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Delivery Guide for the Mental Skills Training Toolkit

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Have you checked out our fantastic Mental Skills Training Toolkit Delivery Guide, yet?

This is a practical, user-friendly and FREE resource to accompany our recently launched Mental Skills Training Toolkit in collaboration with housing charity St Basils. After we launched the toolkit at an event last November, we took on board feedback from those who had attended.

People told us they would really benefit from an additional resource to allow them to feel more confident and prepared when using the toolkit with young people. We found that people delivering the toolkit were curious to find out a bit more about the psychological theory behind the work we do.

So, what does the guide do?

Benefits of the guide

It provides support and guidance on how best to deliver the toolkit content according to best practice, informed by 6+ years of evidence from evaluating the MST4LifeTM programme. This is our way of empowering service staff to implement strengths-based practice in a psychologically informed way.

Strengths-based approach

In MST4LifeTM, we always take a strengths-based approach. This means that we focus more on the existing skills and strengths that young people have, with the aim of raising awareness and developing them further. In contrast, a deficit-based approach is more focused on ameliorating weaknesses and rectifying problems.

The delivery guide is packed full of useful tips and recommendations for recognising and developing mental skills in young people, such as:

  • Problem-free talk: Focussing conversations on solutions and strengths, rather than problems

  • Reframing: Restating a problem or something negative in more positive terms, to encourage young people to change the way they think about, feel about and respond to their problems

The types of psychological theory that underpin our strengths-based research include:

  • Self-Determination Theory (SDT): This is a motivational theory that views motivation as coming from within yourself as opposed to from an external source. When we make choices in life, we do so because we have control over our decisions. We all have basic psychological needs and the in-built drive to meet these needs. For more information click here

  • Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT): This is a therapeutic approach used to help people to set and work towards achieving goals. It involves focussing on a person’s current circumstances and plans for the future, rather than focussing on the past. For more information click here

  • Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE): This involves a whole organisational approach to take into consideration the psychological and emotional needs of people, for example those who are using a service. By creating a PIE, you are structuring your service around the people at the heart of what you do. For more information click here

So let's look at some of these in more detail.


When working with young people, we know that it’s really important to create PIEs.

By taking a PIE approach, we recognise that the way you interact with and relate to young people can have a big effect. Being aware of PIEs means staff using the toolkit are more likely to understand the impact that their behaviours, words and body language can have on young people.

To give you an example, we carried out a case study of the MST4LifeTM programme, which describes creating a PIE. You can read it by clicking here.

It’s important to know how to build rapport with young people and to be friendly and inclusive. These things matter, as they help young people to feel emotionally and physically safe. For those who have experienced homelessness or some sort of trauma, making sure their basic psychological needs are met is key.

Self-determination theory: basic psychological needs

When we interact with young people in a psychologically informed way, what we are doing is making sure that their basic psychological needs are met. Basic psychological needs are derived from self-determination theory.

These are:

  • Autonomy: To encourage young people to engage with the MST4LifeTM programme, it’s important to nurture a sense of independence and to show the importance of self-development. Creating a sense of ownership over personal development helps to build resilience. This is explored in our Mental Skills Training Toolkit in the SMART Goal Setting tool

  • Competence: If we feel we are competent and we challenge negative beliefs about ourselves, this gives us more self-belief. We know that the more we believe in ourselves, the more likely we are to stick at something, even when the going gets tough. The Strengths Profile tool from our toolkit explores this

  • Relatedness: We can make sure this is in place by building rapport with young people. The benefit of having good rapport is that young people are more likely to engage with more formal types of support if they feel they get on with staff and that staff understand them. This is explored in the Dream Team tool of our toolkit

By ensuring basic psychological needs are met, we are making sure that the way we interact with young people has positive effects on their well-being. This is an important psychological indicator of a person’s mental and physical health and can tell us how resilient that person is in the face of adversity.


You can find out more by downloading our mental skills training toolkit and delivery guide and viewing our resources.

What are your favourite psychologically informed ways of working with young people? We’d love to hear them in the comments section, or on Twitter using #MSTtoolkit #MST4Life

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