How we modify our ways of working to be considerate of those with adverse childhood experiences and trauma in their pasts
What are Psychologically Informed Environments?
At The Wallich, we strive to create psychologically informed environments (or PIEs) for our service users to successfully engage with services – taking into account their history and experiences prior to engaging with us.
We recognise that people experiencing homelessness disproportionately tend to have had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or trauma.
Unresolved trauma will shape someone’s view of the world.
Their behaviour, which is often a trauma reaction, is usually labelled as complex or multiple needs.
Compared to the general population, people with one or more ACEs are more likely to:
- Become homeless
- Experience poor mental health
- Have poor physical health
- Use substances
- Have involvement in the criminal justice system
However, just because someone has experienced trauma in their past, they should not be defined by this, but it should be considered by services, and taken into account when offering support.
Healthy relationships are key to recovery from trauma
We look to do all we can to make relationship building central to our PIEs.
We remove any physical or psychological barriers which might prevent someone from accepting help and make the most of the support on offer.
What are the elements of a Psychologically Informed Environment?
The five key areas to consider within a PIE are:
- Psychological awareness
The level of ‘understanding’ needed by a service of its participants, possibly guided by a specific psychological model. We use the Trauma Informed Care model.
- Staff support and training
Our staff are supported to become more confident and resilient. Training should always be ongoing and sufficient for the service.
- Spaces of opportunity
The places interaction occurs and how these can be used to help engagement. This includes the physical environment people receive support, the external surroundings and the wider networks.
- Learning and enquiry
A focus on continuous development and improvement within a service and organisation, that can feed into the wider learning of the sector.
- The 3 Rs (Rules, Roles & Responsiveness)
The practical day-to-day procedures of a service, how psychologically informed these are, or can be.
There are also two all-encompassing areas that run through a PIE, which are:
The work done under each of the five areas should support the fostering and building of trusting, healthy relationships for all participants.
- Reflective Practice
Embedding reflection through all areas ensures a culture of enquiry and a focus on what is working.
There are a many ways these elements can be seen in a service on its PIE journey, including, but not limited to:
- Modifying processes and procedures to avoid potential triggers and ensure people feel safe.
- Reflecting on body language, tone of voice and the words we use.
- Working collaboratively and involving participants in all aspects of a service so their voice and choice is heard.
- Considering neurodiversity.
- Providing staff with the right training, and the right support, including a robust Employee Assistance Programme.
- Changing the décor, light and furnishings.
- Providing access to counsellors through our Reflections Network.
- Building confidence and providing opportunities to pursue therapeutic activities such as sport or the arts.
- Empowering people with progression opportunities like volunteering, peer-mentoring or learning and employment programmes.
- Services using reflective self-assessment tools to focus on what’s working, and plan their next steps on the PIE journey.
Why is PIE important?
The Welsh Government guidelines for the Housing Support Grant (HSG) advise that:
“Services should be commissioned and delivered using a psychologically informed approach that recognises and responds appropriately to the impact of trauma.”
At The Wallich, we consider ourselves to be leaders in this field and will continue to develop our services and share good practice.
How can I find out more about PIE?
If you would like to know more about how we ‘PIE’ our projects, please contact our PIE Operational Development Manager, Anthony Vaughan.