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So what exactly is the difference?

We are often asked this question. “What is the difference between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and your approach?” Since Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is so widely recommended surely it must be “better” than the human givens approach? How do we answer this sensible question?

Simple Organising Ideas

There is now a large amount of data from scientific studies showing the benefits of CBT and many people have been helped by this model of therapy. There is also a degree of overlap between the human givens approach and CBT. For instance, both can be described as “brief, solution focused therapies”. But the reason that we choose to use the human givens approach rather than CBT is because the human givens approach has some basic underlying organising ideas which underpin the whole approach and which we find provide some significant advantages.

Emotions come first

One of these underlying ideas is that when something happens to us, human beings experience an emotional reaction before any thinking occurs. This is due to the fact that the human brain evolved an emotional response before the evolution of the thinking brain (or neo-cortex). The really interesting point is that when emotional responses are very strong, there is a mechanism which overrides our ability to think clearly. This is a valuable thing from a survival point of view, since it prepares us for immediate action, without the hesitation associated with the more rational, considered response. But it is also why people with strong phobias or traumatic responses are usually unable to overcome their difficulties quickly by attempting to think about them differently. The human givens approach uses a variety of interventions, some of which are quite independent of the client’s rational thinking processes.

The Needs Model

Another principle which is fundamental to our approach is the idea of innate needs. As living organisms, we survive by obtaining nutrition of various types from our surrounding environment. When we cannot get those things that we need, we are, by definition, under stress. It is obvious that we all need food, water and sleep. But we also work with the idea that, to be healthy, humans also need things like Attention, Respect, a feeling of Security, Connections with other people, Intimacy, a sense of Achievement, Privacy and a reason to get out of bed in the morning – a sense of Meaning and Purpose. 

This organising idea provides a new way of looking at what “stress” actually is. When we combine this with the insight that stress is the common factor that precedes depression, anxiety, phobias, addiction – in fact all mental ill-health conditions, we discover that there is a clear basis for evaluating what is likely to help people recover quickly.

But isn’t that obvious?

We hope this does seem obvious. Unfortunately, in our experience there are still too few therapists actually using these simple, practical and effective insights as their main focus of how to help people who are struggling. We would argue that the obvious has too often been overlooked by those who are seeking the latest, cleverest, most impressive, most fashionable approaches – and that it is time to step back and clear away the brushwood to see more clearly what humans really are, and what they need to thrive, and why.

If you want to know how we can help you quickly, effectively and economically please contact either myself (Alec) or Bindi to discuss how to take your next step.