Steve Heigham

Msc in Evolutionary Psychology

Courses, lectures and workshops offered

The following courses are offered in a number of different formats to suit the contexts in which they will be run. Some of them could be done as a six hour, all day event, with more time given to the experiential elements, or a three hour half day event with less experiential component. Some of them I have also delivered as a 90 minute taster of the topic.  Further  information on planned worshops can be found in the events menu of the website.

Sibling relationships: their importance in therapy and family relationships.

This workshop explores both sides of the sibling experience: as important attachment figures and as the focus of rivalry and conflict. It will look at research on social and emotional aspects children’s development, and effects on adult life, including cross cultural comparisons.

The experiential element of the workshop will be group work sharing participant’s experience, both in their own life, and examples from client work. Implications for both individual and group work will be examined.

Mentalisation in Psychotherapy: clients factors in the therapy process.

Extending empathy to enable and encourage self awareness in our clients is fundamental to the practice of counselling/psychotherapy; the purpose of this workshop is to look at research about client factors in the therapy and widen our view of how relative strengths and weaknesses in traits such as empathy and self awareness may affect the process and outcome of therapy.
Is empathy a stable personality trait, or is it mostly learned? Who tends to be naturally good at it?  Are people who are good at understanding themselves good at understanding others? Why do the psychologically minded tend to do better in therapy?
These are questions I attempt to answer during the workshop. In the taught element of the workshop I explain empathy from a number of psychological perspectives, including neuroscience, and suggest a strong evolutionary link between empathy, self-awareness, and a number of other personality traits : eg: self- control, guilt proneness, all of which moderate our social interactions. There has been an increasing focus on self awareness/ metacogniton/ mentalization as being important in therapy for many client groups, (eg Peter Fonagy, Paul Gilbert) and accumulating research evidence; this will be a part of the focus of the day, however, no previous experience of study in this areas is necessary.

In the experiential element, participants will have the opportunity to explore the therapeutic use of, and fill in, questionnaires to assess their own relative strengths and weaknesses on these traits, and discuss these in pairs and small groups. The plenary will look at the implications for practice
It will be of interest to therapists of all orientations; there is no implied method that is best, and the aim is to raise awareness of factors that may be important in work with individuals, couples or groups. Course materials will be useful for participants to use in their practice afterwards should they wish. It will also give participants the opportunity to take part in ongoing research in the subject.  The link to my original article that explains  the theory behind the workshop is: Mentalisation in psychotherapy.

Evolutionary explanations for common mental health disorders: the basics.
As psychotherapists, we know a lot about what makes our clients anxious and depressed, but as psychologists we are perhaps only just beginning to understand why we as humans are so universally predisposed to suffer such high levels of anxiety and depression. Looking at research from neuroscience, developmental and evolutionary psychology that can shed light on this issue will form the basis of this workshop, looking at ‘ultimate’ causes of human behaviour that underlie the ‘proximate’ mechanisms of dysregulation of emotion that are at the heart of many mental health disorders.
We will deal with such questions as: Why are high levels of anxiety so often linked to anger? What can we predict are the main life script triggers to depression? Why are phobias so focussed on marginal threats in our environment? Why does gender tend to impact on mental health?
Understanding the roots of common mental health disorders can help us in our work with clients, particularly those that have difficulty understanding why their problems affect them more than others around them, and who tend to feel guilty or overly blame others. Adopting an evolutionary approach can help integrate ideas from a wide variety of disciplines, as those who are familiar with the work of Dr Paul Gilbert may already know, and can generate a greater sense of self compassion. Workshop materials may be useful for working with clients in a psycho-educational way.
This workshop will be useful to therapists from all modalities, as there is no one model implied as preferable. It will be useful CPD for both therapists and supervisors in developing new ideas for interventions and working with meta cognitive aspects of therapy.
The experiential element of the workshop focuses on the meaning of these psycological states in participants’ lives and their clients; individual and small group discussion will be involved.

Epigenetics, Evolution, and the mind.

A link to my article can be found here: Therapy today article apr 2017

This workshops follows the outline in the Therapy Today article above, and expands on some of the major themes such as life history theory, cultural norms and cognitive biases, and examines how this is relevant to the the practice of psychotherapy.

The experiential element will be made relevant to the audience of participants, but may include autobiographical work.

Cross- cultural psychology and identity.
Black minority and ethnic (BME) groups tend to be under represented in clients seeking psychotherapy in the UK and other western nations; this is seen as a cause for concern by some, yet cross cultural psychology reveals that this is just a reflection of how other races don’t have such an individualistic sense of identity . This workshop focusses on how cross-cultural psychology has attempted to identify, measure and explain the great differences in personality, values and behaviour that we see between nations and people in the world today. The focus will be particularly on comparisons of first and third world populations, and even more specifically on collectivism and individualism – how this affects relationships, identity, mental health etc. The effects of migration and integration will also be considered, as these processes have affected first, second and third generations of immigrants and people of mixed race.
This workshop will be of particular interest to practioners who are already dealing with clients from a range of ethnicities, but also to therapists in general practice, as mixed marriages/ partnerships also bring challenges to the sense of identity of the partners and often the children. The workshop is particularly aimed at fulfilling CPD requirements on diversity, but will also relate to ehtical issues too.
The experiential element of the workshop wil involve particpants assessing their own and client’s behaviour, value and attitudes in the light of cross-cultural comparisons, and sharing and discusssing this in pairs and small groups.

 Co-evolution through genes and culture.
The 20th century paradigm of the social sciences that human motivation and behaviour is generated by cultural and environmental influences only is increasingly questioned by academics and researchers in a wide array of disciplines. This workshop explores this shift in perspective and looks at a number of sources of new insight that may help us to form a more holistic view of human motivations and behaviour.
Why and how has the human species evolved at such a faster pace than our nearest genetic relatives? How has culture and wealth spread so unevenly across the globe? Are there universal cultural practices across all nations? These and other questions are often asked even by those with only a passing interest in evolution.
Thus this workshop focuses on evolutionary explanations of how earlier physical changes in morphology led on to our rapid evolution as a hyper-social species, and how this has in turn led to near universal cultural learning processes and practices. This leads on to consideration of how these impact on and influence our everyday lives.
This workshop will be of interest to those who welcome new perspectives in understanding themselves and others, and who wish to explore more unconscious influences on our motivations and behaviour. It may be of particular interest to those working with clients in therapy or working with people in a more general way, eg: personnel management, through the focus on underlying patterns behind universal human behaviours.
The experiential elements may include sharing of the many cultural influences on our separate upbringings, and analysing current trends and fashions; this to be done in pairs and small groups. The agenda for this element will be more in response to participants interests.


Various other workshops are in preparation: 1) Guilt, shame and embarrassment, their role in the emotional regulation of social behaviour. 2) Life history theory and its relevance to our lives.


In addition, short lectures on various aspects of Evolutionary Psychology are available by request; enquiries can be made through the contact section.