What is Person Centered Planning? And Why Does It Matter?

By Carol Rabideau

Carol Rabideau is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 27 years of experience in mental health counseling, medical social work, supervision, and training. She has provided future planning workshops as well as training on other topics, including person centered thinking. Carol provides assessments, crisis intervention, brief counseling, and referral services to individuals and families with developmental disabilities throughout their lifespan at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

Family members, professionals, and employers are often kind, caring, respectful, intelligent, educated, experienced, confident, articulate, opinionated . . . people! But, to what degree do we allow people with disabilities to decide how they want to live their lives and what they want to do? Or how much do we inadvertently work at plugging people with disabilities into our systems and expectations based on our assumptions, our judgments and our ideas about what we think is best for the individual? Or do we sometimes make decisions for those with disabilities based on what works best for us?

How do we discover a person’s gifts, talents, and interests to find employment that is a great fit? How do we find the job that an individual is delighted to wake up and go do? How do we identify supports that will help ensure success?

Self-determination is a human right! Who doesn’t like having choices? Who doesn’t have preferences? Who doesn’t have dreams? How can we help ensure self-determination for everyone? By using person centered planning!

What is person centered planning? Person centered planning is an ongoing process in which groups of people focus on an individual and that person’s vision of his or her future. It involves communicating with the individual, and others who care about the individual, to identify priorities and set goals. Person centered planning allows the individual to participate in planning services, if they currently receive services, and gives the individual a voice. Even those individuals with disabilities with few communication skills.

Person centered planning can be a method of helping a person learn to think for themselves and to speak up, sometimes in non-traditional ways. It can be a place for a person to learn how to be a self-advocate.

Person centered planning:

  • Creates a snapshot of what is liked and admired about an individual, as well as what his or her skills are.
  • Provides an opportunity for individuals to share their dreams for their life.
  • Identifies what gives meaning to an individual’s life – his or her interests, preferences, and important relationships.
  • Identifies what is important for someone to be healthy, safe, and secure.
  • Provides a forum for identifying goals, next steps, who will be responsible for next steps, and by when.

A person centered plan is a snapshot in time that changes as an individual has the opportunity for new experiences and learn what’s working and what’s not working. A valuable updating tool is called the 4 + 1 Questions:

  • What have we tried?
  • What have we learned?
  • What are we pleased about?
  • What are we concerned about?
  • What are next steps, by whom, and by when.

What are some ways to do person centered planning? You can learn more about it at www.learningcommunity.us Additionally, there is a process called PATH that you can learn about at http://trainingpack.personcentredplanning.eu. PATH stands for Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope.

Peggy Cooper and Steve Jacobs, both staffers at The Arc Tennessee, are trained PATH facilitators. You can find their contact information at www.thearctn.org to request PATH facilitation.

Additional information about person centered planning can be found at www.tennesseeworks.org.

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