The Online Knowledge Center

Table of Contents

What is this module for

Getting to know

  • the basics of person centred thinking and planning
  • the group and
  • the structure of the course

What is it about

The starting point of this module is to frame person centred approaches in the context of full inclusion, civil rights and self-determination of people with disabilities. The UN-convention of the rights on persons with disabilities are an important reference point of what we want to assure and achieve. The module gives an introduction in the values and the process of person centred planning. Person centred thinking and planning helps to make meaningful changes in people’s lives, organisations and communities in order to reach personal goals, create more person-centred services and build inclusive communities. Person centred approaches have been developed during the past thirty years in English speaking countries by people like John O´BRIEN, Marscha FORREST, Jack PEARPOINT, Beth MOUNT, Judith SNOW, Connie Lyle O´BRIEN, Linda KAHN, Emilee CURTIS, Michael SMULL and Helen SANDERSON. It is not one approach but a family of approaches that consists of different planning styles (O’BRIEN 2000). The inclusive training course in person centred approaches draws from different approaches like Personal Future Planning (MOUNT 2000), MAP and PATH (O’BRIEN, PEARPOINT, KAHN 2010), which are person-centred ways to change the life of a person and build communities, as well as Essential Lifestyle Planning (SMULL & SANDERSON 2005), person centred thinking tools (SANDERSON & GODWIN 2007) and person-centred review process (SANDERSON & MATHIESEN 2003), which are more focused to make a difference in a person’s life by developing person centred services, or the U-process (SCHARMER 2009) which is designed to help organisations to change being inspired by the emerging future.

How can the message be delivered

One important element of the inclusive training course in person centred approaches is to have a diverse group of learners with different abilities and learning styles. It is important to include direct service workers, counsellors, teachers, managers and budget holders from different organisations and work fields as well as self-advocates and parents.

The participants talk about their expectations of the course using for example a tree of wishes. A big tree is drawn on a pin board paper. Each participant gets some paper leaves to write or draw his expectation or wish for the training course. The leaves are then glued on the tree.

An alternative is to create a success poster on a big pin board paper to explore how success of this training would look like. This exercise can also be done in two or three smaller groups. It is necessary to introduce the participants to the course structure and the planned person centred processes and the requirements for the certifications. For people who want to work as facilitators of person centred planning process it is for example required to take part in three different planning processes and to reflect the planning processes and the learning in the course in a portfolio.

The participants have the opportunity to get to know each other by using different methods of the person centred planning process in small groups and partner work such as card decks from New Hats (CURTIS & DEZELSKY 1994) (lifestyle cards, hat cards and dream cards). The lifestyle cards are good to get to know each other by talking about the current lifestyle (e.g. what are the favourite drinks, what do you do to relax or how do you get good ideas?). 
The hat cards are useful to explore strengths and positive roles the person plays or would like to play (e.g. Are you a writer, a lover or a good supporter?). The dream cards help to think about small and big dreams (e.g. Would I like to hold a speech, to get up early to see the sunrise or to say no instead of yes?). 
These cards can be used to fill a big personal profile poster with the strengths, favourite roles and dreams of the person. As an alternative a personal profile poster with important information about skills, interests and dreams can be drawn by the participants. This is also a good exercise to visualize important points. An exhibition of all profile posters with explanations help to get to know each other.

The process of person centred planning is introduced. It can be visualized as a path with small toy figures (e.g. playmobile), symbols and a robe. An alternative is a story of a planning process with photographs. A book table with relevant literature and material gives the participants a first overview on available material. 

An important exercise is to think about what good support looks like. The participants are asked to think about what is or would be important to them if they were dependent on personal support because of impairment. The criteria for good support are written or drawn on pin-it cards. Afterwards the different workshop cards are clustered on a pin board and discussed.

Tips for training

It is important to create a welcoming atmosphere at the beginning of the course. Small things like flowers in the middle of a room, well prepared material or welcoming each participant on arrival can contribute to that. Most important is to honor the abilities and experiences of every person in the room and the potential of the diversity of the group. Person centred methods can be well used for getting to know each other. The way we do the activities and the behaviour of the trainer should always be a model for the person centred practise we want to create.

Easy language, visual material, graphic posters, music and songs related to the topic, hands on exercises, stories and written material for in depth background information help to facilitate different learning styles. There should be enough room to split in smaller groups, to sit in a circle as well as to work on tables.

The online learning platform moodle provides a structure that the participants can download material and photos from the course, exchange ideas in a forum or get news. It is important to allow enough time to introduce the learning platform and help the participants to log in. An important question is how to ensure access to computers and the information for all participants.

The first module should provide orientation on different levels: It is a about getting to know  the values and process of the person centred approaches, the other participants and the course structure and requirements.

If you want to know more

CURTIS, Emilee / DEZELSKY, Milly (1994): It’s my life. Preference- based planning for self-directed goal meetings. Castle Valley, Utah, USA: New Hats 
MOUNT, Beth (2000): Person Centered Planning: Finding Directions for Change Using Personal Future Planning. New York, USA: Graphic Futures
O’BRIEN, John & BLESSING, Carol (2011): Conversations on Citizenship and Person-Centred Work. Toronto: Inclusion Press
O’BRIEN, John, PEARPOINT, Jack & KAHN, Lynda (2010): The PATH & MAPS Handbook. Person-Centred Ways to Build Community. Toronto: Inclusion Press 
O’BRIEN, John/ O’BRIEN, Connie Lyle (2000): The Origins of Person-Centered Planning. 
O’BRIEN, John/ O’BRIEN, Connie Lyle (Eds) (1999): A little book about Person Centered Planning. Toronto: Inclusion Press 
O’BRIEN, John/ O’BRIEN, Connie Lyle (Eds.) (2002): Implementing Person Centered Planning. Voices of Experience. Toronto: Inclusion Press.
SANDERSON, Helen (2011): International Development and Discourse on Person Centred Planning. In: LUNT, Julie & HINZ, Andreas (Eds.): Training and Practise in Person Centred Planning – A European Perspective. Dalrymple and Verdun
SANDERSON, Helen & GOODWIN, Gill (2007): Person Centred Thinking. Stockport: HSA Press
SANDERSON, Helen & MATHIESEN, Ruth (2003): Person Centred Reviews. Stockport: HAS Press. Person_Centred_Reviews_Adult_Pack.pdf
SCHARMER, Otto (2009): Theory U: Learning from the future as it emerges. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler Publishers
SMULL, Michael & SANDERSON, Helen (2005): Essential Lifestyle Planning for everyone. Stockport: HSA Press The Learning Community


I Want My Dream and New Hats Decks - New Hats Inc., HC 64 Box 2509, Castle Valley, UT 84532, Tel. *001 435 259-9400, Fax: *001 435 259-2209


An overview of person centred planning processes and a self-study course on person centred planning is provided by the Cornell University:
A lot of materials about inclusion and person centered planning is published by Inclusion Press . In Europe you can get the material in the UK from
Many articles of John O’Brien can be downloaded here:
Many materials on person centred approaches can be found on the homepage of Helen Sanderson  
The Learning Community for Person Centered Practices is a network of people using person centred approaches:
A series of videos of Michael Smull and Helen Sanderson about person centred thinking