The core elements in PIEs 1

(And how can you tell if you are, or have one?)

Please Note: a newer version of the core elements of a PIE has now been released. The up-dated version is both broader and deeper; and, we think, clearer. You will find that new version, and supporting material, here: PIEs 2.0 - the up-dated formulation

For those that had used and wish to continue to work with the earlier ('classic'), you are entirely free to do so. The new version, however - 'PIEs 2.0' - goes into some areas that the older version could not do.

This "Handy Guide" from 2013* outlined the key elements to consider, in becoming a PIE, using that 'classic' PIEs 1 formulation.

"The handy guide to being a PIE" (2013) from Robin Johnson.

But Do see also the 2018 remake of the Handy Guide, which updates this earlier account with the 'PIEs 2.0' version.

Or for a very, VERY brief account of the classic model, see the presentation by Claire Ritchie of No One Left Out Solutions,  at the start of the first national (UK) conference on research and evidence on PIEs.

See also, in the Library, Claire's "Creating a Psychologically Informed Environment: assessment and implementation" a very useful 'toolkit' for services, produced for Westminster City Council.

NB: These videos, and Claire Ritchie's' toolkit', provide a rather quicker introduction than two other definitive statements, which are the otherwise essential reading -

This 'non-statutory guidance' (often known more simply as "the complex trauma guidance", as it first proposed the idea of 'complex trauma' as a key issue for this population),  was published in 2010 by the UK Dept of Communities and Local Government, in conjunction with the National Mental Health Development Unit.

This was then followed, in 2012, by

This second guidance described in greater detail the ways services might run, to meet these needs. It was this second guidance document that began to spell out in more detail some of what were seen as the key features of a PIE, in practice.


But the PIE concept is proving to be quite dynamic; like the services it describes, it's been constantly developing and learning. (See: The cycles of practice-based learning HERE`)

So for an account of where things are going and growing currently, see "Is the PIE evolving?"

Or for another VERY quick (2 page) introduction, try: 'Everything you wanted to know about PIEs, but were afraid to ask' HERE

What do we mean by a PIE?

At its simplest, a psychologically informed environment can be described as  "one that takes into account the psychological make-up – the thinking, emotions, personalities and past experience – of its participants, in the way it operates." (1)

But as all human social environments tend to do that to some degree, we tend now to reserve the term for those environments - places, services -  that do so consciously, and with some particular purpose or goals in mind. 

Much of the content on this site is primarily about how we develop psychologically informed services to meet the challenge of homelessness, as this is the area where the PIE approach has had most impact. But the ideas and practice that gave rise to the term are far more widespread; and PIEs in other fields are equally valuable (see: Is a PIE just about homelessness?' HERE for some ideas.

Whatever context you may be working in, on these pages, you will find plenty of advice, examples, inspiration, some training material, and other 'food for thought', to help you on your way. Here's one:

So as we see it, being a PIE is a continuous process - more a journey than a destination. Even the idea of a PIE, we suggest, is evolving: see the August essay, Memes: a cautionary tale, for an indication of some of the ways that some parts of the framework have been shifting.

But for a quick, 'handy' guide, or introduction, the easiest place to start is still probably with "The Handy Guide to Being a PIE" - which you will find in the next panel - which spells out the main elements, as we saw them in around 2013; or better still, the re-make - "The Handy Guide 2018 re-make" - for an extended and up-dated version.

Still, for an account of why it is that PIEs are important at all, you might take a look at "Psychologically Informed Environments? Who needs them?" - a talk delivered to the South West regional conference in the summer of 2015.

Here Robin Johnson, the original creator and editor of the PIELink, presents some telling statistics, and suggests some arguments for promoting PIEs in homelessness services, at a time of 'austerity' and severe cuts in budgets.

How does it all fit together?

We believe - and this is what we hear from others - that the core elements of the PIE framework do work best when taken all together. There is a synergy between these parts, and the whole is bigger.

On the case studies area of this site, you will find examples in practice. But it can be hard sometimes to give examples of particular elements of the PIE approach, and say which particular element any particular practice may express; they tend to re-enforce, overlap, flow into each other.  We separate them out only in order to try to bring different aspects into focus; but also because if any one is missing, or under-developed, it tends to hold the others back.

You might well think of them as being like different strands of a macrame plant holder.  They hang together.


But being, or introducing a PIE, is not some new technique, to be added in, on top of what you otherwise do. It's an umbrella concept - a new way of seeing it all as a whole. You can think of the PIE framework not as a collection of things you should or even could do; but rather, it is a lens through which to look again at what you DO do; and then ask yourselves - so, what shall we do now?.

Or try this. The PIE framework describes the elements that work best to support each other.


Q: when is a PIE not a PIE?

A: when it's a dome....dome diagram