Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) Approach

St Basils PIE: Building Relationships, Changing Lives


Since 2011, St Basils has been developing a PIE culture and ethos within our organisation.  Having learned many useful lessons about the implementation of PIE to meet the needs of service users with multiple complex needs, we were awarded the contract to deliver the PIE training for Birmingham Changing Futures Together.  This comprises delivering a comprehensive programme of training to organisations that are signed up to the No Wrong Door Network.

St Basils is a charity and Housing Association that works across the West Midlands region with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Our work covers the full spectrum of services from prevention, advice and assessment onto supported accommodation and engagement initiatives as well as services designed to help young people back into education, training and employment.

So what is a Psychologically Informed Environment?

A PIE uses psychological models to inform practice and achieve outcomes that support the organisation’s aims and objectives.  PIE provides a flexible but consistent framework that shapes the culture and gives managers and staff shared knowledge and a common language to discuss challenging issues.  Fundamentally, PIE enables staff to develop reflection skills in order to build collaborative, compassionate relationships with service users with complex needs.  Through positive relationships with staff, service users are more able to develop the skills and beliefs they need to achieve their goals.

What are the benefits of being a “PIE” organisation?

People with varied and complex needs may have poor relationship skills and struggle to use support effectively, whilst others behave in ways that are surprising or challenging.  Research findings have demonstrated that many of these individuals have experienced significant trauma and abuse in childhood.  Evidence is building to show that with the right competencies, staff are able to provide ‘trauma-informed’ interventions to promote development and positive change.

What are the benefits for service users?

People with complex needs, who in the past were labelled as ‘hard to reach’ or ‘challenging’, are offered effective support by staff to help them overcome barriers in achieving their ambitions.  A ‘PIE’ approach helps individuals develop relational and emotional skills needed to tackle problems such as repeat homelessness and substance misuse.

Benefits for staff?

PIE is not an additional “task” that has to be fitted in, but equips staff with knowledge and skills that positively influence the way support is delivered.  Staff report that knowledge of PIE has the added benefit of helping them to cope with the demands of their role, decreasing the likelihood of “burn-out”.  Some have also commented that it has equipped them with tools they can apply to a variety of situations to improve their own general mental health and well-being.

How are staff involved?

Staff attend Foundation Training in PIE, to help them learn more about the PIE approach and how this can influence their role in a positive way.  Training helps improve understanding of people with complex needs, as well as learning to use psychological tools and skills that can be useful in improving the outcomes of support sessions and meetings.  For Managers, the same PIE competencies are adapted to help them support their staff to implement PIE strategies.

Frontline staff attend a monthly Reflective Practice Group – these are the cornerstone of a PIE way of working.  These sessions help staff to implement what they have learnt in the training and provide an opportunity for staff to reflect on their actions, which increases learning and self-awareness.