Time: the true price of creating a psychologically informed environment

Monday, 8 February 2016 - 2:20pm

Claire Ritchie writes about the key elements involved in creating a psychologically informed environment and asks what it takes to put them into practice.

As a service provider I would often raise my eyebrows when we were asked to implement a “new approach,” or adopt the latest example of “good practice.” How was I meant to make that happen with only 5 days in the week and a limited budget? 

You could argue that psychologically informed environments (PIEs) can be both a new approach and the latest good practice – supporting individuals who are experiencing complex trauma. There is a wave of enthusiasm within the homelessness sector to adopt its principles, which is inspiring, particularly in this climate of delivering more for less amidst serious financial cuts.

In this brief blog I will describe how you can introduce elements of a PIE, bringing tangible benefits to your clients and staff. It won’t cost a penny, though it will demand some of your precious time.

In the PIE Toolkit, commissioned by Westminster City Council and Connections at St Martins, I suggest that the cornerstones of PIE are relationships and reflection. Below are some examples of how you can begin to meet the objectives of these key elements and start your PIE journey.

Relationships

The power and effect of positive connections should not be underestimated. Whenever I listen to people who have experienced homelessness and moved on they invariably talk about a relationship with a particular individual that caused the biggest shift, motivating them to make a change.

Here are three things you can do which harness the value, and demonstrate the importance your organisation puts on the role, of positive relationships.

  1. Review your recruitment processes. Are you attracting people with a compassionate approach who understand the impact of complex trauma? Look Ahead have incorporated these traits into a job description by describing what they are looking for in the client’s own words – believes in me, develops a bond and trust, calls when they say they will, etc.
  2. Tell the world the value you place on relationships; on a poster, in your mission statement and through all your policies and procedures. Remind yourself and each other, regularly.
  3. Consider your client induction and assessment processes. When and where do they take place? How much information are individuals expected to take in? Could you break it down into more manageable pieces?  How is this initial “relationship” with the organisation going to be perceived by the client?​

Reflection

Reflective practice, particularly in a group, supports learning from professional experience. It can improve problem solving and critical thinking skills as well as making staff feel supported, valued and heard. Sharing challenges, accomplishments, thoughts and experiences can have a profound influence. Positive and negative experiences can be used to increase knowledge, confidence and awareness, which in turn improves work practices.

There are many models of reflective practice and whilst an external facilitator may be the preferred option for some, it is not essential. A focussed, objective and experienced chair is.  

To learn more about the approach, join me for A Practical Guide to Psychologically Informed Environments

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Claire Ritchie

No One Left Out: Solutions Ltd

Claire also has her own consultancy No One Left Out: Solutions Ltd which specialises in supporting services to become Psychologically Informed Environments.

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