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  • Sonni Charness

What is Person-Centered Planning?

Person-Centered Planning is a way for individuals to plan their lives with input and support of those who care about them. Person-Centered Planning (PCP) is a way of figuring out where someone is going (life goals) and what kinds of support they need to get there. Planning is done with the individual and his or her family, instead of for them.

Traditionally, planning by different groups is usually done in isolation. Families make plans at home. Schools and agencies plan in their respective buildings. Community clubs and organizations make plans at their own meetings, as do churches, neighborhood groups, and so on. With Person-Centered Planning, all of the significant people influencing an individual’s life sit down in the same room with the help of a facilitator. Allies and supporters are invited to come and are not paid to be there; it is voluntary for everyone involved. Together with the individual (or “focus person”) they make decisions and plan appropriate actions as a unified group.

The process starts by asking the person, their family, friends, and people who work with him or her about the things he or she likes to do (preferences) and can do well (strengths and capabilities). The participants in the process try to identify what the ideal situation might be in the person’s future. They also identify obstacles (barriers) that may stand in the way of reaching this person’s unique ideal situation, and brainstorm ways to work around those barriers. We use the strengths, hopes, and preferences of the individual to put together a plan, which the facilitator organizes into a written document that guides the group’s actions over time.

Person-Centered Planning takes place anywhere the group finds comfortable and convenient- someone’s home, church, park, classroom, library, etc. The group decides where, when, and how often to meet. It is an informal setting, often including snacks and some time to socialize. Participants usually find it to be fun and exciting, even though they are dealing with difficult and often emotional issues. The process is intended to be a confidence-boosting, inspiring, motivating, and positive experience for the focus person.

Person-Centered Planning has been in practice for over 20 years. There are a number of well-researched approaches that you might hear about, including PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope), MAPS (McGill Action Planning System), Essential Lifestyle Planning, and Personal Futures Planning.

Watch the videos below to learn more about Person-Centered Planning and see some planning meetings in action!

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