PIE in the City – Brighton and Hove doing it together.

Guest blogger Greg Headley gives us his thoughts on PIE!

Psychologically Informed Environments is an approach that is spoken of a lot these days in the homelessness sector as the new way of working which will help us all do a better job. But as a sector do we fully understand it and what are the implications for practice when we embrace it? I recently spoke to a worker who responded that this had meant his project had got a new sofa and a rug, he wasn’t impressed – is this really what it is about? Too often we take on a new mantra which sounds good without actually making the real change that’s required. Our professional histories are littered with half implemented approaches that have held definite growth for our practice but have not ultimately empowered us to end the cycle of chaos for many we support – and the numbers of chaotic lives are growing!

So why PIE? The Psychologically Informed Environments model is specifically designed around working with people with complex trauma and it is successful because it considers the whole person and their relationship to their environment as well as the psychological needs of the people supporting them – you! It is tailor made for the people we work with who are rough sleeping and housed in hostel accommodation. It offers more than a person centred approach but definitely is in tune with it, and more than the old school concepts of top down recovery imposed upon our clients – it is a collaborative way of working where all parties are expected to participate equally and consciously. It allows us to develop the capacity to create less authoritarian and punitive environments which encourage us to respond on an individual basis to the evolving needs and contrary behaviours of those we support. It also requires us to consider and understand the roles we all play within our specific workplace microcosm and to relate this to the bigger picture.

If we are serious about PIE then it is no longer enough to attend a training day and then hope for the best – implementing Psychologically Informed Environments is a way of being and a service wide responsibility that is ongoing and collective. We all have a role in living it from the frontline workers to the CEO. As such it is a great leveller and is impossible to bring in to only one part of a team or one level of the hierarchy and it requires commitment as much from managers as it does from those doing the face to face engagement. As an approach it doesn’t need to replace what has gone before, rather it allows us to build upon these foundations of expertise and good practice. It offers the opportunity for services to critically assess and reflect upon what they do, how they develop relationships and manage their spaces. A Psychologically Informed Environment offers the opportunity for a new baseline that is service and city wide.

Our city is definitely in need of an approach that ties everything together and facilitates constant and profound reflection on what we are doing within and across services. The PIE model has now become included in job descriptions, in the commissioning of new services and is overall being rolled out as the way forward in the approach we take to generating support for our most vulnerable and excluded.

If you haven’t yet been trained, and your service is not on board, take the time to have those discussions and see where you can introduce Psychologically Informed Environments into your work life and your team. It’s the best tool for recovery and your wellbeing that we have and with the ever increasing numbers we need to get on with it.

 

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