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Anna Tickle and Jen Wells, co-authors of these new practice-based guidelines write about the need for clinical psychology provision in homelessness services, along with how they developed the guidelines.

With homelessness services actively looking to develop Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) and Trauma Informed Care (TIC), many call on clinical psychologists. These professionals are well placed to help services work therapeutically with individuals, and to support organisational development. However, despite the high level of psychological need within homelessness services, until recently, very few clinical psychologists worked in this field.

As clinical psychology provision is expanding into homelessness services, we wanted to produce practice-based guidelines to capture and share the learning of the small group of pioneering clinical psychologists who are already doing this. The guidelines are aimed at clinical psychologists who are new to the sector, as well as informing services or commissioners about what psychologists can offer.

Whilst developing the guidelines, we met with ‘Opportunity Nottingham Expert Citizens’ to ask them about their experiences of working with clinical psychologists whilst experiencing homelessness. They highlighted the following points which they felt clinical psychologists need to take into consideration:

  • Access to psychology early is important.
  • Psychologists need to understand the impact of the wider environment, e.g., access to substances, lack of consideration of diversity when placing people in shared accommodation.
  • Meeting psychologists can be helpful, but there can be concerns about whether they can truly understand the client’s situation.
  • Psychologists should have training with people who are experiencing homelessness and spend time shadowing outreach workers to understand what homelessness means.
  • There should be flexibility in service provision, including the time, place, and spaces where meetings take place.
  • Practical tools given in therapy could be more beneficial than just listening.
  • You can make use of clinical psychology, even when you are using drugs or alcohol.

Following this, we then recruited 12 clinical psychologists to take part in interviews. The interviews focused on what psychologists saw as good practice when working directly with individuals, and also indirectly with staff and services to help them deliver support. Their specific recommendations were collated to form this new set of guidelines.

We are very proud to launch these guidelines, which are endorsed by Homeless Link and the Association of Clinical Psychologists. Even for services without clinical psychology provision, we hope they offer guidance and ideas about how to work in a more psychologically and trauma-informed way.

Download the guidelines here