The Human Givens approach is a large organising idea, which provides a larger framework for understanding emotional wellbeing.
The approach is devised from a rational body of knowledge from a range of scientific and psychological disciplines.

The emphasis is of this approach is on what is missing in a person’s life, their resources and on opportunities for change, rather than a focus on specific difficulties and where they might originate.
The Human Givens framework is therefore a solution focused, therapeutic approach, appropriate to any situation.

The key message of this approach reminds us that although all human beings are unique, we are born with a common set of needs.
As with other living things we need to take nourishment from our environment in order to thrive.
These essential, basic needs are both physical and emotional. Much of our behaviour is a combination of needs.

Our needs must be met for a healthy self concept and for healthy relationships.
Unmet needs lead to poor mental health and a range of negative feelings including frustration, anger, sadness, confusion, lack of trust, jealousy, hurt.
These negative feelings can cause conflict both within ourselves and with others.

Physical needs and survival needs include air, food, shelter, medical care, rest, recreation.

Our key emotional needs are a need for security, attention, control, connection to others, a sense of self esteem from being stretched and achieving, a sense of status, meaning and purpose, friendship/fun/intimacy, belonging to a wider community and privacy.

Nature has also given us an innate guidance system to get these needs met – our own innate resources.
Our resources include imagination, long term memory, self awareness, the ability to problem solve, a range of thinking styles, the ability to pattern match, a rational mind, a dreaming brain and an ability to empathise with others.

Neither needs or resources are a hierarchy – all are needed and all are important, in balance.

A simple, working definition of the Human Givens approach is that we need to have our needs met, well enough, in balance, and nature has provided the ‘tools’ to get those needs met in our environment.

If our needs are met adequately, we are content and we can continue to thrive, to connect with others and to learn throughout life
If our needs are unmet or inadequately met, our systems are unbalanced, leading to distress and an inability to function effectively.

A key message is unmet needs create high emotional arousal, which leads to emotional distress, including depression, fear, anxiety, threat to security, anger and so on. All limit learning.

High emotional arousal creates an inward focus, which is linked to our survival.
Individuals develop a narrow frame of reference, a spotlight on a situation rather than a searchlight which can see ‘the bigger picture’ and all it’s possibilities.
This is creates a ‘black & white’, ‘all or nothing’, ‘good or bad’ thinking style.

In this thinking state, we tend to predict negatively based on previous experiences or beliefs. This creates a cycle of worry, with many “what if?” scenarios, imagining obstacles which our brains think are really there, from old, established, familiar patterns and circuitry.

“I have known many troubles in my life and most of them never happened ”
(Mark Twain)

The significance of having goals in our lives is a key part of a Human Givens approach.
Most people spend more time moving away from what they don’t want than moving towards what they do want, especially when they are struggling emotionally.


‘JUST WHAT WE NEED’ is a therapeutic group approach using a Human Givens framework. This 12 week programme is designed to be flexible and universal, building on the strengths of individuals and of group work, across the continuum from preventative to crisis management.

Its particular structure and focus on the emotional needs of individuals makes it accessible for anyone experiencing emotional distress.

Our aim is for individuals to get their emotional needs met through participation in the group, in addition to learning new ways of perceiving difficulties and challenges and identifying and setting their own goals for change.

A fundamental element of the programme focuses on helping individuals to understand what their emotional needs are, to identify their unmet needs, to identify their strengths and skills – their resources, and to help individuals to get their needs met, well enough, in balance in their environment.


This programme promotes reflective Integration – the process of self correction – making relevant connections between information from different sources.

Having a more ‘mindful’ approach encourages individuals to be more ‘in the moment’, more self aware, making it more likely that they can calm their minds, their emotions and their thinking. This allows opportunities for increased reflection, subsequent change, and the development of skills more naturally.

Individuals need a process for combining experience and feelings in order to integrate their learning. This needs to be embedded within a context where experiences become ‘real’ for them, ie their learning becomes general knowledge that they would have ordinarily been assumed to have through their life experiences.
Just What We Need is not about simply changing behaviour, but about people knowing themselves better or differently through increased self awareness

The vital goal is for an individual to use the programme or process to:

have lower arousal
have increased awareness
develop thinking
suggest a possibility of change
set and achieve goals to bring about that change and maintain that change through reorganisation of their ways of thinking and responding

The programme is designed to be organic, to grow and develop as a metaphor for your group. We hope that you have as much fun and inspiration developing your own individual programme as we have.



 “it’s getting easier! groups terrify me, the thought of leading / delivering torture to me. I feel so comfortable working as part of a 2. Very participative. Feels vibrant. My lack of anxiety is amazing!. I’m usually very wound up. This is the first time ever I’ve felt so comfortable. Feels much more achievable now”. (Psychotherapist and Coach) 

Facilitators feedback 

“It (the group) has made a difference. I can see the changes in myself – I couldn’t see it then, but I can see it now. It became a life I knew, the only way” . Tracy- parent Milton Keynes (feedback after control / autonomy session)

Parents feedback

“Patterns and obstacles keep coming up – it’s about positivity and how to do something differently. Everything is achievable if you look around it from different angles.” 

Parent- Luton