Enabling environments: ten values-based principles for a healthy place to be


Some of the original thinking that lay behind the term PIE, as used to describe constructive and innovative services in the field of homelessness resettlement, arose in conjunction with some work then being conducted under the auspices of the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists*

The Royal College wished to up-date thinking on "therapeutic communities" (TCs)  - specialist treatment units - to reflect the contemporary world of mental health services. In common with many essentially holistic, flexible and user-led approaches, it was proving hard to demonstrate the effectiveness of these services; and it was felt that some clearer definition would help.

After extensive consultations, the Royal College's team settled on a definition of TCs based not on particular processes or structures, but on core values.

The challenge was then to see how far it was possible to extend the same thinking to the world of community mental health, and to identify core features of what it was that is experienced as positively mentally and emotionally healthy, in ordinary settings - such as a workplace, a faith community, a sheltered accommodation scheme, or even a prison - without necessarily even using the words "mental health", or "therapy", or "community". 

The term adopted to describe such 'healthy places to be" was Enabling Environments ( or "EEs"); and the (newly re-named) Enabling Environments Development Group then went on to develop a ten-score programme to match the therapeutic communities scale.

It was in the course of this development that the terms 'psychologically informed environment' and 'psychologically informed planned environment' (or PIPE) were first suggested, originally to describe developments in homelessness and the prison service respectively.

A Housing Care and Support article from 2013 (Haigh et al) gives a fuller account of the history of development, and the conceptual links between PIEs and therapeutic communities, and with other forms of "enabling environment", such as PIPEs in the prison service, or "Greencare".


Recent developments

The EEDG's intention was always that there would be modifications and customisations in the language of the EE programme, to suit the context. But over time, as the PIE concept gained traction, originally just  in the homelessness sector, a simpler and more practical version, with now five key principles as the framework, came to be accepted as more useful in application.

More recently. the PIEs 2 framework has greatly expanded the range of issues that the PIEs approach now covers, including developing PIEs across larger organisations, and also in more systemic contexts, in local commissioning, for "a PIE of pathways". The Pizazz on paper - and eventually (from Spring 2021) the PIE Abacus - now in fact provide a comparably structured self assessment framework.

This more systemic approach, it is suggested, describes a wider picture, in which nevertheless the Enabling Environments accreditation model, focussed more on specific services, quite comfortably fits;. Nevertheless (as the diagram overleaf suggests), the original values framework of Enabling Environment might still be seen as the wider context of all.


Further background reading/listening/viewing

The potential for dove-tailing of PIEs and EEs, in diagram form (see below)


Further reading

Social psychiatry and Social Policy for the 21st Century: new concepts for new needs: Part Two - the Enabling Environment, Johnson & Haigh, (2010) in J. Mental Health and Social Inclusion

"Psychologically Informed Environments and the Enabling Environments Initiative : Haigh et al (2013) in J. Mental Health and Social Inclusion : HERE

In search of the enabling environment : Robin Johnson  (Un-published MSC dissertation, 1980) : HERE 


See also the PIElink pages on Greencare HERE.

For a PIPEs in the criminal justice system, see:   A Guide to psychologically Informed Planned Environments

EEs and PIEs - Key common areas (grid) : Dylan Moore and Robin Johnson : HERE

The potential for dove-tailing of PIEs and EEs (in diagram form) : HERE


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