Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE)

A Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE) is a space where services understand clients’ and staff needs in a thoughtful way, and considers ‘the psychological make up – the thinking, emotions, personalities and past experience – of its participants in the way that it operates’ (Johnson et al., 2012 in No One Left Out: Solutions Ltd, 2015).

The IF Group have worked with Golden Key and partners on the planning and implementation of Bristol’s PIE strategy.

A Lived Experience View.

“Pie is the origin of client centred or client facing approaches used by services. Developed through understanding the physical and biological environments around us with a view to understanding trauma, the effects of trauma and the way we deal with emotions, how those emotions build up and how we diffuses this within a space.

PIE is a way to describe the connections we have within spaces and PIE puts a value to this, in how we share with each other and the way we engage within that space.  What may have been in the past seen as a ‘problem’ to deal with, PIE would aim to work with an honest approach towards client engagement, a better understanding of the invisible connections and the common ground between people and a better understanding of trust.

Being PIE could be going to a place with a client, somewhere peaceful and somewhere they feel safe (which can vary from person to person) with an openness to understanding ways of connecting with that client. You can be  PiE in everyday life, we do it all the time. PiE has just become the name to better understanding those invisible connections that are naturally felt and a way to better a service.

Just like body language is automatic and has an affect on relationships, but if informed about PIE then you might not (for example) cross your arms at that assessment with a client, you might meet your client in a coffee shop you might have a supervision with them in the park. This all leads toward a lowering of levels of hierarchy between people.

PIE counters a rigid or mechanised approach. Being Psychologically Informed is a understanding and not necessarily a ‘formal’ approach, there is eternal growth to be had when understanding PIE. It can also play a part in the overcoming of systemic issues. By being flexible we find ways to greater understand each other, getting away from the ‘them and us’ narrative within services.

It takes away a lot of procedures that we believe are necessary or inbuilt and we understand that the duty comes from putting person over procedure. In PIE we find a new resource to think outside the box and instead of a tick box or tokenistic approach. To be more inclusive, real, relax on a deeper connection and offer a different perception. This will make the bonds we share stronger and address the ‘business as usual approach’ which has ran its course and it has damaged a lot of lives along the way.

This is what IF group have seen from their own journeys and have found that the way to identify the gaps in service provision can only come from one place, the individual. Not the label, not the person being that thing ‘user’ ‘homeless person’ ‘criminal’. To change that dynamic is to live work and even play together. Sometimes changing your own values to suit another or doing things contrary to the organisation’s usual practice can have a really positive impact on the worker and the client, together.

IF group and Golden Key have a vision for PIE in Bristol, to find out more about PIE please see: http://www.goldenkeybristol.org.uk/psychologically-informed-environments-pie

For ideas on how to implement PIEs in practice, there’s a very helpful guide here: Creating a Psychologically Informed Environment 2015 

And for the best resource on all things PIE, please see the PIELink website.

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