What is PIE Training

Shifting from blame to empathy, PIE introduces a supportive atmosphere where the emotional well-being of clients is prioritised alongside practical needs. PIE organisations create spaces that empower clients to achieve personal growth and positive behaviour changes. PIE organisations have improved staff resilience and team dynamics, and therefore better client outcomes. 

Organisations do not exist without their staff, therefore, we need to prioritise the well-being of our staff. At RESET, we believe that PIE training can help to do this and we want to help organisations learn about the benefits of PIE training whilst providing unbiased advice on the best pathways for you.

The concept of Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) is a revolutionary approach to creating organisations that are able to support clients in a more empowering, effective way, all the while ensuring their staff have exactly the tools, training and support to do their work well. 

Much of public or third-sector work involves supporting clients with complex needs. Whether it is with mental health, or managing personal hardship, it can be challenging to deliver a service when staff don’t feel equipped to manage the dynamic, perhaps even unpredictable, nature of the work. In just a single day, there may be multiple difficult conversations to be had, multiple different people to see, and sudden challenges emerging.  

Acknowledging staff’s pivotal role in managing client relationships, PIE organisations prioritise staff training, supervision, and well-being to create a virtuous cycle of care. Guided by five key principles, PIE organisations transform service delivery, embedding evidence-based psychological frameworks into people, processes and structures. 

In this blog, we’ll share with you what PIE is, the benefits of receiving PIE training, and what next steps you could consider. 

Organisations do not exist without their staff, therefore, we need to prioritise the well-being of our staff. At RESET, we believe that PIE training can help to do this and we want to educate organisations on the benefits of PIE Training.

What does PIE mean?

The concept of Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) was first introduced by Johnson and Haigh in the context of housing services catering to homeless individuals. They created a framework to develop a supportive and understanding atmosphere in the workplace, where the challenges faced by homeless individuals could be met with empathy and creativity rather than blame or criticism. By adopting PIE principles, these organisations could create spaces that not only address the practical needs of their clients but also take into account their psychological and emotional well-being. Ultimately, the goal was to promote positive behavioural changes and empower personal growth among those experiencing homelessness. 

The concept of PIE has been so effective in improving staff resilience, mental well-being, strong team culture and client outcomes, that other organisations are now embracing it. Many organisations are coming to realise that to deliver an effective service, it is essential to address the psychological and emotional needs of clients. PIE organisations want to empower clients with the tools and resources to support themselves, and live more meaningful lives.  

At this point, it’s natural for some people to worry that implementing a psychologically informed environment means staff have to act like therapists, taking on emotional psychological work beyond their remit. This is not the case. PIE organisations actually reduce the pressure on staff, and allow them to work more effectively, by equipping them with therapeutic tools to help them work with challenging client groups, and increasing client independence. 

More importantly, an organisation is only as good as its staff. So PIE organisations need to prioritise their own staff’s training, supervision and well-being, which will then trickle down to the clients. Staff working in psychologically informed environments are happier and more fulfilled, and have the space to learn and reflect. 

There are different ways to develop more psychologically-informed services. However many organisations lean on five key areas as summarised in guidelines published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2012.

  1. Developing a psychological framework: A PIE organisation uses one or more psychological tools to inform decisions, behaviours, processes, and procedures. The choice of framework depends on what is most appropriate for the setting and how it best meets the needs of the clients.
  2. The physical environment and social spaces: A PIE service thoughtfully designs and manages different levels of the environment with input from service clients by making changes to the environment, such as decor, lighting, and furnishings. Emphasis is placed on creating a warm, caring, empathetic, and psychologically safe environment, which also considers the built (physical) environment to make services pleasant and inviting. 
  3. Staff training and support: Staff in a PIE organisation receive consistent and evidence-based training. Reflective practice and supervision become regular practices to allow staff to pause and reflect, to feel safe sharing their experiences with their peers, to learn from each other and ultimately, to deepen their skills. Staff have clear progression opportunities, and are able to set and achieve their own goals.
  4. Managing relationships: PIE organisations prioritise the relationships between frontline staff and service clients, realising that this relationship is the most valuable tool for facilitating positive behaviour change. Staff have an understanding of people’s psychological needs and are able to adapt their communication styles, including body language, tone of voice, and language. They also collaborate with clients in all aspects of their service, ensuring client voices are heard and acknowledged. More broadly, PIE organisations may need to review their pathways to ensure they are effective, safe and empowering.
  5. Evaluation of outcomes: A PIE organisation routinely measures and reflects on outcomes. They observe and reflect on the impact of PIE implementation so they can quickly identify what is working, what is not, and how to improve through continuous learning. This evidence-driven approach extends to client work where staff help clients record and measure their progress towards specific goals, helping clients identify problem areas, improve motivation and create a belief in change.

Benefits of PIE Training

PIE training can help organisations become psychologically informed, and to achieve sustainable change by improving staff well-being, service delivery, creating an inclusive culture, and improving cost-effectiveness.

  1. Improving staff well-being: PIE training helps staff to understand the psychological impact of the environment on themselves and others, and to develop skills to manage their own well-being. Leading to reduced stress and turnover among staff.
  2. Improving service quality: PIE training can help to create more supportive and recovery-oriented environments, leading to improved outcomes for clients.
  3. Building a more inclusive culture: PIE training helps to create a more inclusive culture that is welcoming to people from all backgrounds. 
  4. Improving cost-effectiveness: PIE training can help to reduce costs associated with staff turnover, absenteeism, and low productivity. 

In her research paper, Helen Keats summarises multiple case studies which evidence PIE frameworks in action. For example, St Basils, a homelessness charity, has been regularly reviewing their PIE model for effectiveness. They worked with researchers from the University of Birmingham to identify outcomes of PIE across three levels: young people, staff, and the organisation itself. Frontline staff noted that working at St Basil’s is markedly different from other non-PIE workplaces. PIE training has equipped St Basil’s staff with the skills to delve deeper into challenging situations, viewing clients and situations in a broader context that considers behavioural patterns and psychological factors. The findings also emphasize the significance of investing time and effort into developing staff confidence in psychological thinking. 

What are the benefits of PIE Training for clients or service users

  • Fewer warnings, issues or setbacks.
  • Higher service engagement.
  • Deeper understanding of their behavior, and of their own psychological and emotional needs.
  • Empowered to apply their skills and resources to create meaningful change in their lives.

What are the benefits of PIE Training for staff

  • More confident in managing clients with complex needs.
  • Reduced staff sickness and improved well-being and job satisfaction.
  • Better teamwork and communication among staff.
  • Improved staff retention and lower turnover.
  • Fewer symptoms of burnout.

Your next steps to finding the right PIE Training for your organisation

In this article, you learned what psychologically informed environments (PIE) are, the benefits of receiving PIE training and implementing a PIE organisation, and examples of training providers. 

If you’d like to assess how PIE your organisation already is, check out this 3-minute free quiz.

If you are interested in learning more about PIE training, check out our blogs Is PIE Training right for my organisation? And How much does PIE Training cost?

Victoria Chappell is a Senior Assistant Psychologist at the RESET Health Group. She runs the RESET addiction recovery programme at Changes UK.

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