Steve Heigham

Msc in Evolutionary Psychology

I presented a workshop entitled ‘ Why climate change is a wicked problem and what we can do about it’, exploring why it is so difficult for ordinary people to mitigate climate change without government regulation of the supply side of consumer production. On the same day there were presentations by the Chief Executive of the BPS on re-organisation of the BPS, and several presentations on Clinical Psychology practice, including Community Psychology approaches.

There were excellent presentations about: doing outreach work in Communities, gambling addiction, activism and developing resilience. There was a particularly strong Keynote workshop on integrating the views of mental health service users/survivors.

The article is an evolutionary/historical explanation of how things have become so complex, especially for young people in the western world, and why they may have reason to rebel against the current system.

An article I have written, connecting our evolutionary past with our present ecological crisis has been published on Earth Talk ( website. This essay is partly a summary of the field of epigenetics and cultural evolution studies, and partly a discussion document to try to integrate arguments in the environmental field.  I welcome any responses to it through email or through the magazine website. A list of the main sources that inspired my writing is attached to this entry, though not laid out as a numerical reference list.

References for Evolving our way to sustainability.


I attended the conference of the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society, which is a US based Evolutionary Psychology organisation. The presentations by PHds and Post-docs were very varied and generally very good, and the final address by Frans de Waal was fantastic. He asks: Are we smart enough to tell how smart animals are? This is his latest book, and he presented it well, encouraging all evolutionary researchers to consider whether we tend to measure animal intelligence against out own, which tends to limit our true understanding of their amazing specialist adaptations to their own environments. He has spent all his life actually observing animals, especially primates, and so speaks from long experience in the field.

Steven Pinker, as one of the world’s leading thinkers, and a great proponent of evolutionary theory, has in his last two major works taken a bolder step in showing just how much we have progressed and overcome the many pitfalls of natural selection, to become a wiser and better species. Despite the many detractors he has had to face in this endeavour, he puts across a very convincing case, and develops a challenging argument about how we can move forward in answering the many problems that we currently face.

Book review of Steven Pinker

This is an important book that brings together thinking from a wide range of sciences. In it they give a good snap shot of how holistic thinking across domains has led to a far more comprehensive and complex understanding of the problems facing humanity, and more realistic appraisal of solutions that may be applied.

Book review of Capra & Luisi.

For two weeks over the Christmas holidays I visited Kerala, having wished to go to India for a long time. The reason I am writing this as a blog entry is that I feel it had more effect on me than reading many books. What touched me wasn’t so much the tourist pleasures, though there are many, but just for a brief time, living in a culture that has had remarkable continuity for the last 5,000 years, and still feels so very vibrant with it. In their cultural evolutionary trajectory, they have not had many of the collapses and invasions that have typified European history, but over time, have integrated and absorbed many other religions and traditions along the way. This is perhaps more so in Kerala than Northern India with it’s great separations of the last century, so there is a great sense of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic acceptance without the emotional distancing and conflict – mosques, Hindu temples and Christian churches are often only yards apart. Everyone seems to take part in the economy, and when one gets used to being pestered to buy tourist stuff, this feels quite democratic, engaging and real. Most of the population is also living at a far more sustainable level of consumption and energy use. The social values are much more communal, and, on coming back to the UK, it occurred to me how much time, effort and expense we go to, to create space and distance between us, without really noticing.

November 2017. As my last action as chair of the Psychotherapy section, I chaired the conference at the BPS London office. The title of the conference e was: Trauma and development: culture, contexts and narratives.

The subject was looked at from a variety of perspectives. The three main speakers were:

Rudi Dallos and Arlene Vitere on trans-generational transmission of attachment ‘scripts’. Their book is entitled Attachment and narrative therapy model.

David Morgan on the  effects of migration through broken attachments, loss and trauma, on the mental health of refugees and other migrants. Very moving.

Christopher Scanlon and John Adlam on organisations that become traumatised and traumatising for clients and staff in the managed care and welfare arrangements that we have in our society. They also led a plenary session to look more deeply into the issues we had experienced during the day.

Much of this linked in with the theme of Social Justice, which had also been the main theme of the two previous conferences I had attended, so I wrote an article for the Psychotherapy Section Review, which is attached.

Social Justice


September 2017. The main theme of this conference was again on social issues in therapeutic work, but with an emphasis on finding ways of working psychologically within communities, often with group work and projects. It was more overtly political, and many of the workshops were very participatory and creative, including art, drama and music.

July 2017. The main theme of the conference was on social justice issues in psychotherapy, and how to avoid reinforcing positions of power in therapy relationships. There was also a large section on working with young people.

May 26th 2017. Ran a workshop on Sibling relationships for the Psychotherapy Section of the BPS, at the London office.Siblings, an introduction

Easter 2017. I attended the EHBEA conference in Paris, which was very interesting, with a number of talks on Cultural Evolution.

The title of the article is ‘Epigenetics, Evolution and the mind’, in which I outline some of the new breakthroughs in evolutionary science, and relate these to the practice of psychotherapy. Therapy today article

This is an important book that describes the evolution of mankind with particular reference to the co-evolution of culture and genes. In doing so, he develops new and emerging ideas of epigenetic mechanisms of adaptation and heredity, including developmental plasticity, niche construction, and language use. In doing this, he expands the scope of our understanding of the complex interplay of factors that have led us to be the most dominant species on the planet. Through writing all this in language that can be understood by the general reader, he gives the oppotunity for this to be  shared by anyone who has an interest in the subject. Book Review – Jo Henrich

The conference title was: ‘Towards meeting client’s needs; Ethics, Conduct and practice in psychotherapy in the 21st century’. I co-chaired the conference, which was very interesting. Speakers presented papers on many aspects of ethics, with quite an emphasis on the many ways that the therapeutic relationship can go astray, and how this can be put right, particularly with respect to encouraging client autonomy. The BPS President, Peter Kinderman, gave a talk on the need for change in the whole way that we view mental health, breaking away from the more bio/medical model of diagnosis and classification and working in more holistic ways to create care pathways for people suffering distress.

Book Review Evolution in 4 dimensions

Evolution in 4 dimensions, revised Edition, by Eva Jablonka and Marion J Lamb (2014). There have been some very significant breakthroughs in Evolutionary theory in the last few years, many of which challenge the concept of all evolutionary change happening through genetic mechanisms. This opens up the possibility of understanding a much wider range of behaviours as being evolutionary adaptive but not fixed in the genome. This book is a very recent summary of these new research directions in Evolutionary theory, which broaden the field in exciting ways. I think this book is very important, and also has specific implications for understanding human mental health.

In April I attended the EHBEA conference in London, and it was inspiring. Louise Barrett set an exciting atmosphere from the beginning by broadening the scope of the conference to include work from other areas of social science not usually associated with Evolutionary thinking in Psychology, Anthropology and Biology, and challenging delegates to help integrate a wide variety of perspectives into our world view. The conference, overall, was an exciting mix of Keynote speakers and student research presentations covering Primatology, Cumulative Cultural Evolution, Evolutionary Psychology of reproduction and cognitive development, Life History theory, Behavioural Ecology, Epidemiology and more. There was an emphasis during the conference on Public Health, and a special evening debate on the future of Evolutionary Medicine as an increasingly important and respected perspective within mainstream medical thinking, particularly around anti-biotics, cancer and mental health. On the final day of the conference, I initiated a meeting of delegates interested in evolutionary perspectives on mental health, and a email group has been set up.

February 10th 2016. I ran a training workshop for the advisors at CAB on recognising mental health disorders in their clients, and how to challenge the difficulties that they sometimes present, that interfere with the advice process.

November 28th 2015. CPD event for CAPPP – Counsellors and Psychotherapists in Private Practice, Bristol, a local networking group for therapists

A repeat of the previous workshop explaining the evolutionary developments of empathy and self-awareness in social functioning, and their relevance to the practice of psychotherapy, using the Empathy Quotient questionnaire and the Self Reflection and Insight Scale. More emphasis was placed this time on focusing on client factors in the psychotherapeutic process, and using a more psycho-educational approach.

Mentalisation in psychotherapy. Final I have published this article in the BPS Psychotherapy Section Review on ‘Mentalisation’ – our ability to understand the workings of our own and other’s minds, following on from the ‘Social brain hypothesis’ as proposed by Robin Dunbar. I characterised this ability as a human trait that has evolved as part of the neural circuits that regulate social behaviour through empathy, guilt, shame and self-awareness, and quoted research that showed the importance of mentalisation in the psychtherapeutic process.

October 30th 2015. I co-presented a workshop with Terry Birchmore at the BPS Psychotherapy Section Conference. The workshop presented two perspectives on mentalisation (client’s abilities to think about how their own and other’s minds work), one psychoanalytic, one evolutionary. The conference was on the theme of ‘Transtheoretical issues in Psychotherapy’ and included presentations by speakers on: Community responses to austerity and disadvantage, working with self-esteem, Psychological treatment of problematic internet usage. At the AGM that was part of the conference I was elected chair of the psychotherapy Section.

CPD event for the Psychotherapy section of the British Psychological Society at the BPS training rooms in London. July 24th 2015.

A workshop explaining the evolutionary developments of empathy and self-awareness in social functioning, and their relevance to the practice of psychotherapy, using the Empathy Quotient questionnaire and the Self Reflection and Insight Scale.

In this book, Damasio sets out on an ambitious challenge – to create a plausible chronology of how the human mind has evloved the capacity to have a life long sense of personal agency and self awareness, and to integrate research that is relevant to this, though it comes from many diverse disciplines.

To read the full book review, click on the link below:

Book review of Self comes to mind

On October 23rd 2014 I will be presenting my research and inviting other staff to participate in the research.

June 2014. Presented a research summary at the Conference of Higher Education students at Weston College.

April 2014. Attended European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association conference in Bristol.

November 2013. Presented a research paper at the Psychotherapy research conference at University of South Wales at Caerleon Campus.

PowerPoint : Dissertation ppt for Newport

July 2013 – Graduated from Brunel University, West London with an Msc in Evolutionary Psychology at Merit Level.

In my work and practice, I am integrating an evolutionary-psychological approach to psychotherapy and counsellor training.

This is linked to my research interests into genetic and cultural influences on empathy and self-awareness, and ultimate causes of mental health issues.