Dr. Yvonne Yates is an Educational and Child Psychologist with Warrington Borough Council, UK.
Here she answers some questions about her new workbook, Human Givens Therapy with Adolescents: A Practical Guide for Professionals.
Tell us a bit about your background and your role as an Educational and Child Psychologist.
I have spent the past 12 years working with children, young people, and adults with psychological and medical problems. The first of these posts was as a support worker for adolescents on a challenging behaviour unit at a residential centre for those with epilepsy. After a year, I moved on to working as an Applied Behavioural Analyst using the Lovaas approach, with a 7 year old boy with Autism. I started my Masters degree at the same time, and studied it on a permanent basis for a few months before obtaining my first post as an assistant psychologist for a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in the North West of England. I obtained my next post in the adult primary care as an assistant psychologist, then older adults, including a memory assessment service, then for a psychology service for youth offenders. At this point, I was fortunate to receive offers from both clinical and educational psychology training courses. The reason for choosing a degree in psychology was initially to undertake clinical psychology training as this would enable me to work as a clinical psychologist. However, my work experiences had demonstrated to me that working with children and young people was where my main interests lay, therefore I decided to take up educational psychology training at Doctorate level.
I graduated in December 2009, and remained with the Local Authority who had employed me as a Trainee psychologist whilst I completed my doctoral degree. As a qualified educational and child psychologist, I have regular planning meetings with primary and secondary schools at which my work is negotiated. There is a wide spread of requests for my involvement, including emotional, behavioural, social, and academic concerns of their pupils. I am also asked to deliver training events, and attend multi-agency meetings. I have presented at the North West of England Educational Psychology Continuing Professional Development conference two years in a row. I am involved in the Targeted Mental Health Service in Schools (TaMHS) initiative, delivering therapeutic interventions to individuals, and providing training on the Human Givens approach for practitioners in schools, and other members of the TaMHS delivery team.
How is the human givens approach different from other therapeutic approaches, and why use it with children and adolescents?
Human Givens was introduced to me at a day seminar hosted by the University of Manchester, and delivered by one of its co-founders, Joe Griffin. The underlying values, goals, and premises made sense to me. It confirmed what I had been experiencing myself as a therapeutic practitioner – that is, taking an eclectic approach to suit the needs of the client. In my view, the different therapies offer a range of strategies, which can co-exist, and can be used effectively to treat emotional distress.
The research that the founders of the Human Givens approach carried out led to the conclusion that many of the great psychological paradigms, such as Cognitive Therapy, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Behaviour Therapy, and Client-centred Therapy provided professionals with useful insights on how best to help people, but they all had their limitations. In addition, the market was flooded with a plethora of complex educational materials.
Human Givens takes us right back to basic understandings of emotional distress, and what works in therapy. Thus, building rapport, and having the client choose the way they wish to address a need is more effective, for example, than six sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). In other words, it’s the relationship with the client, and their motivation and commitment to change that is more useful in bringing about an improved outcome than the actual therapeutic strategies. Human Givens is an organizing idea, that provides a framework for assessing and addressing emotional needs, and a model which enables us to understand why interventions should be tailored to problems which stem from activating events, the unconscious mind, our emotions, and thoughts.
I’ve found Human Givens to be especially useful with children and adolescents because they generally crave interactions with others who give them their full attention, and are interested in what they have to say. They take well to setting their own goals, and identifying their personal resources, which helps them to address their areas of difficulty. They also enjoy working creatively to build up their skills, and meet their needs, which the approach allows for.
Where did the idea for the workbook come from?
I remembered what a colleague on the Doctoral training course had said outside the one day seminar on Human Givens: “What is it? Is it CBT or what?”
As I began researching the area, and then applying it to adolescents with emotional needs in therapy, I came to understand that practitioners/professionals are used to following particular structures in therapy, especially with relatively new approaches. Human Givens is an organizing idea, and as such, although the founders provided a framework, handy, practical books on its application to children and young people’s needs, based on good quality research were unavailable. I decided to write one that I thought would help practitioners understand how easy this approach is, and provide ideas as to the types of interventions which had proved useful in my research with the same population.
The book is for practitioners who work with adolescents, aged 10 to 19, including psychologists, including educational, clinical, health, sports, and counseling; social workers and social care staff; pastoral care workers in school, including learning mentors and teaching assistants; and professionals working for charity organisations.
What are some specific challenges practitioners might face in learning and applying this approach, and how can the book help?
The practicalities of delivering therapy whatever approach is being utilized can always be problematic. However, with Human Givens, as there is a heavy reliance on relaxation techniques, this is even more of an issue. Therefore, setting up the therapy can be a challenge, including the finding of a sound-proof/private room, time and space to carry out activities, communication with other staff in the building, i.e. if there is a ‘Session in progress’ sign on the door, please do not enter, and interruptions.
Part 1 of Chapter 1 in the book covers some of the pros and cons of delivering Human Givens therapy in a range of settings, providing useful tips for practitioners on how best to organize therapeutic sessions.
Where does your book fit into the current context of child and adolescent well-being in the UK?
In my view, there’s never been another time when this book may have been more appropriate, considering the economic climate, the threat to society from terrorist acts, the breakdown of family units, the potential rise in poverty, and the increasing threats to children and young people’s emotional well-being from the very convenient but potentially damaging social networking activities that many engage in.
Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.