Person-Centered Planning


What is person centered-planning?

Person-centered planning is a planning process that focuses on an individual’s vision for their future. Individuals with disabilities choose the services that fit their personal needs and goals.

This planning happens in partnership with service providers. Although the focus is on the individual, this type of planning relies on a team to ensure successful outcomes.

According to the Administration for Community Living, person-centered planning “helps the person construct and articulate a vision for the future, consider various paths, engage in decision-making and problem solving, monitor progress, and make needed adjustments.” 


What is the purpose of person-centered planning?

Person-centered planning, or PCP, is personalized to the individual. It recognizes individual goals, dreams, and interests. This approach accounts for a person’s preferences in hobbies, housing, employment, and social activities. In doing so, individuals with disabilities have greater autonomy and choice in their care.

This model also enables greater participation in the community. Many PCP plans include community-integrated activities, such as supported employment, volunteering, and community events.

This model also enables greater participation in the community. Many PCP plans include community-integrated activities, such as supported employment, volunteering, and community events. 

How person-centered planning addresses quality of life:

This planning process aims to address and improve quality of life by encompassing 8 primary domains:

  • Emotional Wellbeing: feelings of happiness and contentment, experiencing positive social interactions with others, stable and predictable environments, sense of safety.
  • Interpersonal Relations: opportunities for making meaningful connections with others, experiencing intimacy and affection, affiliations and interactions with neighbors and fellow community members.
  • Material Wellbeing: owning meaningful possessions, resources available to access preferred items, housing, employment.
  • Personal Development: opportunities for education and ongoing learning, developing skills related to social interaction, work or hobbies.
  • Physical Wellbeing: pursuing wellness, maintaining healthcare and nutrition, mobility.
  • Self-Determination: opportunities to identify and seek out personal goals, making meaningful decisions and important life choices.
  • Social Inclusion: natural friendship networks, participation in local town and city events that bring people together.
  • Rights: experiencing equal opportunities, ownership of key items and property, allowed due process, privacy, and barrier-free environments.

Who is involved in planning for the individual?

It is crucial that the individual being served leads the planning process, to the extent that they can. PCP also includes service providers, family members, direct support professionals, care givers, friends, and other important community members. 

The Key Principles:

There are a few core principles of the PCP process. These include:

  • Community integration: Feeling genuinely connected to the communities that the individual lives in and participates in. Being a part of the community by contributing and participating.
  • Enhancing meaningful relationships: Connecting with family, friends, loved ones, and community members in meaningful ways.
  • Expanding autonomy and individual choice: Having the freedom to choose supports and services that work for the person. Emphasizing individual preferences and goals.
  • Creating a life lived with dignity: Cultivating respect, dignity, and autonomy.
  • Developing life skills to improve quality of life: Learning life skills to improve quality of life, which can include cooking, cleaning, bathing, and grocery shopping.
Person centered planning principles

Key Steps to Person-Centered Planning

Gather background information.

To plan successfully, start with gathering background information on the individual. Ask about the person’s personal life story, history, and background. This could include questions around their cultural and family background. Work to understand the person’s current quality of life and their goals. Also, what are their personal preferences? Learn about the individual’s likes and dislikes in activities, housing, work, social events, and lifestyle habits.

Begin the planning process.

With the individual, brainstorm goals and visions for their future. Identify current obstacles to those goals and look for opportunities. Discuss strategies and action steps to tackle challenges and move towards those objectives. Document the individual’s service plan, alongside objectives and outcome measures to track progress towards their goals. Flexible I/DD software will allow you to include the service plan, notes, and outcomes in the individual’s record. 

Implement the person-centered plan.

Once the plan is in place and documented, providers work with the individual to bring their plan to life. Whether it’s securing a community-based employment position or learning a new life skill, providers assist the individual in taking steps towards their goals.

To successfully implement a person-centered service plan, it’s important to establish regular follow-up meetings. In these meetings, the PCP team will review challenges and barriers that have come up since the last meeting. They can also modify the service plan if needed. Providers document progress towards the individual’s goals in their service plan. Lastly, it’s important to celebrate successes along the way. 

Person-Centered Planning Examples

While PCP is often found in the disabilities space, examples of person-centered care can be found in services across behavioral health, nursing home, healthcare, and housing organizations. 

  • Circles of Support: Service plans are most successful when an individual enlists the support of family, friends, and community members. This tool allows the individual to visualize their network of support. The circles show which relationships are most important to sustain and nurture, while also showing where there could be gaps. A PCP could help address some of these gaps by including activities and events that could connect the individual to more people.
  • Personal Futures Planning: This type of planning is often synonymous with person-centered planning. This planning process hones in on the individual’s strengths and preferences. It is often used with youth in planning for their futures. This process involves an individual’s family, teachers, providers, and doctors.
  • Essential Lifestyle Planning: This tool helps identify “essential” values and how an individual can be supported in living out those values. Individuals describe what is most important to them at home, at work, and out in the community. It also helps map out the supports needed and potential barriers.
  • PATH: This tool involves a multi-hour planning session with the individual, their family members, and providers. Trained facilitators take the group through a series of steps, including defining the dream, goals, actions for the next few months. The individual also identifies people to enroll for support. Throughout the session, ideas are added to a visual illustration of the person-centered plan.
  • MAPS: This person-centered tool involves defining the story of the individual, their dream, unique gifts, and action agreements. This process includes a visual mapping exercise of the individual’s goals, strengths, and next steps.

Technology Tools for Person-Centered Planning

Technology can help make the planning, implementation, and reporting process more successful. There are a few key tools to look out for in your electronic documentation software.

  • Flexible service plans: Your I/DD software should allow for flexible, individualized service plans. This feature will enable your staff to document the unique preferences, goals, and outcomes of each individual.
  • Individualized outcomes: Your software should enable individualized outcomes tracking. With this feature, your staff can track each individual’s outcomes with configurable rating scales.
  • Transportation tracking: When individuals participate in many activities throughout the community, you’ll want a reliable way to track transportation services between their home and their community-based activities.

Person-centered planning requires more tracking, coordination, and communication across providers and programs than ever before.