Definition: Psychologically Informed Environments

A Psychologically Informed Environment (more commonly referred to by the acronym PIE) is one that takes into account psychological makeup – the thinking, emotions, personalities and past experiences of its participants in the way that it operates. In a psychologically informed environment, buildings and services are designed to make people feel, act and behave in a certain way12Psychologically Informed Environments.

When you enter a spa or wellness centre, there is usually soothing music playing, green folliage plants, running water fountains, calming colours, dark lighting and light perfumed scent. This is an example of Psychologically Informed Environment - it has been designed to make you feel relaxed, calm and reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety.

Why do organisations adopt a PIE approach?

Many organisations that support people experiencing homelessness have adopted a psychologically informed approach. This means, consciously and sensitively designing all aspects of their services to consider the psychological and emotional needs of the people that are being supported.

Creating services with a PIE design develops a more enlightened way to work with people we are supporting and it enables staff teams to work more effectively with people experiencing trauma.  

Psychologically Informed Environment helps us to:  


Better understand the journey people have travelled


Help us to understand a little more the behaviours and attitudes we encounter


Help us understand our role in escalating and de-escalating behaviours we find challenging.


Help us to work collectively as a team and with people we support to create an environment and culture that is supportive of staff and people we are supporting.


Provides a framework for reflective practice and learning so we can get better as an organisation

Ultimately, it’s an approach to supporting people out of homelessness, in particular those who have experienced complex trauma or are diagnosed with personality disorder.

This approach also considers the psychological needs of staff:

Needs of staff

Increasing job satisfaction

Developing skills and knowledge

Increasing resilience

Increasing motivation

Why are we discussing PIE in relation to gambling?

Organisations such as shops, restaurants, bars and gambling companies also want to make us feel a specific way so that we are comfortable to spend more money and time in their premises.

The majority of people we spoke to who gamble and are experiencing homelessness tend to favour traditional styles of gambling - purchasing scratch cards, lottery tickets or placing bets in-person.

For people experiencing homelessness gambling premises can provide a warm, safe inviting space and allow them to become part of a community free from judgement and harassment. Bookies for example, may provide a sense of structure and routine to their day as well as the opportunity to have a warm drink which may be free or cheaper than other venues.

Psychologically Informed Environments are not always related to a physical building - think about your phone. Have you ever used a meditation app, logged into your online banking or purchased clothing online? What did the organisation do to make you feel comfortable to spend your money and increase your spending?

"I spent every morning, all morning in the amusement arcade on Argyle Street. I sat until the Mission opened for lunch. My son and daughter kept asking me not to go because of the money I was spending but it was warm inside."