Formulation and its use within the IVY Service - Kibble: Specialist services & support for young people facing adversity
Posted: July 15, 2022

Posted: July 15, 2022

In her blog, Dr Helen Bratton, Consultant Clinical Psychologist from the Interventions for Vulnerable Youth (IVY) service explains the role of formulation to understand young people’s experiences and inform possible interventions.

What is Formulation?

A psychological formulation can be seen as a tool used to bring theory and practice together into a shared narrative of a person’s experience, providing a framework for understanding and possible intervention. Formulation helps us to make links between what has happened to a person and how they may be presenting in the here and now.  It provides an understanding of how all areas of their life have an impact on them and how they try to cope.  It helps us to consider the function of challenging behaviours and to consider helpful solutions.

Psychologists use their knowledge of several theories to understand how a person’s current difficulties are related to their past experiences and how the problems are being maintained. We consider biological, psychological, social and systemic factors when gathering information for a formulation. A formulation is not diagnostic in nature, it is dynamic and incorporates theory alongside beliefs, thoughts, feelings, interpretations and reflections. To be purposeful, a formulation needs to be meaningful.

How does IVY use Formulation?

Formulation helps to identify unmet needs, maladaptive coping and unhelpful patterns in a person’s life.  Using this information, we can focus on the most appropriate areas for intervention.  A formulation should be open to amendment in light of new information or a change in circumstances.  This is particularly true in the life of children and young people whose lives can change quickly as they are going through a period of rapid growth and development.

At IVY we use formulation in all three types of service that we offer. Within consultations we use the information provided by teams to generate a psychological understanding of the young person, their world, the systems around them and their risk related behaviours. When we undertake Type 2 risk assessments, we build on the initial formulation to consider the risk related behaviours in more detail and to shape risk management recommendations.  In Type 3 interventions we use the initial formulation to guide our treatment plan and will amend and adapt our understanding as we go, integrating new information.

If you want to learn more about how we use formulation, please contact

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