How to encourage Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) in support services

We view Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) as being crucial in delivering high quality support services across a variety of support settings. What does PIE actually mean and what does it look like in practice?

A Psychologically Informed Environment is a service that recognises and addresses the emotional and psychological needs of not only its service users, but also the staff. It’s a service in which the baseline behaviour of an individual is understood, and fluctuations in mood and routine are noticed as potential protective or risk factors.

The service I lead, Look Ahead’s Tabard Forensic Mental health Service in Tower Hamlets, is a service that utilises the See, Think, Act model of relational security to deliver a psychologically informed service. While this model was originally developed for inpatient forensic hospital settings, Look Ahead has worked, together with key partners, to adapt the model to the community settings in which we support our customers.  In practice, this represents a core understanding of our service user group as individuals. What do they like to do on a regular basis? What are their favourite topics of conversation? How do they structure their week? By understanding the core of our service users, we can identify when things have changed, and question what this means for them as a team.

A psychologically informed environment isn’t just about service users, however, it’s just as much about the team that supports them. By developing and delivering specialist training on the complex challenges that our service user group faces, our staff team is able to better recognise the context of behaviours that occur within the service. By linking in to specialist training on Dual Diagnosis, Personality Disorders and Psychosis delivered by our key external partners we are able to provide more holistic, comprehensive support that works with our service users through challenging times, rather than against them.

Regular reflective practice is critical to maintaining staff wellbeing. By recognising how our service users impact ourselves and our teams, we are better able to tackle complex challenges. Staff bring cases to a team setting to discuss in an open forum to develop positive, person-centred action plans to move forward with, while recognising the challenge inherent to providing support and care. By discussing complex needs in a team setting, staff are less likely to take challenges personally, and be more able to continue to deliver compassionate and engaged support.

A PIE service is just as much about the physical environment as the people inside it. Delivering a service in a warm, inviting space fosters conversations and interactions that help to inform the relationships that are so crucial to delivering a person-centred service.  An element of co-productivity is paramount in fostering customer buy-in, even down to decorative choices such as wall colour.

Ultimately a PIE service incorporates all of these elements to deliver high quality care and support. By understanding our service users, our staff and our environment we can combine these elements together to get the best outcomes for individuals that need them the most.

Nathan Rhodes is a Service Manager at Look Ahead Care a leading provider of over 110 specialist care, support and housing services in London and the South East. Nathan came to Look Ahead after completing his MSc in Forensic Psychology and has worked for the organisation since 2015.”

If you found this blog of interest, you can also read a range of other resources on mental health and housing on the Housing LIN’s dedicated webpages here.

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