Looking at the Human Givens
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.