Hartlepool Mind’s Human Givens approach

The Hartlepool branch of Mind has adopted an approach to mental health treatment that can be easily adapted to fit in with the changing needs of the client, writes Amy Taylor

The term Human Givens is likely to be met with blank faces among many social care professionals but the approach is gaining momentum across mental health services and further afield.

The approach works with the knowledge and skills people possess naturally to help them overcome problems. It combines this with other therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and solution-focused therapy, offering individuals a range of solutions.

Fit for purpose

The Hartlepool branch of mental health charity Mind adopted the Human Givens framework seven years ago. Catherine Wakeling, project manager and a Human Givens therapist on the team (left in pic), says that, unlike other forms of therapy, this one is an approach rather than a model.

“CBT is a model under which you follow a process,” she says. “What we say is, you have this [Human Givens] framework but we have to do individual things with people to help them recover. All therapy works to a degree but it is about the fit with the client.”

Human Givens advocates argue that, because the approach is wide-ranging, the therapist can change the way of working if it is not benefiting the client. This is not possible if they are using only one model, such as CBT.

Iain Caldwell, director of the service and a Human Givens therapist (pic right), describes the approach as a “psychological toolbox”, where different “tools” are appropriate for different clients.

“It allows us to pull lots of different approaches together and doesn’t compromise what people do,” he says.


As well as working with people to tackle their mental health problems, Human Givens therapists also help them to overcome the primary source of their trauma such as work disputes or housing problems.

“It could be anything,” says Wakeling. “But what we look at is the primary cause. So if you are sleeping on somebody’s couch you need to look at that first. It’s recognising that whatever therapy we give it’s not going to deal with the fact that the person has no security or privacy. You have to do the practical aspects along with the therapy because it’s life that we are dealing with and people don’t come in with one problem.”

The team has 42 members and includes occupational therapists and a learning disabilities advocate, who is also a barrister, alongside Human Givens therapists. The therapists themselves have different backgrounds, including social work and nursing.

The service is based in a light and airy building which, alongside treatment rooms and offices, has a kitchen and a relaxation room. This has soft lighting and music and can be booked by clients for half-hour slots.

Clients are referred to the service by a range of professionals including GPs, psychiatrists and social services. Wakeling says that after clients are referred the therapists assess their needs and skills in a relaxed but thorough manner.

The therapists place a high value on relaxation in order for clients to think their way through a process. Breathing exercises are used to achieve this. Once calm, the therapists work with clients to set individual goals including communication skills, how to be assertive and dealing with depression.

The approach also believes it is important for people to have a social life in their communities and the service has links with about 100 local services and organisations to help with this.

Measurable success

Every piece of work carried out by the service is assessed using a clinical measurement system. Under this, 76% of clients made a full recovery last year, 10% made some recovery and 10% were unable to be helped by the service. The national average success rate is 45%, putting it way ahead of many of its contemporaries.

One criticism often thrown at Human Givens is that there is little independent evaluation of the approach. But Caldwell says each of the therapies on which the approach draws has evidence-based research to back them up.

The reach of Human Givens is increasing. The Hartlepool team has taken the approach beyond mental health services and into schools and a sports and community centre. As the framework grows in popularity the blank faces at its mention will become things of the past.

• For more on Hartlepool Mind go to www.hartlepoolmind.co.uk

• For essential information on mental health go to www.communitycare.co.uk/48118

This article appeared in the12 March issue of Community Care under the headline Multiple choices

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