Who wants some PIE? What becoming Psychologically Informed really means for frontline staff

Friday, 4 October 2019 - 4:17pm

David Gill shows frontline staff that PIE isn’t scary, expensive or hard work and that they are a really important element of delivering a PIE service.

A service’s culture guides everything that they do. Sometimes this culture is tangible and clear to everyone, such as a service’s name, their values and their policies and procedures. However, a vast amount of a service’s culture can be hidden from view and can require some digging and reflection to truly understand that culture.

But what happens if when you do this digging you are confused by what you find, feel that things aren’t where you want them to be or perhaps you just plainly dislike your findings? Following years of austerity measures that has led to budgets being reduced, an increase in competitive commissioning and increased demands on the frontline, services have begun to ask themselves some difficult questions on how they can still provide effective services after many difficult years.

One key person that can be forgotten about in these conversations is the frontline worker, who delivers the service. They are the key cog that allows the client to make the positive changes and move on in their lives. They are also the ones that are usually the most humble in their role.

For those new to PIE (Psychologically Informed Environments), it is an approach that allows services to implement an approach that truly meets the needs of the client, allows services to apply an identity and therefore embrace a new culture in their services. And it gives frontline staff the keys to this entire venture. A PIE has five key elements that can only be implemented with the empowerment and leadership of passionate frontline workers:

  • Relationships: The ability to create positive and respectful relationships is fundamental to allow people to achieve the goals they desire. Frontline workers are the face and the leaders in developing effective relationships.
  • Staff support & training: Frontline staff are given chance to develop at every opportunity, not just through formal training. Effective supervision is utilised that ideally encompasses elements of clinical supervision and reflective practice. Wellbeing is prioritised that will mean frontline workers are asked to do less and are therefore able to deliver more.
  • The physical environment and social spaces: Services environments are made safe, welcoming and is about their choices. Services become less prescriptive and more open and honest. Frontline workers benefit from this as clients are more likely to work with them as opposed to fighting against them.
  • A psychological framework: The service decides on an approach that underlines everything they do. Once this is agreed on, it allows everything to flow and for frontline workers to feel empowered to drive it forward. A common framework that many services take is that of being Trauma Informed to allow them to understand their client’s backgrounds and how to best work with them. The advantage of this area is that all the other four PIE principles benefit from this.
  • Evidence generating practice: Finally, services that apply this approach can use this to identify how it is impacting and how positive this can be. For example, services could decide to look at reducing violent incidents through using this approach and be able to clearly see them being reduced. Frontline staff drive this evidence generating practice and can be used to continuously keep people motivated, empowered and remind themselves why you do what you do.

It can be easy at this point to think this approach won’t work for you. You may see this and think it will take too long, it will change too much, it will cost too much, or will not be something that you can have control over. However, embracing this approach means you are embracing the fact that becoming PIE is about the journey, not the destination. It is not about throwing everything out, rather it is about embracing this journey and understanding you have a role to play in it. Identifying small steps and implementing them will lead to a culture of constant improvement.

For more information on the new PIE for frontline training, click HERE

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David Gill

Founder of Risk & Resilience training and consultancy

David Gill is the founder of Risk & Resilience training and consultancy. He has worked in the substance misuse field for 13 years in a range of frontline, training and strategic management positions.