presence outside of the Human Givens Institute. They do publish a journal called Therapist, which, in its ten years or so, seems to have been mostly cited by articles also appearing in Therapist, a few BreathWork magazines and very little else.

The Human Givens Institute publishes its own journal, the delightfully titled Human Givens: Promoting Emotional Health and Clear Thinking. Again, mostly cited by itself. It also has a publishing wing apparently set up to publish Mr Ivan Tyrell and Joe Griffin’s books and monographs. None of which seem to have been through any kind of peer review system. We don’t seem to be talking science here.

What kinds of qualifications does Mr Ivan Tyrell have, anyway? According to his profile on the MindFields site, he’s an FHGI. You might not be familiar with this particular acronym. It stands for “Fellow of the Human Givens Institute”. His collaborator, Joe Griffin is a little better off academically; his highest listed qualification is a Master’s degree in Psychology. A quick search on PubMed and Google Scholar didn’t, suprisingly enough, turn up any published articles outside the claustrophobic world of HGI and associated organisations.

So, in the absence of actual, peer-reviewed research and the uncomfortably close relationship between Tyrell and HGI, you might almost call its publishing wing his vanity publisher. Then again, vanity publishing doesn’t make money. It’s safe to assume that MindFields does.

Money, Money, MindFields

Being a business, MindFields purpose is to make money. They run seminars and workshops, but the real money-spinner looks like the Human Givens Diploma course.

The HG Dip. consists of three parts. First the student must attend 8 seminars and another 8 workshops. This entitles them to progress to part II, which is a ten day intensive course (lunch provided). There’s an extensive required reading list (and, innovatively) a listening list of CDs, all save one published by HGI and most by Tyrell and Griffin. Part III is an assessment. So that’s 26 days and an exam before the student receives their nicely framed certificate, yours for only £5492.81 (including VAT and a handsomely bound course manual).

Assuming you pass the assessment, you too could “be an approved human givens practitioner and eligible for Full Membership of the Human Givens Institute”. (link). Join HGI and get letters after your name.

And why would you want to do this?

Every day, from all over the country, people approach ETSI and MindFields College for the names of fully qualified and accredited psychotherapists or counsellors who can work effectively from the human givens.

Registered Members of HGI, who are fully qualified, can, if they wish, be entered on its register to receive referrals.


The Human Givens approach might be quite good. Frankly, I have neither the knowledge of therapy, nor the patience to tell. What I do know is that there doesn’t appear to be any good evidence for it. And by good evidence, I mean the kinds of clinical studies and peer-reviewed research that might indicate – to someone who dabbles in science – a basis for believing the claims of some random psychotherapist, his psychologist sidekick and the multifaceted organisation they’ve set up. If there are peer-reviewed studies published in respectable journals that have inadvertently escaped my notice, then I’ll be happy to be corrected. Personally, though, I wouldn’t let my mind within a hundred feet of a Human Givens practitioner. The idea that these people have the ears of policy makers in the NHS scares me.

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Dreams mean nothing GP Appointment #4

63 Comments Add your own

  • 1. eleanor  |  January 10, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    As the editor of MindFields’ Blog, I was interested to read your posting as it is always enlightening to discover how we are being perceived. As you might expect, I would like to respond to a couple of the things you’ve written.

    Firstly, yes MindFields College is of course a business, but it is one which grew as a direct result of the work of ETSI which was originally set up in 1992 by a group of psychotherapists and psychologists who were frustrated with the poor quality of practice, information and training available in their field. The vast number of differing approaches to psychology and therapy told them something was wrong (there aren’t that many schools of physics are there?!).

    As a result they began an ongoing program of research which aimed to find out exactly why some psychological approaches worked and some didn’t. They discarded any approach that was dogmatic or not backed up by scientific research, and asked how neuroscientific findings might explain how the techniques which were shown to be more effective did work. And why some could even be harmful.

    So, the human givens approachto psychology and psychotherapy (see http://www.hgi.org.uk/important.htm), which grew out of this work, is based on a sound body of research as well as extensive practical experience. We NEVER maintain that it is a magic answer to everything in itself – it offers professionals working in mental health a cohesive way to look at a person’s life, or any human interaction, to see clearly what is not working and why, and then by using the proven psychotherapeutic skills that MindFields teaches it enables them to tailor interventions to that individual person’s needs.

    In addition to the growing bank of evidence that ETSI collected, the approach also provides new insights derived from, for example, Joe Griffin’s 12 year research into the importance of REM sleep and why we dream. These particularly have had huge implications for understanding what happens when we become depressed and have enabled great advances to be made in the treatment of depression (see: http://www.hgi.org.uk/archive/Depression.htm for more information,) as well as throwing helpful light on psychosis.

    As well as explaining Joe’s research, his resulting theory also explains other significant dream research findings and as yet no-one has been able to disprove it. (First published in 1993, it has had wide exposure in three books, numerous reviews, various publications, including the New Scientist, radio programs, lectures and University research projects.)

    So, as I have said, all this was pulled together under the framework “the human givens approach” and because it was based upon what (research had proved) works, it became very popular very quickly by word of mouth. ETSI sound found that therapists and other professionals, who were often dissatisfied with existing skills they had learnt, were hungry to develop more effective ones so that they could treat their clients faster and more reliably. And, when they found that this made their work so much more effective and rewarding, they were keen to study the approach in more depth. As a direct result of this demand, the Human Diploma Course was developed, and subsequently the Human Givens Institute.

    The names of Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin naturally appear frequently because they were the originators of this approach and key members of the original ETSI team, but their driving force has always been to promote both sound psychological knowledge as widely as possible (everything we teach and publish is produced without ‘psychobabble’ in order to make the information as widely available as possible) and improve the effectiveness and standards of psychotherapy generally. Much of this information has also been made freely available on the Human Givens Institute’s website (http://www.hgi.org.uk/archive/index/htm).

    I must point out too that MindFields College has a large number of tutors who have a wide range of experience and qualifications in a variety of fields, and each is well qualified in their particular area of expertise (such as working with Autism, or psychosis). The College is also independently accredited by the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education ( http://www.the-bac.org/ ) as a provider of high quality training in the practical application of scientifically acquired psychological knowledge to therapeutic counselling, social work and education.

    So, of course MindFields College is a business – it has to be to continue to do what it set out to. Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin developed these ideas independently because they felt there was a need to act immediately for the good of anyone who required effective mental health services.

    Anyway, although this might not have been evident from your visit to our website, what we teach has always been based on sound scientific research (and likewise our publications too). (The main articles in our journal are also peer reviewed by an editorial board see: http://www.humangivens.com/editorial-board.html)

    We do also appreciate the importance of independent research into the efficacy of the human givens therapy and there are currently various ongoing research projects underway or in development (see http://www.hgi.org.uk/sections/research.htm ) and human givens therapists are outcome informed (using CORE measures and ORS/SRS measures).

    I hope this has helped to answer some of the points you raised, hundreds of thousands of people are being helped by those trained by the College and by HG therapists. And THIS is the driving force behind what we do.

    Anyone who reads the information in the links I have provided in this comment will then be in a better position to understand the work of MindFields College.

  • 2. Tom Dandy  |  January 14, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    *Digs hand back into bottom of popcorn bucket.

  • 3. experimental chimp  |  January 23, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    eleanor: Sorry it took so long for your comment to appear here. It got erroneously marked as spam and I only just noticed.

    Human Givens seems to routinely make claims that are unsupported by anyone outside the Human Givens world. For example, Joe Griffin states that “[The Human Givens] approach can bring about the remission of depression in a fraction of the time taken by cognitive or behavioural or interpersonal therapy.” And he references this with a book written by himself and published by Human Givens Publishing.

    You call the work done by ETSI and Joe Griffin “a sound body of research”, yet it’s never appeared in a reputable scientific journal. Human Givens research only ever appears in Human Givens owned publications, reviewed by people who are associated with Human Givens, all of which happens to be owned or directed by Ivan Tyrrell. That’s not science. My main problem with HG is that it uses the appearance of scientific respectability in order to sell seminars and courses and attract people into choosing HG therapists. It’s very clear that a huge amount of PR work has been done. It’s not so clear that the HG approach actually adds up to anything substantial.

  • 4. eleanor  |  January 24, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Oh, thanks for putting up my comment, I think lots of links made it look like spam!

    You are wrong when you say we aren’t scientific. I don’t know how to explain this more clearly.

    We haven’t derived an entirely new, random, unscientific way of treating mental illness, we have simply brought together the most effective techniques from other approaches which were already supported by clinical evidence and neuroscientific research. Nothing that doesn’t help people or isn’t supported by scientific evidence is ever considered.

    Considering that research has showed that treating depression with psychodynamic therapy can worsen and prolong the condition (Danton, W, Antonuccio, D and DeNelsky, G (1995). Depression: psychotherapy is the best medicine. Professional Psychology Research and Practice, 26, 574.) and that it’s STILL a therapy that is in use, looking at psychotherapy in the way we do is clearly a big step towards effective treatment.

    As I have said, we have grown to a demand for effective therapy. There is simply no question about the increased effectiveness of Human Givens therapists – What matters is what works, which is why people attend our seminars and go to HG therapists. We don’t have the capacity to be a huge PR machine, nor are we a small clique of members of “the human givens world”. We are recommended by many other organisations, individuals and mental health charities.

    I would be more compelled by your argument if you could provide research which proves that the human givens approach doesn’t work, or is damaging. I say again, we are only interested in what works to help people as quickly and effectively as possible.

    I point you again to the research projects going on at the moment which will further support clinically the work going on : http://www.hgi.org.uk/sections/research.htm

    I’m not even sure if you’re reading the links I’m giving you but here’s an article about the improvements made in Hartlepool Mind:

    I’ll stop now but I always welcome the opportunity to defend the hg approach, and I really feel that it’s a lack of understanding about it that is to blame for criticism that arises.

    Thanks again for noticing my comment, and I hope you’re alright, I do read your blog and i know you’re going through a bad time at the moment – all my best wishes that things pick up soon,

  • 5. experimental chimp  |  January 25, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    I think we might have to agree to disagree about this.

    You say: “There is simply no question about the increased effectiveness of Human Givens therapists – What matters is what works, which is why people attend our seminars and go to HG therapists.” But there are questions about how effective HG is. That’s rather the point.

    You say: “We don’t have the capacity to be a huge PR machine”. This from an organisation that includes a TV production company?

    You say: “I would be more compelled by your argument if you could provide research which proves that the human givens approach doesn’t work, or is damaging.” Personally I’d be more impressed if there was any independent research showing that HG does work. As far as I can tell, there isn’t. I do, however, welcome the research projects you link to.

    In any case, thanks for responding to my criticism, and also for your kind thoughts. While I don’t agree, I’m glad there’s room for discussion.

  • 6. Jeremy  |  February 13, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Dear chimp,

    What kind of experiments do you do? You appear to take a very negative and cynical stance from the word go, is that your own negative thinking style? Perhaps if you looked at the world in a more positive and constructive way, you’d be better off?

    To slag off an organisation you clearly know very little about, seems a little odd. I am an HG Therapist and can assure you that our approach is based on literally thousands of research projects. I do not wish to argue with you, but you take a confrontational attitude from ther off.

    1) Our therapy approach is not a brand new or new agey type invention, it consists of components carefully selected from many different models of therapy, cherry picked if you like, but on the basis of effectiveness and pruning what doesn’t help people get better quickly.

    2) Anyone can check the research to support our approach if they can be bothered. Please view the editorial board of the HG magasine.

    3) There are hundreds of members of HGI and many thousands of people helpers have attended workshops, seminars or the Diploma assesment course.

    4) I have completed a degree, several other training programmes, such as Person Centred college courses and Psychodynamic course. If you wish to be critical of poor education standards, take a look at the Freudian approach ( a century out of date and proven to be based on bizzare beliefs about the mind), HG was by far the most testing and rigorous assesment of any other course I have done, it includes intense home study and a good knowledge of general Psychology.

    5)We don’t do anything weird at all, we use tried and tested methods, with a dose of deeper understanding of how the brain actually works. The research we use is cutting edge Neuroscience (eg how emotional hijack works, limbic brain function, Amygdala function, panic attacks come from Amygdalas fight or flight programme).You can learn about how we are in tune with Neuroscience by reading an HG book or going to a seminar. There a millions of pages of excellent Neuroscientific research papers on the net, which support our methods.

    6) Talking therapy has been subjected to thousands of research trials over the last 50 years, we draw on all of it, check out Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow etc for the importance of Rapport with a client.

    7) We are aware of and utilize all current research on such things as Depression (treatment, drugs, stats and contraindicated therapy etc)Joe Griffin’s excellent Dream research has been peer reviewed and is discussed worldwide, he is a respected research Psychologist. (I get mails regarding his work from professors across the globe) and his work helps us understand the nature of depression in combination with neuroscience.

    8) There are many highly qualified Doctors, consultants, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, mental health professional, social workers, nurses, heads and teachers etc etc whom I have personally met who have more qualifications than you could read in a lifetime…so what…does that impress you? The HG dip part 3 involves live videos with real patients being assesed by qualified Therapists, if it isn’t up to scratch you won’t pass.

    9) The other techniques we use, are tried, tested and research based, eg Guided Imagery (where appropriate, same as sports psychologists or some hypnotherapists may use, within the NHS also). By creating new Neural pathways and positive expectations with GI, positive outcomes are more likely. Neuroscience shows us that the brain works with a kind of plasticity, where what you focus on literally rewires your neural nets. Read up on it, don’t take my word for it.

    10) We use CBT (which was also founded by two men by the way, as are many therapy models), CBT type techniques are excellent for certain aspects of therapy…and research shows this. We are very aware of language in the therapy session also, avoiding medical hexes or negative expectation…again research based.

    11) We are also trained in the most effective research based methods for treating addictions, (see project match USA) Motivational interviewing is used where appropriate. HG keeps up with current and cutting edge research, which we discuss and impliment if required.

    12) We actively oppose cults and pyramid selling, eg supervision in Psychodynamic training. We are also aware of the research on what doesn’t work well with certain problems, eg the poor effectiveness of Psychodynamic therapy for depression, or person centred poor approach to panic/anxiety/psychosis. Most other schools don’t even attempt to keep up with modern neuroscience.

    13) So you could say, in laymans’ terms, that we use aspects of CBT, Hypnosis (without the mumbo jumbo),Evolutionary Psychology, Human needs research etc within a client centred framework, strictly in keeping with 21st Century Neuroscience and current research.All evidence based, look it up for yourself if you like.

    I wrote this pretty quickly, so I apologise for any spelling errors etc. I am always happy to discuss therapy methods, research and so on, and hope this helps clear up your misunderstanding of Human Givens Therapy. Please try and be positive and not dwell endlessly on negative thoughts and criticism, research shows that this style of thinking can lead to mental ill health.

    Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 7. Jeremy  |  February 13, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    PS the ‘TV company’ you refer to is just one guy…he makes videos to aid training etc…j

  • 8. experimental chimp  |  February 14, 2007 at 12:14 am

    Hi Jeremy,

    Let me address some of your points.

    You say: “Anyone can check the research to support our approach if they can be bothered. Please view the editorial board of the HG magasine.”

    None of HG’s original research has been published anywhere outside of HG. Nor has it been referenced in more than a handful of papers, and then often only tangentially.

    You say: There are hundreds of members of HGI and many thousands of people helpers have attended workshops, seminars or the Diploma assesment course.

    Yes, but just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good.

    You say: We are aware of and utilize all current research on such things as Depression (treatment, drugs, stats and contraindicated therapy etc)Joe Griffin’s excellent Dream research has been peer reviewed and is discussed worldwide, he is a respected research Psychologist. (I get mails regarding his work from professors across the globe) and his work helps us understand the nature of depression in combination with neuroscience.

    How odd then that none of them have ever referenced Joe Griffin’s work in a peer reviewed paper. In fact, the only scientific literature that deals with Griffin’s research is published by HG.

    You say: We are also trained in the most effective research based methods for treating addictions, (see project match USA) Motivational interviewing is used where appropriate. HG keeps up with current and cutting edge research, which we discuss and impliment if required.

    I haven’t looked very deeply at the HG method of treating addiction, but I rather liked this response from an addict: “I have a GREAT idea. Take this author who likens addiction to a tummy ache from hunger, let’s tie him down and shoot him up with white Heroin from the streets of this fine city every three hours for a couple weeks. Every time we will increase the dose just a bit. Eventually he will be glad to see the needle. Hey, we will feed him, I bet we can let him up aftter a few days and he will
    not even leave the house. Then, abruptly and suddenly tell him no more, go
    home. But first watch him have his no worse then hunger pangs for 36 hours,
    then let him go. I bet he goes out on Cicero and does whatever he has to do to
    get more. But then maybe he is right and it is all in the mind, you know?” (link)

    In the end, though, my problems with HG are not with whether it works or does not work. I have no interest in whether it’s effective or not, and indeed I am not qualified to say. The reasons for my negative stance are that I consider the impression given by the HG organisation to be misleading. The utter lack of peer-reviewed research combined with the claims of scientific effectiveness is jarring, and only apparent once you have looked into HG in some detail. I’m aware more research is being carried out, and I welcome this and hope that the papers resulting from this are published in peer reviewed journals outside of the HG organisation But currently, HG claims more than it is reasonable to support.

  • 9. Tom Dandy  |  February 14, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Ha. I like that quote too.

    -Tom Dandy

  • 10. Paul  |  February 15, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Thank you for your work looking at Human Givens. So far you have confirmed all of the concerns I have had since hearing that my local mental health trust are giving more and more credence to this organisation. Although I personally have no problem with anyone who creates a theory I get resentful when such great claims are made about efficacy whilst millions is being spent on NICE to justify NHS spending on treatments (not that I am uncritical of NICE and hope that they are taken to judicial review by The Alzheimer’s Society over there findings about certain drugs).

    I expect that you will already have watched the various video clips on the HGI website. They use images of Prozac capsules whilst making the point that methodology designed for drug trials are not adequate for testing ‘talking therapies’ and why were there two pictures of Dodos (the extinct birds as opposed to a source of ephedrine) on another. I was starting to loose the will, etc. by this point and have yet to complete the videos that will show how they measure outcomes.

    I have been abused by psychotherapists in the community and in therapeutic communities also by long term over exposure to drugs I was mislead into believing would bring me the peace I have craved, so yes I am a tad cynical but believe that I have every right.

    As for Jeremy I think you gave the perfect example of some things that I fear. You claim to have been trained in various forms of psychotherapy yet you began by making a personal attack on an individual who through this site is telling us that they struggle with mental distress. Nice one. Following this you uphold my belief that there are just to many people around who have invested in psychotherapy training and have not recovered that financial investment with a proper job.

    I am not a betting man but if I could place the money I would put it on my belief that in 10 or 20 years time you will see nothing of any significant change brought about to the lives of those who are forced to use the mental health system by this self-evaluated self-serving class c BS.


  • 11. eleanor  |  February 19, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    There are no video clips on the HGI website…?

  • 12. David  |  February 21, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks, Chimp, for your post.

    You make some interesting points, and it seems Eleanor is responding, but not to your actual points. I am not on either “side,” if sides exist – I’m still forming opinions about HG.

    Chimp says that he finds no published research on HG effectiveness.

    Eleanor responds that the HG approach is cherry-picked from pre-existing research into the efficacy of various techniques in other “schools.”

    It’s possible that both are right. Eleanor didn’t actually respond to the observation that there’s no science supporting HG, she just said it’s based on science.

    And that seems plausible. These two guys got together and moaned to each other that the field of psychotherapy was too scattered, and had too many dogmas, etc that were being treated as effective, without any evidence to that effect. So they went through the books, picked out what they thought was backed up sufficiently by science, and put together the Human Givens approach. Which has yet to actually yield any scientific output of its own.

    I haven’t seen the research they claim to have done to distill their approach – I wonder if it’s published? A single report on how they chose what they chose, with citations to the evidence they relied on, would go a long way towards establishing credibilty outside of the circle of people who’s livelihood depends on it being true. If they say they used science as a criteria for inclusion of a technique or idea, can we please see the science they used for that selection process?

    Eleanor (and Jeremy, who may be a fine therapist, but makes an argument full of logical fallacy), seem/s to accept, to take for granted, that HG’s founders’ approach to the research which came to underly HG, was in fact, scientificaly undertaken. Jeremy, especially, doesn’t seem to understand that scepticism is different from “cynicism and negativity”.

    My perspective is that I’m looking for some good counseling, to work through a couple of outstanding issues related to career, divorce, midlife “crisis”, etc. I’m very familiar with a number of approaches, and I know people who love and hate each of those approaches, and family members professionally involved in a few of them.

    Looking around on wikipedia recently, I ran across HG. It does make sense in an intuitive way, that to the extent mental health issues are not the result of “damage” in the nervous system, or chemical imbalances, then problems result from living lives that don’t meet our needs. Sure, what else is new? For mild cases, meaning not addiction or serious depression, or schizophrenia, or other serious problems, HG may provide a useful perspective. May. But there’s no evidence that it does. If HG uses techniques which are shown to be effective, where’s the report on how those techniques were identified and evaluated?

    And there are some scary points: The confidence of the founder’s perspective on dreams, absent any research to support it, does give pause. Anyone who says that they “know what dreams are all about” but who hasn’t done any scientific research (peer-reviewed, published, etc), seems a little out of touch with reality to me. That’s like saying “I know god’s intent” or whatever – maybe it sells books, but it’s not scientific. (Not that dreams are god’s intent – but that neither is, as far as I know, yet evaluated or explained by the scientific method).

    So, for me, a very mild case looking for a little constructive feedback on my cognition, behavior, etc, I’m thinking this might be worthwhile to take a few sessions. But I”m not on any health plan that would cover it, and it turns out the therapy runs close to 60 Pounds per hour. If it works, and I get into a good space and get some good practices going for dealing longer-term with issues, I can see the investment being worthwhile.

    But how can I evaluate it’s effectiveness? Only subjectively. It seems there’s a real lack of evidence either way.

  • 13. experimental chimp  |  February 21, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    David: Thanks for the well thought out commentary.

    I believe it was Carl Sagan who said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” and HG seems to make some rather unusual claims. For example, in Joe Griffin’s New Scientist interview he claims that depression can be treated in a day via his dreaming as the source of all ills theory. That, I think, qualifies as an extraordinary claim, but there’s no proof at all (at least of the peer-reviewed, independently judged scientific sort).

    He may be right. But until there is proof, it seems unethical to me to for him to make such statements, especially where there’s a financial incentive involved (and as one of the core members of the HG business, Joe Griffin certainly has an incentive for people to seek out HG therapy). For me, the key question to ask is: Do you trust people who operate in this manner? My own answer is: No.

    That’s a subjective judgment on my part, and your own answer may well be different. It may be that for your needs, many kinds of therapy will give you the additional perspective you’re looking for. I’d also suggest that how you get on with a specific therapist may be more important than the specific methodology they use.

    Depending on where you’re located, there’s a few options before paying for therapy. Assuming you’re in the UK, you may be able to access therapy through your GP. A lot of employers also run employee assistance programs which offer several sessions of counseling free of charge. If this is the case, it might be a good idea to see how these work out. Even if they don’t help you in the ways you’d like, you’ll have a better idea of what will. (There’s also things like MoodGym, which is a free, online cognitive behaviour therapy course).

    Good luck with finding effective therapy.

  • 14. David  |  February 22, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Not in the UK, or employed, so thanks for the other suggestions, but they don’t apply. I’ll check into MoodGym.

    Thanks also for the reminder about rapport (“how you get on with a specific therapist may be more important than the specific methodology”). This seems one of those things we pretty much know intuitively, but can forget from time to time. Good Point!

    Keep it up!

  • 15. David  |  February 22, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Other Resources:

    By the way, your readers (or you) may be interested to know about PsyBlog ( http://www.spring.org.uk/ ) and/or Skeptic’s Dictionary ( http://skepdic.com/lgsap.html ).

    These two resources take a more scientific perspective on things like this. Not cynical, or negative, just evidence-based.

  • 16. eleanor  |  February 22, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    David – thanks for your reply. “The confidence of the founder’s perspective on dreams, absent any research to support it” – Joe Griffin researched this theory for 15 years, explained what was missing in other dream theories and why, wrote a thesis on it full of thousands of case studies and previous research studies which supported it (is this not scientific?) constantly tested it on himself and those around him – which was eventually published in the book, The Origin of Dreams. Why would anyone say this stuff if they hadn’t fully researched it? I know Joe Griffin personally, and he is one of the most scientifically minded, down-to-earth and rational people I have ever met.

    Also, you are absolutely right about individual therapists and rapport. I’ve seen research which indicates that it’s more about the attitude and ability of the individual therapist rather than the therapeutic approach they have been trained in which help the client feel better!

    Chimp – Rather than continuing to argue, I think it would be better for you to find out more for yourself before you say anymore. It’s strange to me that you’re saying you don’t know enough about us or the information we publish yet you are still making sweeping condemnations, because I know you are a very intelligent, rational and logical person with a huge capacity for informed discussion.

    With respect, it’s difficult to argue with anyone who isn’t fully acquainted with the techniques used in HG therapy because ignorance and emotion (e.g. “Take this author who likens addiction to a tummy ache from hunger..”) are always going to overrule before true discussion.

    Read the independent reviews on amazon [by people we don’t know!] who have read our books, read the depression book, read the human givens book, read the addiction book, listen to the cds, find out for yourself. We wouldn’t be doing what we do if it didn’t work on real people with real problems.

  • 17. experimental chimp  |  February 22, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    eleanor – I appreciate that my original post about HG was a bit immoderate. I think the information presented there is correct, but the tone is rather hostile. In my reply to David I even went so far to say that while I wouldn’t choose an HG therapist, there are reasons why an HG therapist may be appropriate for him (rapport being more important than methodology). Your replies, as well as Jeremy’s are visible to anyone who looks at the comments, which present a counter-argument to my own.

    With respect, you seem to keep missing the point. I’ve repeatedly stated that I do not have the necessary background in psychiatric medicine to independently evaluate it. This applies to most people and most treatments. To make an analogy, I don’t have enough information to know whether angioplasty is more effective than a coronary artery bypass graft. I’m not a heart surgeon or a cardiologist and nor are most people who undertake such surgery. What I do know is that there’s plentiful research out there, that has been published and peer reviewed in respectable, independent scientific journals. The claims of any specific cardiologist who suggests such treatment can be independently checked and verified.

    I’m aware that Joe Griffin has published his research through HG. This isn’t the point. His research has not been independently peer reviewed. It doesn’t even seem to have been referenced or cited by other scientists. There is no way to independently verify his claims, because nobody has done so. If you can point me to an independent evaluation of his claims in the scientific literature outside of the HG organisation then I’ll happily retract this. Amazon doesn’t count as independent scientific review, I’m afraid.

    With regard to the addiction as hunger pangs reference, the original article, published in the Sunday Herald in 2004, a copy of which is quoted in the link I gave, the relevant quote goes:

    “”It’s easy to give up an addiction,” [Joe Griffin] said, “Ninety per cent of the discomfort is caused by our minds, and when you strip all that away, all you’re left with is a feeling no worse than a hunger pang.”

    Now, he may have been misquoted, but that’s what was published. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to paraphrase this as “likening addiction to a tummy ache from hunger”. Do you?

    I hope in my comments, rather than the original post, I’m not coming across as overly hostile. As far as I can see, we’ve been able to deal with each other in a reasoned debate about this. I certainly welcome your comments, but I think we’ll always disagree.

  • 18. Jeremy  |  February 22, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    Hi Chimp, David

    Thanks for your thought provoking posts. Firstly I never attacked anyone personally, I commented on the negative stance being taken.

    You guys are so way off the mark it’s scarey, HG isn’t magic, it isn’t new age or weird. You speak as if it’s voodoo…lol

    Try and grasp these points, and maybe you’ll see where I’m coming from.

    1) Human Givens Therapy is simply based on the work of hundreds of researchers and Psychologists who have looked at what a person needs to be ‘functional’. You can check a huge body of work by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers,etc for magnificent eveidence of needs and rapport in therapy.

    2) When I say the research is there, it means go look for yourself, there are millions of pages on the net about counselling. Effectiveness, comparitive trials etc.

    3) HG therapy uses CBT (check the research), Motivational interviewing with addictions (check the research), Guided imagery (check out rehearsal, brain plasticity, clinical hypnosis), Basic neuroscience (eg Amygdala in panic attacks), all within a client centred framework (check out rapport and warmth in counselling setting).

    4) We also use the Rewind technique for PTSD, which was first used by NLP and refined by HG; It uses basic principles of normalising memories using REM state, similar to EMDR which is used in the NHS every day. (check research on PTSD)

    5) Joe’s dream theory is still just that a THEORY, it’s called a theory and many people like it. Neuroscience has some of the pieces, but not all of them. The beauty of this theory is, you can read it and try it out on yourself. It is not used in therapy as such, it is something we are aware of and some people find it interesting, others don’t and that’s cool.

    6) We HG therapists are very interested in moving Psychotherapy forward into 21st Century, away from Freud and old fashioned ideas which have been shown to be harmful. We have no secrets and only work with what is shown to be safe and effective.

    Now please, do some research and come back with some facts. Asking questions is positive and slagging is negative. Upto you guys.

    Thanks for your time, Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 19. Jeremy  |  February 22, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    hi…by the way…

    To respond to the criticism of Joe’s Dream theory:

    Briefly, Joe has worked hard on this for many years, you can test it yourself tonight, if you understand it. Have you read the book?

    1) Check out the research available on depressed people in sleep labs, yes they tend to go into REM for most of the night…dreaming.

    2) Dreaming uses more energy than sitting down while awake, it burns glucose and neurochemicals such as serotonin.

    3) PGO spikes are fired from the brainstem while dreaming, all night, this is also known as the orientation response, it also uses up energy…hence more dreaming equals less energy in the brain.

    4) it has long been known that depressed people wake up exhausted after a long night of rem, dreaming to lower arousal and act out worries…today’s strees and worry is tomorrows depression!

    5) SSRI drugs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, directly target REM and reduce it, making patients dream less and put energy back in the brain…they don’t solve problems however.

    6)Modern neuroscience has shown how the right side of the brain works through metaphor, check the research for yourself. Dreams act out the previous 24 hrs or so in metaphor, using the visual cortex and the metaphoric side of the brain…you can see it on MFRI, pet scans etc.

    7) Joe built his theory on all this research…check it for yourselves. Stress levels are lowered by sleep, energy is burnt up by dreaming…fact.

    I could go on and on, but I don’t have time, this was done in a hurry, sorry…buy the book and absorb it if you’re really interested in dreaming and depression. Try it on yourselves, Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 20. experimental chimp  |  February 23, 2007 at 1:39 am

    Jeremy – I find it somewhat puzzling that the responses I’ve seen, yours included, don’t address my points. It doesn’t matter to me if HG therapy is effective or not. The one thing that I have a problem with is that the HG organisation presents itself as highly scientific without, in fact, engaging in science. HG can do all the research it wants, but unless it’s published in peer-reviewed journals and cited by other scientists, it’s not science. It makes no difference whether this is a synthesis of other research or has miraculously sprung from Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrells’ collective brow, if it’s not independently peer reviewed then it lacks any kind of scientific validity and it’s unethical for HG to make claims that imply science has been going on.

    That’s my problem with HG, not whether it works or doesn’t.

    However, to respond to your other points about Joe Griffin’s sleep research…

    You mention that “Dreaming uses more energy than sitting down while awake, it burns glucose and neurochemicals such as serotonin.” This is hardly clear from the research. (Also “burns serotonin”? That’s not how serotonin works.) For example: “Contrary to the predictions of this hypothesis, single unit recordings from the serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) have uniformly shown that DRN discharge rate is positively correlated with behavioral arousal but negatively correlated with both the NREM and REM phases of sleep.” Serotonin neurons and sleep. I. Long term recordings of dorsal raphe discharge frequency and PGO waves.

    Or, in this more recent paper: “Serotonin has been known for many years to play a role in the modulation of sleep, however, it is still very controversial how and where serotonin may operate this modulation.” Serotonin and the sleep/wake cycle: special emphasis on microdialysis studies.

    You also say: “Modern neuroscience has shown how the right side of the brain works through metaphor…” This is, to be frank, more pseudoscience than neuroscience. Yes, there’s a lateralisation of brain function and functions involving holistic reasoning tend to be on the right hand side. But it’s meaningless to assert that the right hand side of the brain works through metaphor.

    But I don’t have any specific criticisms of Joe Griffin’s theory about dreams other than the fact that he hasn’t published any papers about it outside of HG; and it’s never been peer reviewed or even cited in scientific papers by anyone outside of HG. Again, my problem is that it’s presented as if its science while being nothing of the sort.

  • 21. David  |  February 23, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Hi Folks,

    I may return later to discuss this in more depth, I need to go meet my Human Given need for lunch here pretty quick, but one quick answer to Eleanor’s question:

    You Say:
    Joe Griffin researched this theory for 15 years, explained what was missing in other dream theories and why, wrote a thesis on it full of thousands of case studies and previous research studies which supported it (is this not scientific?) constantly tested it on himself and those around him – which was eventually published in the book, The Origin of Dreams.

    And my answer is, YES, this is NOT SCIENTIFIC. On a number of counts, including most obviously, “constantly tested it on himself.” Further, did he publish his research? Research to me, in the scientific sense, involves observable, repeatble (by othes), controlled experimentation, to either support or disprove a stated hypothosis.

    It’s a religion, not science, if you have an idea, and you find only evidence to support it.

    The theory may be a good one, but I’m leaning towards agreeing with Chimp on the ethics question – to represent something as scientific, without any science to back it up, does raise my concerns.

    I think we all agree on this, though => MEET YOUR NEEDS, WITH YOUR TOOLS!


  • 22. David  |  February 23, 2007 at 7:02 pm


    I don’t see where anyone said that you’d made a personal attack – I just pointed out the difference between skepticism and cynicism, and that I thought you’d confused them.

    As for your being scared that Chimp’s and my view of the Human Givens “industry” is “off the mark,” it seems to me that the burden for “not presenting a threat” isn’t on him or me. He said there was no evidence to support what he thought were “extraordinary” claims, and he noted that most of the high practitioners are involved in organizations that support each other exclusively, and he characterized that as “incestuous” (my spelling?). He later moderated his statements, but never came close to calling it magic, new age, weird, or voodoo. More about that type of “logical fallacy” (and LOL laughing at what others say/think/argue) can be found at http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-ridicule.html . I recommend generally, http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ to anyone who wants to improve their discussion skills.

    As for your points:
    1) HG… based on the work … by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers,etc…
    ==> Familiar with Maslow, Rogers, Erickson, Beck, yes. If HG is “based on” this work, how is it fundamentally different? Different enough to warrant support for an what is essentially a training and PR industry? As Chimp noted, extraordinary claims (some much different than the claims of those leaders mentioned) are made; shouldn’t they be supported by the makers of those claims?

    2) When I say the research is there, it means go look for yourself, there are millions of pages on the net about counselling. Effectiveness, comparitive trials etc.
    ==> Why doesn’t the HG industry publish the research that was used to determine which techniques are “in,” and which are “out?” See http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/burden-of-proof.html

    3) HG therapy uses CBT (check the research), Motivational interviewing with addictions (check the research), Guided imagery (check out rehearsal, brain plasticity, clinical hypnosis), Basic neuroscience (eg Amygdala in panic attacks), all within a client centred framework (check out rapport and warmth in counselling setting).
    ==> Again, three points: Burden of Proof is on HG Industry; if the techniques were “scientifically” chosen, where’s the research/record of that choosing process; and, you’re mixing your metaphors here, I think, so to speak = some of these techniques are supported by science, and others remain controversal or even scientifically discredited.

    4) We also use the Rewind technique for PTSD, which was first used by NLP and refined by HG; It uses basic principles of normalising memories using REM state, similar to EMDR which is used in the NHS every day. (check research on PTSD)
    ==> ??? If you’re making the case for measurable effectiveness, the fact that something comes out of NLP weakens the case considerably. I have looked extensively into NLP (I grew up not far from Santa Cruz), and met and taken classes with Mr. Grinder in person (even gave him a ride in my car!), and I have found no evidence to objectively support any of the claims of NLP. Interesting ideas about communications, manipulating people, and postive thinking, but no science supporting “effectiveness.”

    5) Joe’s dream theory is still just that a THEORY, it’s called a theory and many people like it. Neuroscience has some of the pieces, but not all of them. The beauty of this theory is, you can read it and try it out on yourself. It is not used in therapy as such, it is something we are aware of and some people find it interesting, others don’t and that’s cool.
    ==> In Science, a THEORY is Disprovable. By definition. If you can’t disprove it, it’s not a Theory, scientifically. This is basic stuff, I think. Joe’s perspective on dreams may be useful, valuable, etc, but it’s not a THEORY, actually, is it? It’s a perspective, a guess, a fantasy, a philosophy, I think. And, I think, he should know that if he is in fact, “a scientific man.”

    6) We HG therapists are very interested in moving Psychotherapy forward into 21st Century, away from Freud and old fashioned ideas which have been shown to be harmful. We have no secrets and only work with what is shown to be safe and effective.
    ==> I agree that therapy should be safe and effective. I’m not sure where we as a society should put the bar of proof before allowing people to accept money for “therapy,” but I do think it should be higher before the state gives those same people money (meaning, if I want to pay a therapist, that bar should be lower than if the state wants to pay that therapist). Can you help me understand the process used to determine what is “safe and effective” according to HG? Is there a report somewhere indicating something like “we selected techniques which were supported by 3 or more peer-reviewed case studies, but exluded those techniques which were not, or were disproved by the current scientific evidence.” Or SOMETHING to back up this “it’s based on science” claim? Something scientific, perhaps?

    Overall, I’m interested in the philosophy of The Human Givens approach. It sounds like a valuable, often-overlooked, resimplification of the therapeutic approach. As I said before, it makes sense to me, intuitively, for mild cases – even moderate cases, perhaps. When I say it’s not scientific, I’m not saying that means it’s worthless, I’m just saying it is what it is: a philosophy. Jung was a philosopher, not a scientist for example, but I think his contribution was valuable. Philosophy is good, important, necessary, but it’s not science. Carl Rogers wasn’t “doing science” when he started writing books, either, but he didn’t claim that he was. It was others, later, who turned it into science, by developing testable hypothoses, and testing them, and reporting their work in peer-reviewed studies.

    Should I pay someone 85 Euros (65 Pounds) an hour to listen to my problems and recommend solutions? That’s pretty high, really. Maybe I should go Skiing instead? There’s lots of evidence that sport is good for body and mind!

  • 23. Jeremy  |  February 23, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Hi Guys,

    There are at least 50 neurochemicals in the brain, yes they play a role in sleep and yes there’s lots of research out there covering this subject, it doesn’t all agree.

    Excessive dreaming burns energy within the brain, it results in lower serotonin and lower dopamine, hence SSRI being very common for depression. If you want to unlock the precise order and mechanism, go for it and then publish the results. You might make a name for yourself.

    This insistance on Joe’s theory being ‘Scientific’, how very odd…he did the research on himself and others while studying for his PHd at LSE London if I remember rightly, but anyway it is as scientific as any other theory on dreaming. You have to consider that such a hypotheses is not easy to ‘prove’, we’re talking about ‘why’ we and mammals dream. You can bet your last dollar that he’s closer to the truth than Freud and co, seeing as birds and dogs hardly live a life of repressed sexuality through their REM state.

    So what do you have? Joe’s theory…no one has disproved it and it’s out there being read by many ‘scientists’. One day I dare say it will be accepted by the general public, but if it isn’t that’s their problem not mine.

    The approach to therapy is however based on ‘scientific’ research, as I’ve shown you. No one asks anyone to sign up to Joe’s excellent theory on dreams, we really don’t care what anyone thinks, it’s a free world after all.

    Maybe you guys should try an HG therapist and feel better today….

    As for sleep problems…ask yourself this, honestly, how much caffeine do you drink each day? Alcohol? Drugs? How much exercise do you get each day? We all have to develop good hygiene around sleep, go to bed at the same time, don’t get over stimulated before bed, get rid of computers and electronics from the bedroom and make sure we are tired out with our activity during the day, eat a healthy diet and get our needs met…then sleep comes easier.

    Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 24. Jeremy  |  February 23, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    Hi David,

    I like your style, in fact both of you are very sharp and intelligent, you ask good questions and deserve good answers.ETSI, Joe, Ivan, Piers, Pat and the gang selected the things from therapies which had been shown to work, that’s why they chose to refine Rewind. NLP is not a whole therapy, in my opinion, but all the therapies have some useful aspects I guess. Carl Rogers was in fact involved in lots of ‘scientific’ research projects regarding core conditions, rapport etc. I often prescribe exercise to clients and it has indeed been found to be as effective in depression as SSRIs, in some trials…help about a third of patients.

    My posts on here have been hurried, and I know that’s not the best way to put over such important subject matter. When I write LOL, I mean I’m saying something with humour, chuckling maybe, at myself not you. I know what you mean about these things being easily misunderstood.

    You are right to ask these questions and the world of therapy is full of quacks and bizzarre claims, I agree.

    I would suggest perhaps that you pose some of your questions on Eleanors BLog, mindsalot, as I know Ivan & co read it and write on it. So they may answer some of your more specific questions regarding their choices. I love debate and believe you are right to start this one.

    Go to http://www.hgi.org.uk….general forum (public) if you’d like more answers from more people. It would be good to discuss this there too, if you have time. The tutors and HQ staff would reply too, I will reply here when I have more time also.

    Many thanks, Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 25. experimental chimp  |  February 23, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    Jeremy: Although it’s not directly relevant to the argument, there’s a couple of factual errors in your comments that I’m going to address.

    You say: “Excessive dreaming burns energy within the brain, it results in lower serotonin and lower dopamine, hence SSRI being very common for depression. If you want to unlock the precise order and mechanism, go for it and then publish the results. You might make a name for yourself.”

    I have no argument with the well-established fact that depressed people dream more. However, implying that this uses up energy from a limited source is just plain wrong. Some people have problems with glucose metabolism (eg. diabetics and severely malnourished people). For these people, burning energy can be a problem, and this can impact their brain function (hypoglycaemia can lead to coma). For people who do not have problems with glucose metabolism, the brain using up energy presents no problem at all.

    You also state that serotonin is ‘burnt’. This isn’t how serotonin works. Firstly, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is metabolised from the dietary amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is plentiful and there are very, very few people who have a deficiency in this amino acid. Tryptophan is transported across the blood-brain barrier and is metabolised into serotonin. Serotonin is not ‘burnt’ by the brain. The brain releases serotonin and also takes it up again. That’s how SSRI’s work – they inhibit the reuptake of serotonin.

    It’s been suggested that long term abuse of MDMA may ‘burn out’ the synapses that release serotonin, but this clearly isn’t what’s happening in depression.

    Depressed people seem to have lower levels of released serotonin, but the cause of this is not lack of serotonin (if it was, then taking 5-HTP supplements would be a cure – it seems to help some people, but not others). It seems likely that serotonin has a role in depression, but if so the problem is with the amounts released, not with the amounts available.

    Now, as I said, this isn’t an argument against the theory itself. The general scientific consensus seems to be that the brain is one damn complex system and that several neuotransmitters are implicated in depression and their metabolism, release and reuptake are interlinked and interdependent.

    OK, now that’s out the way, onto the real substance of this response.

    You say: “[Joe Griffin’s theory of dreams] is as scientific as any other theory on dreaming. You have to consider that such a hypotheses is not easy to ‘prove’, we’re talking about ‘why’ we and mammals dream. You can bet your last dollar that he’s closer to the truth than Freud and co, seeing as birds and dogs hardly live a life of repressed sexuality through their REM state.”

    You seem to have completely missed the point. I’ve already gone through the reasons why Joe Griffin’s theory isn’t science. Once again: Neither the theory, nor any of Griffin’s original research has been published in a peer-reviewed, independent scientific journal.. I’m not sure I can be any clearer than this. Either you’re ignoring this, or we have a fundamental disconnect about what ‘science’ is.

    As to it being “closer to the truth than Freud”, that’s both a straw-man argument and a false dilemma (thanks David, that list of fallacies is handy). You’re the only one here who’s brought up Freud. Nobody’s suggesting that Freud’s brand of pseudoscience is a reasonable alternative to Griffin’s theory. You also seem to be suggesting that we either accept Griffin’s theory or Freud’s psychosexual theories. That’s the false dilemma – I don’t have to accept either.

  • 26. Jeremy  |  February 24, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    hi Chimp,

    None of what you say is news to me, I take 5HTP myself and tryptophan is raedily available in a healthy diet…which many people don’t have. I refer to ‘energy’ in the brain, I know full well what SSRIs are and how they work, as I said.

    From my perspective, and I’m not a top flight Neuro surgeon or anything, Energy in the brain is a combination of glucose, dopamine for motivation, PGO spikes for orientation (many are fired off during dreaming, too many will result in a lack of motivation on waking), and Serotonin, which plays a part in balancing Left right brain activity amongst other things. This is why SSRIs don’t work very well, and you’re right to say it’s not purely a lack of serotonin, as the brain adjusts to boosted Serotonin levels and reuptake activity.

    So yes it is a puzzle, we have some pieces, we have some theories. We do know that slow wave deep sleep reenergises the brain, we know that depressed persons dream lots, lack brain energy and motivation…ie wake up without feeling refreshed and recharged like a healthy brain does after a good sleep. You don’t need to be a total genius to figure out the realtionship between sleep, worry, dreaming, serotonin, dopamine and PGO spikes. The theory is a good one, and untill you or someone else disproves it or comes up with something better, I’m sticking with this one.

    As for ‘Science’, I’m not as hung up on a definition…I believe there is good science, bad science, pseudoscience and misinterpreted science. A theory should tie in with other related research, be testable by anyone who wishes to do so and stand up to cross examination…Joe’s dream theory does all of these. I’m not a publisher and don’t care where it’s published, but it’s in books, magasines inc New Scientist, HG journal and if it gets picked up great, I think it will in time.

    Remember, you do not see the world as it is, but as you are.

    Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 27. experimental chimp  |  February 24, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Jeremy: Again, my problem isn’t with the theory itself. I don’t actually care if it’s correct or not. What I object to is its misrepresentation as science when it’s quite clearly not. I think it’s obvious now that we fundamentally differ on what ‘science’ is. For me, science is not coming up with an idea and shouting about it until people take notice. It’s the result of a process involving both the original researcher and the structures of sciences. Peer review doesn’t just exist for fun. It provides a mechanism for checking the methodology of scientists, and making sure that the results and conclusions they reach are warranted by the evidence. Interesting ideas are taken up and tested by others who also publish their results in the same manner. It provides a level of trust that no deception is taking place (and as the physicist Richard Feynman pointed out, in science the easiest person to fool is yourself).

    I think the conclusion we have come to is that you are just as unqualified as me to evaluate the merits of Griffin’s theory. But while I have made no judgment on it, you seem to believe in it wholeheartedly and are willing to ignore the complete lack of scientific rigour involved. I have no problem with this – you’re entitled to believe in whatever you want – but pretending that it is science and using the rhetoric of science in order to market things is unethical.

    Ah, we seem to have gone full circle.

  • 28. Jeremy  |  February 25, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Hi Chimp,

    You have a point, I myself never refer to the theory as ‘scientific’ when chatting about dreams with people, I usually say ‘excellent theory’ or something like that.

    As for peer reviewed, I know for a fact that many sleep researchers, Psychiatrists, Doctors, Psychologists, Counsellors have definitely read Joe’s dream theory, many agree and endorse it. There aren’t that many dream experts as such, so it depends on how you define ‘peer’. Joe is a Psychologist and I know lots of other Psychologists who support him.

    The beauty of this dream theory, is that you can test it on yourself, it’s not psychobabble. We can all be ‘scientists’, record what you remember of your dreams and see the metaphors which are applied to the previous days waking concerns, images etc.

    On brain Lateralisation, there is plenty of good research out there which clearly shows left brain deals with about 95% of language, logic etc and right brain works with metaphor, imagery, imagination. When the wiring which joins the two halves is cut and language, imagery tests are done to the two independent sides of the brain, this is clearly shown, look it up.

    Anyone can test these things themselves, I know for sure that when I’m worried about something, I tend to wake up groggy, often after intense dreaming. The brain is an ‘expectation’ machine, we use our imagination to run through possible outcomes, this is the key to many peoples’ problems…negative use of the imagination, which leads to excessive dreaming as the brain tries to bring down arousal levels, which in turn to leads to a flat battery or depressed brain. Mood is depressed, motivation is low and eventually interest in life can be lost.

    Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 29. Paul  |  February 27, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    The videos I mentioned were on the human givens foundation site.

    I would also suggest that a study of the philosophy of science would be really useful to anyone making claims about the scientific validity of thier products. There is much mention in posts here about the reseach done by the likes of Carl Rogers et al, well they may have been envolved in research, however to what degree it was scientific is another question.

  • 30. Jeremy  |  March 1, 2007 at 12:07 am

    Hey guys,

    Science shouldn’t be a religion, there is so much bad science out there, contradictory and subsequently shown to be wrong science.

    The world is full of religion, none of it is vaguely ‘scientific’…much of what is ‘scientific’ is just theory. Many, many experiments, drugs, research etc which is definitely ‘scientific’ is also complete shite.

    I read scientific reports all the time which contradict oneanother, drugs which pass trials galore, but actually don’t work at all, or harm people.

    Let’s get over the obsession with ‘science’, there is also subjective experience, collective experience, wisdom, knowledge, ancient knowledge, intuition etc.

    We all have to choose what we feel is real, but quantum physics, evolution or whatever are not ‘truth’, they are opinion, belief and theory. We operate on our own experience and belief every day, scientific doesn’t mean a damn thing in reality.

    Look at chimp, he puts himself in the system for his mental illness, very scientific but also crap, can they cure him? No. Do they know what’s wrong with him? No. Do their ‘scientific’ drugs work? No. Do all these quacks with their scientific data have a clue what to do, or what ridiculous label to give him? No.

    So get your head out of Wikipedia and join the real world, where we use our intelligence and intuition, or we use our own internal ‘Bullshit detector’ to sift through the mountains of misinformation pumped out by the system. Learn to use your own, whatever that means for you.

    Chimp, I’d like to help you, I really feel for you, we’ve dealt with so many people who have suffered longer than they needed to, who are better now. We are all on the ‘mental health continuum’, from healthy to extreme Psychosis driven by stress overload. The labels are attempts to describe behaviour, but as peoples’ symptoms change, behaviour changes and often the label is pointless. We all contain depression, OCD, anxiety, panic, Schizoid, Psychotic etc etc potential. Anyone can have or be made to have a breakdown, millions of people experience voices, hallucinations and fear madness at times…it’s so common it’s normal.

    The CIA and every group who uses torture know full well that you can drive anyone psychotic by depriving them, or breaking up, their sleep cycle; It’s still the best method of breaking people down.

    Many people under stress will break, it happens every day, some become anxious, some depressed, some psychotic or whatever their current symptoms are. Once massive stress overloads nature’s method of reducing stress and keeping emotional templates current and intact,ie sleeping (esp slow wave and REM mechanism) the person will develop symptoms.

    These symptoms are not permanent, but sadly due to the self obsessed trance which negative intoverted rumination can cause, delusions can follow (often encouraged by the ignorance of the pseudoscience of psychiatry), patients can come to believe that they are permanently mad and can even kill themselves.

    The good news is that once a person takes their focus off their own problems a little, slowly reengages with the world, learns to manage their symptoms,takes more exercise, improves their diet, burns up their energy in healthy ways, and establishes a healthy sleep routine…the symptoms fall away.

    Once a patient sees how stress and unhealthy habits together overloaded the delicate balance of the Human organism, they can set about rebuilding a healthier way of life where they can get their needs met. Even the most psychotic extreme longterm Schizoid patient can, and do, achieve this. There is hope for everyone, however damaged they are, perhaps not always total recovery in all extreme cases, but needs can be met according to a person’s abilities. (even paraplegic, autistic, terminally ill or brain damaged persons can learn to have a better quality of life, without the extra layer of misery depression brings them, it’s an extra problem which is often overcome).

    Staying at home on computers, or watching tv, ruminating about your problems, simply creates more ‘depression’ the next day. Getting out and doing real things in the real world is the best way to get on the road to recovery, even extreme patients benefit from work projects or non stressful work groups. Exercise is essential, we’ve evolved to burn energy this way, walking or gym or whatever. Caffiene, alcohol, drugs and poor diet are the enemies of mentally ill people and a little change brings great rewards.

    An intelligent person can see this, anyone can take control back over these destructive habbits if they truly want to get better, indeed it happens all the time. We need to go to bed at a regular time and get up at a regular time, teach the brain to sleep regularly again, recondition sleep with bed, there are many tried and proven methods of doing this. Even extreme insomniacs learn to sleep again and learn good sleep higyene, it takes effort of course.

    People often want a magic pill or someone else to fix them, but in the end only you can sort yourself out, quality help is hard to come by. Use your intelligence to get back on track, tackle your harmful, self destructive habits and take one step at a time, recovery is easier than you think. I could put you onto an excellent therapist if you need support.

    Email me personally if you want free help via email too, jezt@hotmail.com

    Best wishes, Jeremy

  • 31. More on Human Givens « Experimental Chimp  |  March 1, 2007 at 4:20 am

    […] seems to have been with a Human Givens therapist called Jeremy. You can read his latest comment here. I suggest you do, it’s… illuminating. Many people under stress will break, it happens […]

  • 32. experimental chimp  |  March 1, 2007 at 4:21 am

    Jeremy: I’ve replied in a separate post.

  • 33. Jeremy  |  March 1, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Dearest chimp,

    I’m sorry you don’t understand my post, I tried to keep it simple for you, but I guess I expected too much from you. Yes, lots of people do get better, and yes, stress leads to mental illness. Yes, Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, there is not ONE shred of evidence that a single mental illness is caused by a biological factor, not in 100 years of trying have they proved a chemical basis for any of it. NOT ONE, now you may find that hard to believe, but an imbalance of neurochemicals does not cause depression etc.

    The drugs prescribed are not magic bullet cures and if you put your faith in that, you will suffer much longer than you need to, but that is your choice and yes, society is mainly ignorant of the causes of mental illness.

    As you are not my client, and never will be, I feel free to inform you that you seem to be a totally self obsessed know all (sic) and if you want to get better, you need to realise this and stop being such a winging negative tosser, focus outwards and reclaim your life.

    You really don’t deserve any more of my time or energy, so I wish you bon voyage in your chosen route through the mental health maze… send me a postcard.

  • 34. Tom Dandy  |  March 2, 2007 at 12:50 am

    I laughed so hard I almost choked!

    Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?
    -Tom Dandy

  • 35. Jeremy « Experimental Chimp  |  March 2, 2007 at 4:38 am

    […] His response to my recent post was left on the much earlier post. It’s a classic of its form. If you look closely you can see the trajectory of the toys as they arc out of his pram, because he’s not playing anymore. […]

  • 36. Andy  |  March 2, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    Yo Dudes,

    Call me a flippin hippy but I don’t like conflict, what’s eating you guys??? Chimp I like reading your blog man, but I’ve never written anything b4.
    I don’t kno jack bout Human gibbons or woteva, but it looks to me like that guy Jermi was trying to offer sincere advice and help you dude, but you jus dissed him n tried to make him look a cunt. maybe he is a cunt, but what he says actually makes some friggin sense man. I was ill with depression for 5 years, went thru all the Psych ward treatment, anlysis etc, took prozac and seroxat, but I didn’t get better. I sat at home watchin tele, dumped my mates and spirald downwards for years. Tried to top mself too twice with painkillers n vodka.
    I got better when I joind a woodwork project, stopped drinking, went joggin and made some new mates at work. I’m fine again now apart from the odd blue day, but the jerm has a point, I was in a trance and when I looked outside me comfort zone I came alive again. You’re a good guy, Don’t give up chimp, you’ll come thru this, dont let em grind u down.
    Love Andy x

  • 37. experimental chimp  |  March 2, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Andy: Yer a flippin hippy.

  • 38. fivebelies  |  March 15, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    A typical trait of someone who is self obsessed is their unwillingness to accept another opinion and to employ ridicule and insult as a method of persuasion when their argument fails.

  • 39. Tom Dandy  |  March 16, 2007 at 1:51 am

    So you’re calling Jeremy self-obsessed?

    -Tom Dandy

  • 40. fivebelies  |  March 16, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Yea Tom. I have come across him on other forums and he is a wonderful chap that is without doubt one of the best people alive. I know because he told me. But he talks gobledegook.

    I’ve done this Human Gibbons stuff and it wurks especally for primates. I was born in the year of the monkey. So, Experimental Chimps give it a try and if you feel like swinging through the trees then it wurks. I have found that in all my years being ground down to nothing and looking bleakly down a pit of dispare that you can make up your own mind if you want. But all you do is try something some of it will work some of it will not. But don’t spend a lot of money because if you do it’s a con. All I did was read some of the HG books and hey presto! ammm swinging dude!

    Hope it works for you too.

  • 41. David  |  June 9, 2007 at 10:33 am

    How about this quote from Ivan Tyrell on the BMJ website?:


    The anecdotes are positive, so where’s the evidence? Ivan Tyrrell comments: “People are starting to do it [research]—but we aren’t doing it ourselves. If a plane is flying, you don’t need to keep showing that it’s possible to fly. In the same way we have shown that our method works and it works repeatedly. So it’s up to people who want to provide evidence to do the research.”

  • 42. experimental chimp  |  June 9, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    David – As I understand it, in 2005 (when that article was published) HG weren’t doing any research. Since then, I believe there’s a couple of research projects being conducted by the Human Givens Institute.

  • 43. David  |  June 9, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks I’ll check that out.

  • 44. Homer  |  June 15, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Just stumbled on your excellent site and read all the postings re HG with great interest and some amusement. I’ve attended a number of HG seminars & workshops that both Griffen & Tyrrell have presented and have read their books. I found their ideas very useful and have employed some of the practical skills in my work.
    My problem with HG is that theory is presented as if fact. Griffen’s dream theory is interesting but not only has it not been supported by other researchers but as far as I’m aware it’s not widely known or promoted outside HG circles. I’ve met a number of HG therapists (all reasonable people despite evidence to the contrary on this site) who repeat this theory as if it is accepted fact. Dodgy. Other blanket statements and claims are made about complex issues such as the use of anti-psychotic medication and the efficacy of other therapies. Like many good ideas / organisations in principle, HG seems to be propelled by an evangelical zeal that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

  • 45. experimental chimp  |  June 15, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Homer: Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the thread.

    I’ve talked over email with at least one HG therapist whose views are similar to your own. My impression has also been that most HG people are reasonable people and with a single exception, all that I’ve spoken to seem to be honestly out to help people.

    I do agree, though, that it’s the overall style of HG and its top-down approach that causes concern. I’ve found it quite strange that Joe Griffin’s dream theory seems so central to the organisation as it presents itself, since as far as I can tell it really has very little relevance to the work that HG-trained therapists do or to their clients. The overstatement of various claims, including the dream theory and the presentation of theory as fact and speculation as science seems actively harmful to the organisation, which seems to be rooted in good intentions.

  • 46. Homer  |  June 15, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    You’ve hit the nail on the head there. It’s odd how central the dream theory is reckoned to be considering HG aims to provide brief, solution based therapy. It can give the impression that the promotion of this big idea has perhaps become the most important thing on the agenda.
    I’m of the opinion that the HG model of how people become depressed and how to lift it is generally excellent. It seems highly plausible that excessive negative introspection about unmet emotional needs or the past can lead to depression. However, even presuming that this is true of most people most of the time how can you be sure that this is always the case? My impression from their courses & books is something of a ‘one size fits all’ type explanation.

  • 47. stephen osmond  |  June 18, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    [Note from E.C.: Steve’s comment was just over 3500 words long, which I felt was perhaps a little too long for this kind of page. I’ve reposted it elsewhere along with my detailed response. Take a look over at: Steve Osmond: HG Therapist.]

  • 48. Steve Osmond: HG Therpist « Experimental Chimp  |  June 18, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    […] 18th, 2007 Note from E.C.: This is a comment that was posted to the Looking at the Human Givens page that has become the bane of my existence a constant source of interest. The comment in […]

  • 49. Daniel  |  January 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Dear Chimp

    I’ve only just read all of these posts about Human Givens and your discussions with Jeremy etc.
    Absolutely compelling and fascinating reading.
    As a mental health nurse (who has now recovered from his own difficulties with low mood, anxiety, self-harm and substance misuse), I actually have a lot of time for the HG approach and use a lot of their techniques when working with clients. However, like you, I have a huge problem with their inappropriate and unethical use of the word “science” and the way they describe their ‘theories’ as fact. Especially their wild claims about dreams and the re-wind technique! I think it really undermines the other largely good stuff they do.
    Anyway, the points you made were spot-on and your arguements were sound. And they way you dealt with Jeremy’s frankly ‘deluded’ gibberish was admirable. Unlike featherseeds, you never descended to Jeremy’s level of nastiness, so good on you. As I said it was fascinating to read and very useful for me. I learnt a lot. I think I now probably WON’T do any of their training courses, but will continue to use some of their techniques…….
    Do you know if Ivan Tyrell and Joe Griffin have been following any of this stuff? It would be fascinating to get their responses to your criticisms and conversations with Jeremy and Elanoar (who is clearly a very nice lady)…….
    You are such a clever, well-informed and eloquent guy, Chimp. Are you writing/would you like to write a novel in the future? Or get into journalism? Find a way of making money form your brilliant writing (if you’re not doing so already?)?
    Anyway, pleasure reading your blog. Thanks and take care,

  • 50. Clara Byrne  |  June 6, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I got to about post 30 before I gave up reading. I am looking into the Human Givens approach as a way to helping myself. I have only just started my research.

    However I have to say that I’m utterly disappointed at Eleanor and Jeremy’s complete lack of understanding as to what proper scientific research actually is and have to wonder therefore about the rest of the organisiation. If you don’t even have a basic understanding of what scientific research is I’m not sure I should proceed any further.

    Sigh. The search goes on.

  • 51. Aron Sandham  |  September 9, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Hi Chimp, I just wanted to commend you on your sound thinking and balanced perspective. My doctor has been pushing me to follow the HG approach which instinctively I have been reluctant to do. It has been very helpful to have my suspicions put into words for me by everything you’ve written in your article and your responses to the (evidently indoctrinated) HG arguments. Before my doctor started waxing lyrical about HG I had read one of their books (Human Givens) and although it seemed promising I was put off by the fact that the authors made a point of insisting no existing therapy or technique could help all psychological problems, while at the same time gushing about the ability of the HG approach to help all people. The hypocrisy put me off. It is a little understood fact that it is perception that determines our thoughts, feelings and actions, and conversely it is possible to determine a persons attitude by his thoughts, feelings and actions. It is evident to me that while HG say their motivation is to help as many people as quickly as possible, that in truth it is simply to make themselves feel important whilst making a lot of money. And as it is intent that ultimately determines outcome I will rather spend my precious time and energy being helped by a more sincere school of thought. I am grateful to you for flattening out my intuitions into words, and thereby strengthening it, as you have done so beautifully here. Kind regards

  • 52. Derek  |  February 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I think that this blog is probably very old news now.
    However, I am going to leave some bullet points:
    There was some really interesting dialogue going on-and then suddenly some very nasty comments made, that seemed really out of place. My understanding (and I was reading on and waiting for a reasonable response) was an answer to the question about where (outside of their own HG institution-that also awards it’s own qualifications as well) is any research that backs up any of the claims made by practitioners involved in the HG world. That’s a very simple question to answer and not one that deserves rude replies, but just factual information. It was being made very clear that the answer to this question was being avoided, despite the number of times it was requested. If there is (solid) independent research what is it and who (apart from the HG organisation) has published it? End of story.
    I say this as a Practice Educator in mental health who wants to know. Criticizing other forms of therapy may be valid if it is based on research but as the man said “nobody is right if everybody is wrong”. That does not mean by default, or because someone (or many people) says HG therapy is in itself an effective therapy. As was repeated many times it may be, but some independent research evidence would help.No rudeness, just some hard facts please,

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  • 54. steve r  |  November 18, 2012 at 2:08 am

    What a great thread and most instructive in those oh so subtle techniques codependents employ nowadays…..good cop/bad cop ….labelling things as negative or positive……..calling you obsessed and constantly trying to put the focus on chimp…..really interesting.
    Did they ever get a peer journal review ? The addiction stats must be interesting………

  • 55. Khadija  |  January 7, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    i don’t want to address the arguments above – I think enough has been said. What I would like to say is that, after 40 years working with children and adults in education, mental health, counselling and social work and training with other well-respected organisations I have found HG to be the most coherent, effective and practical model. It works. This is the first time I’ve read a blog let alone got involved so I’ll leave it at that.

  • 56. Jen Lee  |  February 26, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I stopped reading when I saw that Eleanor believed that a review on Amazon was some kind of proof that her organisations’ research had been peer-reviewed. The fact that these people are swindling others out of their money and possibly getting NHS funds is appalling. These people are not scientists and have no idea what science really is.

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  • 59. Anabel Suarez  |  June 29, 2013 at 12:38 am

    I just wanted to say that I am a successful and very busy Executive Coach that living in Spain has mostly American clients.

    I have done a training in Columbia University for graduates at the same time that I was doing the Human Givens Diploma this last year.

    Although Columbia, being one of the most prestigious Universities in the States had a very good program, their teaching and learning strategies can’t be compared with HG (that by far are more effective thoug at the same time more comprenhensive) which I could trace all its claimings (except Joe Griffin’s theory on dreaming as it is original) while I was doing my research for the paper I had to do to complete the Columbia program.

    Most of the faculty members at Columbia in the classes I attended are PhDs, and very prestigious in the States. But, for my clients I have been able to cut in have the amount of sessions they need with me, being given that we need to adress work issues that sometimes require time to see how things develope since I began to apply HG techniques, while at the same time the satisfaction of my clients increases.

    I was always looking for things that work even better than what I used. This approach does. I only found in HG very nice and helping people accesible and ready to help all the time. The fact that I can help family, friends and clients better only makes me even more happy. I don’t want to convince you of anything, but the program at Columbia was far more expensive than the HG and far less helpful for me or my clients. And I can tell you that it was difficult to have to fly sometimes several times a month to go and do it, but what I learned was so good that I couldn’t help but practicing with my family which now are, whenever in pain (physical or emotional) calling me to work with them.

    I wish you the best, independently of your beliefs.

  • […] Looking at the Human Givens | Experimental Chimp […]

  • 61. Caro  |  September 26, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Very insightful thread. Thank you.
    The one thing that really disturbs me about HG is that ANYONE can do their diploma and turn practice as a therapist charging people money, without having any credible qualifications in psychopathology. I mean you could be a window cleaner, do the 28day diploma and then cure someone of ptsd. ABSURD. QUACK. ABUSIVE.

  • 62. anonymous  |  May 31, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    Well it’s been 12 years since this discussion kicked off, and after scouring the Internet for independent studies on the effectiveness of HG, I still come up empty handed. That’s highly unusual given the vastness of the Internet, and how long HG has been around. All the information I can find on HG comes from their website. Sorry but someone marking their own homework is just not good enough for me. If I’m committing to £60 sessions for my daughter, I want some confidence that a) The ideas are based on solid scientific (and peer reviewed) research. And b) that the practitioners have a good background in psychotherapy. I’m not getting a warm fuzzy feeling about this at all, so in the immortal words of ‘Dragon’s Den’, I won’t be investing, and I’m out!

  • 63. Siobhan O'Rourke  |  December 22, 2020 at 6:06 am

    I have no connection with Human Givens and am just doing a bit of research on it. Looking at your information it seems as if there is no external validation of the approach. However the cost of any Psychotherapy training at any college is high and the Human Givens training seems about average to me. Only problem is it does not appear to have external academic accreditation or professional association accreditation and that raises alarm bells for me.

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Hi, I'm James. I'm a 26 year old guy from England with bipolar disorder (currently well controlled). I also have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (not so well controlled). This blog has charted my journey from mental illness, through diagnosis and, recently, into recovery. It's not always easy, but then, what is?


Self-righteous note about smoking

As of 12th September 2008 it has been forty five weeks since I quit smoking. So in another seven weeks it'll have been a whole year.

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