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

What is this module for

  • to understand the principles and values of Person Centred Thinking
  • to be able to use a range of tools to develop Person Centred Thinking
  • to develop one page profiles

What is it about

The module explores the history and background to Person Centred Thinking. How the tools developed from Essential Lifestyles Planning (SMULL) are used to understand how the person wants to live and be supported. It examines the negative experiences barriers and discrimination faced by individuals with a disability and addresses how services and organisations often focus on fixing or changing people rather than what support staff need to do differently to support the person. The module teaches a range of tools that participants can use to find out more about the person, so that they understand better and can offer the kind of support which works for the individual.

Person Centred thinking emerged from Essential Lifestyles Planning (ELP) (SMULL, HARRISON 1992) was developed by Micheal Smull and Susan Burke Harrison late 1980’s in USA. Following the emergence of Person Centred Planning in the UK a government white paper ‘Valuing People’ 2002 stated that every person with have a person centred plan if they choose to have one. Person centred planning co-ordinator and facilitator posts were introduced into every region and their role was to support the implementation of person centred plans through training and facilitation.

However it became apparent that peoples’ lives were not changing as hoped from the development of a person centred plan. Too often plans were a work in progress, so actions were not developed or acted upon. This necessitated a change in approach which required all people supporting individuals to recognise their responsibility in using person centred approaches. Person Centred Thinking has enabled people to use the planning tools in a much more flexible way, on a day to day basis when they are relevant to the individual. Currently the tools have been used with children and families, older people, people who use mental health services, have drug or alcohol issues, people who are homeless, travelling communities, people with physical impairments or illness. They are also being used in life coaching and are fast becoming considered to be relevant for anyone.

How can the message be delivered

The Person Centred Thinking Tools begin with the fundamental understanding of knowing what is 'Important to' someone and what keeps them ‘healthy and safe’ and being able to sort out the difference. Workers and supporters need know this information as it forms a foundation for all the other tools. When organisations provide a service to support people their focus is often on what needs to happen to keep the person healthy and safe such as eating well, taking their medication or being safe when crossing the road. They may not have thought about the important people, places, interests, possessions, routines, work, activity, values, culture, etc. that makes the person who they are and gives sense and meaning to their lives. However to lead a happy and fulfilled life, we all strive to find some balance between what is important to us as well as what is important for us. The same is true for anyone who needs to be supported in their lives by others because of a disability or impairment.

Participants learn that if they are to support people more successfully to respond to how to keep a person ‘healthy and safe they need to look for the solution in what is ‘important to’ them. They practice further tools for themselves such as exploring ‘rituals and routines’, ‘what makes a good day and a bad day’ and ‘supporting reputations’ which enables them to develop conversations which give richer information about what is important to and for that person.

Other person centred thinking tools enable them to reflect on what they have learned about the person and what they need to do differently. Participants use peoples stories to think about 'What is Working and What is Not Working' from the persons perspective and what is the view of others then to plan actions for what needs to change. This tool offers a clear and transparent process which enables everyone to have their say. It is very useful in meetings and reviews. The 'Learning Log' enables workers to reflect on ‘What is Working and What is Not Working’ for the person by recording information over a period time.

'The Doughnut' enables supporters and workers to be clear about their responsibilities and what isn’t any of their business. Staff and services sometimes make decisions about people’s lives which they do not have the right to do or they may say it is not their right as workers but they have forgotten their role in supporting the person to make a decision and ensuring that person has the information they need to make a decision. The tool also invites participants to think about when they can use their own judgement and creativity in decision making.

'The Relationship Circle' tells support staff who is important in a person’s life by mapping in a circle how close the person is to them. The conversation will give supporters and workers information about who the person may like to involve more in their lives and who may become involved in attending reviews or circles of support.

People who are supported by services may find themselves being viewed negatively by those services. Incidents which may occur are recorded and remain as evidence or many years to come. People with little or no control of their lives or who have difficulties with making themselves understood may find themselves resorting to behaviours which lead to confirming the views which people in services have about them and so negative reputations are established. The ‘like and admire’ tool highlights the positive aspects rather than the negative reputations. It invites us to share these views and reframe our thinking about the person.

All behaviour is a communication. It is a more accurate reflection of what we are thinking and feeling than what we choose to say. When we are unhappy stressed or anxious can control what we say but it is more difficult to control what we do. 'Communication charts' help participants to understand more clearly what people are saying with their behaviour as well as with words and to know what they should do. Participants are invited to use the charts to record information about what a person is saying or doing and what that might mean in columns. There is additional column to record what a supporter should do in response.

The 'matching staff' tool focuses on the importance of finding the right person to work with someone. It invites participants to explore the qualities, characteristics and interests of workers as well as their skills and consider the best match.

Participants are able to use the tools to in pairs to create their own 'one page profile' which captures key information on a single page which gives family friends or staff an understanding of the person and how best to support them. The profile records detailed specific statements which participants have developed during the workshop. A person may have more than one profile depending on the purpose of the profile. They may have one which identifies what staff needs to know about them when they are at home but another for what people would need to know if that person went into hospital.

Tips for training

Participants need to be prepared to explore the tools from their own experience and practice them before using them with others. Course facilitators may demonstrate this by using examples from their own lives.
Real examples and stories enable participants to see clearly how the tool works.
Working in small groups on tables can help to build confidence.
Participants are invited to share examples of their own statements they are making in the exercises in the large group. This enables the course facilitator to identify whether they understand and are able to create good specific and detailed statements.

If you want to know more

BAILEY,G., NEILL, M. (2006): Quality in Person Centred Planning.
BOWERS, H., BAILEY, G., SANDERSON, H., EASTERBROOK, L., MACADAM, A. (2008): Person Centred Thinking with Older People. HSA Press.
CAMPS,S. (2010):Celebrating Families Toolkit.  HSA Press
NEILL, M., SANDERSON, H., SMITH, H., BAILEY, G., CARTER, N, HUGHES, A., JONES, V.: Person Centred Thinking Day Services and Beyond. 
Person Centred Thinking Mini Books series HSA Press 
Person Centred Thinking Cards. HSA Press
RITCHIE, P., SANDERSON,H., KILBANE, J.,  ROUTLEDGE, M. (2003): People Plans and Practicalities: Achieving change through person centred practice. Joseph Rowntree Foundation
SANDERSON, H. (2010): Habits for highly effective staff: Using person centred thinking in day to day work. 
SANDERSON,H., KENNEDY,K., RITCHIE,P., GOODWIN,G. (1997): People Pans and Possibilities: Exploring Person Centred Planning, 1997
SANDERSON, H., TAYLOR, M. (2008): Celebrating Families. HSA Press
SMULL, M., BOURNE, M.L., SANDERSON. H. (2008): Becoming a Person Centered System: A brief overview of what we are learning in the USA and UK.
SMULL, M., SANDERSON, H. (2005): Essential Lifestyles Planning for Everyone. HAS Press
Support Planning Cards. HSA Press 
THOMPSON,J., KILBANE,J., SANDERSON,H. (2008): Person Centred Practice for Professionals. Open University Press
WILLIAMS, T., SKELHORN, L., MATTHEWS, A.: Total Communication: Person Centred Thinking and Practice. HSA Press


Homepage of Helen Sanderson Associates with many materials to download 
Podcasts of the Learning Community of Person Centred Practise: Michael Smull introduces person centered thinking tools
Helen Sanderson Press Homepage – many books and material on person centred thinking to order
Inclusion Distribution - many books on person centred planning and thinking to order 
Person Centred Thinking Tools This website is a community resource for people who have had training or support in using person centred thinking tools. 

What is this module for

The objective and learning aim is to understand and to facilitate in teams

  • MAP (formerly known as: 'Making Action Plans'), a six step process to a 'treasure description' or an 'appreciative inquiry' of persons and their systems and microcosms. That means to gain knowledge about all aspects combined with a MAP process and
  • PATH (formerly known as: '‘Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope'), an eight step process to a drawn picture of the 'path' to the most attractive future that these persons are longing for and the steps towards it. So, it is important to get familiar with all parts of the PATH process.

Both process-tools 'can be applied to individuals, families, groups and organizations. Neither is specific to disability though both are widely used by people with disabilities, their families & human service organizations' (O’BRIEN, PEARPOINT & KAHN 2010, 16). This leads to various arrangements and constellations – for example if a family with a nonverbal child looks for best solutions – but always in one sense: The reason for doing MAP and PATH is to get ideas and first answers to the real 'Great Questions' (O’BRIEN 1999) that revolutionise the microcosms towards inclusive communities.

What is it about

So, in its content, it deals with the tools MAP and PATH in all aspects including reflection of their 'history' (pioneers, 'the ideas behind' them and the 'evolution' of these processes; see O’BRIEN & O’BRIEN 2000) and their potential and synergetic effects, especially when they are experienced in combination. Also it reflects on questions concerning the facilitation of the processes and how to balance the possible dynamics or how to involve persons who express themselves nonverbal and how to enable a maximum of participation for them.

MAP has been developed by Jack PEARPOINT and Marsha FOREST in the mid 1980’s (see O’BRIEN & FOREST 1989). PATH followed slightly later (see PEARPOINT, O’BRIEN & FOREST 2001). Both these methods use a graphic process in a meeting where the main person has invited people that they have chosen. It is important that the person and their support circle are well supported and prepared for the meeting.

MAP is comprised of formerly eight and today six steps (see O’BRIEN & LOVETT 2000) drawing a positive picture of a person through a group of invited people (O’BRIEN, PEARPOINT & KAHN 2010, 93):

  1. Hear the story
  2. Honour the Dream
  3. Recognise the Nightmare
  4. Name Gifts
  5. Say What It Takes to receive the Gifts
  6. Agree on Action

So, this MAP group process enables 'clarifying gifts, identifying meaningful contributions, specifying the necessary conditions for contribution, and making agreements that will develop opportunities for contributions' (O’BRIEN, PEARPOINT & KAHN 2010, 16).

PATH also uses a graphic process where the people planning with the person support them to their share dreams for the future then to set positive and possible targets to move towards that dream. PATH is comprised by eight steps (O’BRIEN, PEARPOINT & KAHN 2010, 63):

  1. Locate the North Star
  2. Generate a Vision of a positive possible future
  3. Describe the Now
  4. Invite Enrollment
  5. Decide to Get Stronger
  6. Identify Bold Steps
  7. Organise the month’s work
  8. Agree to Next Steps

So, the PATH group process enables 'discovering a way to move toward a positive and possible goal, which is rooted in life purpose, by enrolling others, building strength, and finding a workable strategy' (O’BRIEN, PEARPOINT & KAHN 2010, 16).

It is meaningful to realise good examples of how to find or create a circle of support and how to bring in aspects of the history and context of the MAP and the PATH processes into such meetings. To work on a real understanding of the systemic approach of the MAP and the PATH process in supporting circles is crucial for the quality of the process – it is not only about the main person but about common thinking of all involved people. So, it is essential to practice all segments of MAP and PATH in different roles and to get in touch especially with the challenges of the role of the group facilitator and the tasks of the role of the graphic facilitator. It always needs a team for this complex way of facilitation – a big challenge: 'PATH is a performing art, like music or drama or dance or juggling. It is a public act, created by disciplined collaboration. As such, it can only be understood and skilfully performed by people who devote themselves to regular practice and training over time' (O’BRIEN & PEARPOINT 2002, 58). Especially, because meetings that follow the MAP and the PATH steps can lead into real deep emotions facilitators should 'never dive alone!' (PEARPOINT & FOREST 1995). Furthermore it is necessary to be aware of the differences between 'future planning', 'future conferences' and a 'future celebration’'(all of them are person defined plans) versus a 'treatment-plan’' or an 'Individual Service Plan' (or other types of service defined plans; see O’BRIEN & LOVETT 2000; O’BRIEN, PEARPOINT & KAHN 2010, 16).

How can the message be delivered

As this module explores the vibrant history and the background to the tools of MAP and PATH as citizenship and person-centred work it focuses on possibilities to experience the power of these tools directly. This leads to imagine how circles of support can be invited to think and work together to give birth to alternative ideas (see PEARPOINT 1990). So the methods that support to deal with MAP and PATH may be story-telling, listening to successful experiences of families with a non-verbal child, making exercises in small groups, watching video sequences, practicing think-tanks, to feel the power of thinking in possibilities versus in negativities and to experience the necessity of having ‘enough time’ and the presence of all members of the support circle during the whole process.

This procedure is full of learning 'to do it for others by learning to do it for oneself’ in lots of Think – Pair – Share steps (from cooperative group learning) in explorations of small groups and orchestrating the whole group to work together as a ‘creative field’ leaning on 'positive interdependence'. Additional it is widening the perspectives getting to know other tools and adding and combining new tools to adapt the MAP and PATH sessions to the person and their invited supporters. For example, small development agencies can be founded for getting ideas for the best of all possible futures, or two persons – at least one of them able to write and read – write their dreams for the main person on small butterflies which afterwards are collected. Being a facilitator, as Marsha FOREST once said, 'you have to dance with the group!'

It is essential: The best way of learning is to do it – the facilitation of a planning process in different roles. This includes one term of doing it step by step with the whole group, while every person focuses during every step on their own situation, afterwards, in small groups one term the whole MAP-process, one term with the whole PATH process and finally one term of combining both processes. It is of high relevance to have a good peer support for practicing these exercises and a following open a fair reflection of the planning processes. It is a suggestion to practice the MAP and PATH facilitation outside of the course for reaching a good quality.

To cluster the ideas ‘of the whole elephant’ – all parts of the support circle – is nothing really new. It is rather the reconnection to a very archaic thing if people build a circle and sit, think and talk together. For a good atmosphere during a meeting for MAP and PATH it may also be good to drink, eat and even to sing together. So, all this also happens in this module to create the idea of how it feels to be working with a support circle. This powerful atmosphere of common trust is so important to be built and felt, because “it is not ethical to plan with a person if the plans don’t confront the person’s exclusion and aim to create a more just, diverse, and inclusive community” (O’BRIEN & PEARPOINT 2002, 4).

'Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing it ever has.' (Margaret Mead)

If you want to know more

See the detailed text: in the 'MAP and PATH' section 

Further references

O’BRIEN, John (1999): Great Questions and the Art of Portraiture. Online:
O'BRIEN, John & FOREST, Marsha (1989): Action for Inclusion. Toronto: Inclusion Press
O'BRIEN, John & LOVETT, Herbert (22000): Finding a Way toward everyday Lives. The Contribution of Person-centered Planning. In: O'BRIEN, John & O'BRIEN, Connie Lyle (Eds.): A little book about Person Centered Planning. Toronto: Inclusion Press, 113-132
O`BRIEN, John & O`BRIEN, Conny Lyle (2000): The Origins of person-centred planning. A community of practice perspective. Online: 
O'BRIEN, John & PEARPOINT, Jack (2002): Person-Centered Planning with MAPS and PATH. A Workbook for Facilitators. Toronto: Inclusion Press
O’BRIEN, John, PEARPOINT, Jack & KAHN, Linda (2010): The PATH & MAPS Handbook. Person-Centered Ways to build Communnity. Toronto:  Inclusion Press
PEARPOINT, Jack (1990): From Behind the Piano. The Building of Judith Snow's Unique Circle of Friends. Toronto: Inclusion Press
PEARPOINT, Jack (2002): Hints for Graphic Facilitators. Toronto: Inclusion Press
PEARPOINT, Jack & FOREST, Marsha (1995): Scuba Rules. Poster. Quoted in: O’BRIEN, John & PEARPOINT, Jack (2002): Person-Centered Planning with MAPS and PATH. A Workbook for Facilitators. Toronto: Inclusion Press, 14
PEARPOINT, Jack, O‘BRIEN, John & FOREST, Marsha (42001): PATH: Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope. A Workbook for Planning Possible Positive Futures. Toronto: Inclusion Press


Inclusion Press – Books and Material (USA)

Books and Material on MAP and PATH in Europe

Helen Sanderson Associates – Information and examples of MAP and PATH 



What is this module for

  • to understand the concept of circles of supports and be able to initiate one
  • to be able to identify community resources with the person and use them

What is it about

Person centred planning is an individual planning process, but this does not mean that it is helpful to plan with the person alone. It is not only important to discover the strengths and resources of the individual but also to discover and develop the strengths and resources of the personal network and the community.

A circle of support consists of all the people who can support the focus person with her or his future plan. This can be family members, friends, community members and professionals. The focus person should decide who will be invited. In identifying people who should be invited a relationship map or mapping the network could be helpful tools. The focus person should be well prepared for the meeting and decide what should be the topics (and what not). All the people who are invited should get a personal invitation and know what the meeting will be about. The focus person also decides where the meeting of the circle will take place. It is important that it is a place where the focus person feels comfortable. The room can be decorated with things from the planning process like a profile poster, photographs or important things of the person in the middle of the circle. Some planning formats like person centred reviews, MAP or PATH require place for flipcharts on the wall. Drinks and favourite snacks are a good idea. It is important to create a welcoming and valuing atmosphere and not to hold another formal meeting.

The circles meeting should be best facilitated by two people: One person should be experienced in the facilitation of group discussions and processes. The task of this facilitator is to facilitate the discussion in the circle. The facilitator makes sure that ground rules for the circle are established like everybody can speak without being interrupted, comments should be constructive and directed to the future, everybody is treated with respect and dignity. It is important to involve the circle members, but also make sure that the focus person stays in the focus. Often the circle members are really supportive and a positive dynamic will arise developing new opportunities with the focus person. However sometimes resistance, fears and devaluing comments can create a challenging dynamic. The facilitator should be prepared to deal with this kind of dynamics and killer phrases like “we don’t have time or resources for that”, “he can’t do that” or “we have already tried everything”. Overcoming these barriers can be critical for the success of the planning process of the focus person.

The other person that facilitates the process is the graphic facilitator. He writes and draws the results of the planning meeting on big posters or flipcharts. Most people remember pictures better than words, not only people with learning disabilities who can’t read. Our soul thinks in images. Creating an image of a good future is an important task and often demands to focus on important details. How would it exactly look like? In dialogue with the focus person the graphic facilitator find matching pictures for the things that are important to the person. It doesn’t have to be artwork even though some people can create impressing, lively pictures. Many people don’t dare to draw, so it is important to encourage people to try and to discover and develop their ability to draw.

There are a couple of planning formats like person centred reviews, MAP or PATH and problem solving tools that can be used in circles of support.

Exploring, developing and using community resources can be important to create opportunities for the focus person. It is important not only to discover the strengths and resources of the person but also of the community. Often support organisations have very little knowledge about the opportunities of the community and don’t invest time and resources to develop stronger ties into the community. There is a range of tools of community connecting to discover the community from the perspective of the person (e.g. mapping favourite places, making a tour guided by the focus person through the community) or in general. The minibook community connecting offers some them.

How can the message be delivered

We explain the concept of circles of support and illustrate it by stories of circles of supports. If possible we have a person who tells about his experiences with his circle of support.

The participants identify their personal network by using a relationship map or mapping the network. A good tool can be also the family treasure map where the family tree of a person with the jobs and hobbies family members have is drawn together with the person. Participants think about who they would like to invite to their circle of support.

We use team building exercises like the “tower of power” where the participants can build a tower of wooden blocks with a small “crane” connected with strings to up to 24 people to illustrate the challenge and chance of working together in a big circle. Another similar group exercise is the “Strippenzieher” where 12 or 20 people draw a picture together with a pen that is in the middle connected with 12 or 20 strings.

People train their facilitation skills with cards with “killer phrases” (“you can’t do that, because you are too disabled”, “we tried that”, “this is not possible”...) to find good ways to deal with these statements.

We introduce the method of “peer supervision” as a structured method of problem solving ( to be able to reflect on difficult situations in the planning processes.

A first introduction into graphic facilitation skills encourages people to dare to draw. A worksheet on graphic facilitation helps to make first, basic drawings. Books like bikablo (HAUSMANN 2006/ 2008) help to get ideas for simple drawings of complex topics. The participants get to know different methods to explore and visualize the network of a person on a poster such as ‘relationship circles’, ‘my network’ or ‘the family treasure map’. Creating a poster for themselves or a partner is also a good exercise for graphic facilitation.

In order to widen the network of a person and to discover new opportunities it is important to have a good knowledge of the resources in the community. They explore the favourite places and opportunities for a person in the local community with tools from the minibook community connecting (SANDERSON, LIVESLEY, POLL & KENNEDY 2008) like the tool “my places”. A good method is also to draw a community map on a big piece of paper with a diverse group of people including all important places, clubs or key persons in a local community. Community maps can be also done with a real map of the community using pins and pictures to map important places and key people for a person or in general.

The participants in the training course start in this module planning processes inside and outside the course by getting to know the person who wants to plan and initiate first circles. They are introduced to the method of peer supervision and build community of learners to support each other.

Tips for training

As an introduction it is powerful to let focus people talk about their circles of supports and person centred planning processes. It is important to encourage participants to use the planning methods for themselves. Being the focus person or active part of a circle of support is an essential experience.

We use metaphors like hats for different roles to explain what happens if people try new roles or glasses for different perspectives to explain the importance to acknowledge that the world looks different through different glasses. Stories, sayings, pictures, videos and music connected to the topic support people with different learning styles to learn.

Team building exercises are good to experience the power and challenge of good cooperation in a circle. It is helpful to create a good group atmosphere, to explore and value the different talents of the members and to build a community of learners where people support each other.
Drawing and graphic facilitation is quite a challenge for some people. It is important to introduce it in a playful way. At first it is important that people dare to draw not how good they draw.

Exploring the community where people live or work in inclusive groups is a good way to direct the attention of the participants towards community resources.

If you want to know more

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 
HAUSSMANN, Martin (2006): bikabolo – Facilitators dictonary of visual language/ das Trainerwörterbuch der Bildsprache. Eichenzell: Neuland GmbH & Co. KG, 2006.
HAUSSMANN, Martin (2009): bikabolo 2.0 – das Bikablo 2.0: New Visuals for Meeting, Training & Learning / Neue Bilder für Meeting, Training & Learning /. Eichenzell: Neuland GmbH & Co. KG, 2009.
PEARPOINT, Jack (2002): Hints for Graphic Facilitators. Toronto: Inclusion Press.
POLL, Carl, KENNEDY, Jo & SANDERSON Helen (2009): In Community- Practical lessons in supporting isolated people to be part of community. HAS Press.
SANDERSON, Helen, LIVESLEY, Michelle, POLL, Carl, KENNEDY, Jo (2008): Minibook Community Connecting. Stockport: HSA Press.


Metalog Power of Tower – Neuland 
Mammut-Strippenzieher – Karl Schubert Werkstätten



What is this module for

  • To reflect upon the experiences of what was working and not working in implementing person person-centred practices in the area of work and respective organisations.
  • To identity barriers and possibilities for successful organisational change and be able to develop action plans based on the aggregated learning from individual plans.
  • To understand the philosophy, values and tools of person-centred thinking and planning as a continuum in the light of service, networking and community competence and to understand the role of organisations.
  • To develop an understanding of the importance of a person-centred organisational culture and find practical ways of putting it into practice.
  • To be able to use person-centred tools within an organisational context to develop a person-centred organisation

What is it about

The final module of the “New Paths to Inclusion” Training Course in Person-centred thinking, planning and action focuses on the consequences of Person Centred Planning which should lead to organisational change. This requires taking a closer look at the strategic context of person-centred planning. It starts from the assumption that it has so far been a common weakness that person-centred planning was perceived as just a different kind of planning process that could be delivered in a vacuum without significant organisational change. If our focus is to achieve real positive differences in many people’s lives, than we must purposefully focus on building capacity or competence(s) on four different interrelated levels of change and actions over time, which mark the conditions for successful person-centred planning. These four levels are:

  • The individual level in increasing possibilities for change through person-centred planning and action
  • The organisational level in building capacity to learn from changing individual demands, to guide sustainable organisational change in ways that increase people`s ability to lead better and effectively control their lives.
  • The local or community level in aligning forces to develop capacity for social inclusion in opening mainstream services and building local social capital.
  • And the national level in developing policies that reflect the shared values and steps inherent in the UN-Convention of the rights of people with disabilities.

It is important to have these interlinked areas of change in mind, but the main focus in this module will be to focus on the organisational parts of change. Many available services for people with disabilities are and were not designed to provide tailored supports to people in valued roles in ordinary settings. There is an urgent need of a cultural change in the ways that services are comprised and delivered. The main aim of this module will be to take a closer look at these cultural issues that serve as a precondition for a mindful, successful and sustainable implementation of Person-centred planning that is sensitive to the philosophy and values underpinning these approaches.

How can the message be delivered

It can be of great added value to open the last module to a bigger audience and to intentionally invite those people in the organisation who hold the power to initiate and affect change. Thus the module starts off with an introductory round, for which NEULAND`s Emotioncards can be used. The participants are asked to choose one or more pictures that would serve as images for the framing questions for the introductory round:

  • How do I see the current situation in my organisation?
  • What is my vision for my organisation?
  • What is my role in the organisation?

Following the introduction the trainer introduces the concept of Comfort, Growth and Panic as a metaphor to understand the possible dynamics that arise in organisations when committing to change. With the help of the course participants all of the person-centred methods learned and practiced in the training course are being reviewed in the light of Service-, Networking and Community Competence to understand that all of the approaches are powerful at creating change but distinct in the place of change and the roles that classical organisations for disabled people play in this context. The participants are invited to share their stories and experiences in and out of organisational contexts, while the trainer records the learning.

As a group exercise the participants are asked to join in groups consisting of members of their organisations and to practice a Person-Centred Organisational Review focussing on ‘What was working and what was not working’ within their respective organisations when trying to implement person centred approaches. In this exercise the focus is not jet on developing an action plan but to start collecting as much information as possible.

The trainer then goes on to present and discuss some stories about organisations that have undergone organisational change efforts and to present empirical results about identified barriers and possibilities. Organisational culture is identified as the primary factor for success. As both theoretical and practical background the trainer then introduces Otto Scharmer`s Theory U and the concept of 'Presencing' (learning and leading from a visionary future) as a possible blueprint for a mindful approach to the implementation of person-centred approaches. Within this approach the trainer stresses a wide application of the concept of leadership, which applies to every person that is involved in some of the challenging tasks of assisting people to lead better lives. Among these leadership roles the importance of people with disabilities and parents who can act as role models are especially pointed at.

The first day ends with another group exercise in which the same groups use the '4 questions reflection' format to gather more information about their progress in achieving person-centred change in their organisations.
Alternatively if the group has so far not been introduced to the method of ’peer group supervision’ the trainer can choose to present the concept as a tool that fosters a supportive organisational culture and have the group practise the method in two-three small groups.

The second day starts of with an introduction and by the trainer into the 'Working together for change' process which provides a simple six stage methodology that uses person-centred information that is gathered within individual person centred review meetings to inform strategic planning understood here as the necessary change conditions to achieve actions steps to work towards solutions for the key question 'are individual plans and actions revealing organisational barriers and shortcomings as well as informing our practice in how we can be more successful in promoting individual and self-determined life styles in- and outside of our organisation?'.

The groups are then asked to join back into their groups to practise a slightly adapted version of this process. First the groups are asked to write all of the barriers they have indentified in the two exercises on the previous day on coloured cards and to try to cluster the information into similar themes. As the time only allows focusing on one or two issues the participants are asked to dot vote for what they see as the most challenging barriers. In a next step the group is asked to look at the chosen problem from the perspectives of their most important stake holder groups that are affected by it, f.e. users, parents, direct service workers, management, etc. and to try to formulate “I-statements” within these perspectives. From looking at the different statements the groups will see that, in most cases, the problem will appear in a different light from different perspectives. The group goes then on to concentrate on those perspectives that are most affected by the problem and to practise the ‘5 Why questioning technique’ to reach to the root of the problem. It proved to be helpful if one-or two members take charge of facilitating this step – as this technique requires close attention to really dig deeper at every point, as groups tend to navigate in a circular way always coming back to the first “I-statement”, f.e. “I don’t have enough time to do this”.

Once an agreement has been reached in the group that a root cause (that does not necessarily have to be after the fifth why question) has been identified, the group develops a “Success-Poster” asking “how would success look like if we had found solutions to overcome this problem?”. Again the groups are asked to produce “I-statements” from the perspectives of the stakeholder groups affected by it.

After coming back to the plenary the groups present their results and the trainer facilitates an intra group discussion.

All of the developed information is in the last step of the module taken into the process of Action Planning, for which the trainer introduces a slightly adapted version of the PATH process. In the last exercise the groups are asked to develop an Action Plan using the PATH process to plan concrete goals and corresponding action steps for the next year.

Tips for training

It has proofed as very effective within the Austrian course to actively invite managers and representatives from funding agencies to participate in this two day training, as this module really aims at developing concrete and accountable action steps and strategies toward change. Alternatively this module can also be offered as an In-house seminar for organisations who want to concentrate on their specific situation and to invite the main stakeholder groups. A prerequisite for this must be that some members of the organisation have attended the entire course (or at least the “Service” competence orientated modules of Person-Centred Thinking and Essential Lifestyle Planning including Person Centred Reviews) and have started practising it in their organisations.
Especially in the very intense group exercises in this module the role of the trainer is mainly as process facilitator moving from one group to the other. If there are participants in the course who do not work in the same organisations as the majority of the participants, they are invited to join in some of the other groups and either take the role of a critical friend and/or take charge and practise their facilitation skills.
When groups are developing the North Star within the organisational PATH it has proofed helpful to direct the group’s attention in the beginning away from the changes they want to achieve for their users and to try to focus on the environment and organisations they would like to be working in. Person centred culture can only thrive if everyone (and that includes first and foremost the people employed in these organisations) feels welcome and appreciated.

“You must become a change target before you can be a change agent”

Further references

AMADO, A. & MC BRIDE, M. (2002): Realigning Individual, Organisational and Systems Change: Lessons learned in 15 years of training about person centred planning and principles. In: HOLBURN, S. & VIETZE, P. (Hrsg.): Person-Centred Planning: Research, Practice and Future Directions. Baltimore: Paul Brookes Publishing, 361-378
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (2010): Working together for change: using person-centred planning for commissioning. Online unter: 
HULGIN, K. (2004): Person centred services and organisational context: Taking Stock of working conditions and their impact. In: Mental Retardation, Vol. 42 (3), 169–180
ILES, K. (2003): Becoming a learning organisation: a precondition for person centred services to people with learning difficulties. In: Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 7 (1), 65–77
JOHNSON, K. & WALMSLEY, J. (2010): People with intellectual disabilities. Towards a good life? Bristol: Policy Press
KENDRICK, M. (2000): When People matter more than Systems. Keynote Presentation for the Conference “The Promise Of Opportunity“, Albany, NY, March 27–28, 2000. Online: 
KILBANE, J. & MCLEAN, T. (2008): Exploring the history of person centred practice. In: THOMPSON, J.; KILBANE, J. & SANDERSON, H. (Hrsg.): Person Centred Practice for professionals. Berkshire: Open University Press, S.3-25
KOENIG, O. (2008): Persönliche Zukunftsplanung und Unterstützte Beschäftigung als Elemente in institutionellen Veränderungsprozessen. In: Behinderte Menschen Heft 5/2008, S.2-19
O`BRIEN, J. (1989): What’s worth working for: leadership for better quality human services. Responsive System Association. Online unter: 
O`BRIEN, J. & O`BRIEN, C.L.(2000). The Origins of person-centred planning. A community of practice perspective. Online unter: 
O’BRIEN, J. & TOWELL, D. (2003): Person Centred Planning in its strategic context: Towards a framework for reflection in action. London:    Centre for Inclusive Futures / Responsive Systems Associates. Online unter: 
O`BRIEN, J. (2006): Moving past the limits in person-centred planning. Responsive System Association. Online: 
QUINN, G. (2009): Bringing the UN-Convention on rights for persons with disabilities to life in Ireland. In: British Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 37, 2009, H.4, 245-249.
ROBERTSON, J.; EMERSON, E.; HATTON, C. et . al (2007): Person centred planning: factors associates with successful outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities. In: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, Vol.51 (3), 232–243
ROGAN, P. (2007): Moving from Segregation to Integration: Organisational Change Strategies and Outcomes. In: Wehman, P.; Inge, KJ., Grant Revell, W. & Brooke, V. (Hrsg.): Real Work for Real Pay: Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities. Baltimore: Paul Brookes Publishing, 253–272
SCHÄDLER, J. (2002): Paradigmenwechsel in der Behindertenhilfe unter Bedingungen institutioneller Beharrlichkeit: Strukturelle Voraussetzungen der Implementation Offener Hilfen für Menschen mit geistiger Behinderung. Universität Siegen: Dissertation. Online: 
SCHARMER, O. (2009): Theory U: Learning from the future as it emerges. San Francisko: Berret-Koehler Publishers
SMULL, M.; BOURNE, M.L.; SANDERSON, H. (2009): Becoming a person centred system: a brief overview of what we are learning in the USA and UK. Online: 
VERMEYLEN, K. (2010), “Living at the boundary”* Growth circles & edgework as a model to facilitate experiential learning processes. Outward Bound® Belgium, Leuven, not published article.
WILLIAMS, R. & SANDERSON, H. (2010): What are we learning about person-centred organisations. Online:

Links - provides a range of theoretical and practical information as well as examples for person-centred organisational change



What is this module for

  • To be able to develop the one page profile into a person centred plan
  • To understand the difference between a person centred review and a planning meeting
  • To be able to facilitate a person centred review or planning meeting

What is it about

The module uses the principles tools and skills from module one to facilitate a review meeting. It explores the need build on the one page profile to develop a detailed and informative plan to be able to support an individual in a way that makes sense to them. It addresses the history of Essential Lifestyles Planning and how the approach has developed from its origins in Maryland University in 1989 when Michael Smull and Susan Burke Harrison were asked to develop an approach to support people to return to their home communities from institutions and residential schools. The module explains how in the person centred thinking tools have become established practice in the development of personalised services within the UK and how person centred review meetings are used to plan the on-going support and development for the person. Participants are encouraged to debate the difference between this person centred meeting and styles such as Path and Map which John O’Brien describes as the purpose being ‘To describe a desirable future as part of the community, and the actions that people are undertaking to achieve this’.

How can the message be delivered

As with all modules participants use their own experiences to practice the tools. The facilitator demonstration and the practice reviews involve the real life experiences and responses from the group. The person centred review invites the person, family friends support staff and professionals to meet in a comfortable environment where the person and their family feel confident and involved in the process. Typically posters are taped to the walls with headings:

  • Who is here
  • What we like and admire about the person
  • What is important to ….now
  • What is important to… in the future
  • What needs to happen to keep … healthy and safe
  • What’s working and what’s not working from ……perspective, the families perspective, others perspective
  • Questions to answer
  • Action plan

The facilitator demonstrates the method with a focus person who the group have spent time getting to know by speaking about important objects in their life which they have brought to the training. They then step through the process; by introducing and explaining the meeting, setting ground rules, asking people to share something that they like and admire about the person which is recorded on the poster by the recorder, all participants writing or using pictures or graphics on the posters to give their views and thoughts under each heading, then the facilitator using the information on the posters to develop an action plan. The meeting finishes with a closing round inviting participants to say something that they have appreciated about being in the persons meeting.

Unlike many professional meetings which are led by professionals and focus on what is wrong in the person’s life, it gives the opportunity for everyone to participate and have their voice heard equally. It focuses on the positive aspects of the person but addresses the issues they may be facing. It invites professionals to gain the information they need to meet their statutory and professional requirements but within a framework that enables everyone present to think about what is important to the person.

Participants consider how to prepare the person, family and friends and support staff for the meeting and the importance of creating an environment which maximises the inclusion of the person in the meeting and their specific needs including communication, mobility, space, lighting, seating, sensory aspects etc.

Participants explore the importance of quality when gathering and recording person centred information, which include the detail required so that family friends and staff have the specific information they need to support the person really well. 
Additional person centred thinking tools may be included to support this process.

Tips for Training

  • To have break out rooms so participant can work in different groups without distraction when practicing the review
  • To have plenty of wall space to put posters on the walls, masking tape often works better than blue tac.
  • Get permission to put posters on the walls before booking training rooms.
  • Ask participants to prepare for the training on module one by identifying who will be the focus person and facilitators.
  • Ask focus people to bring their objects to talk about themselves.
  • Reassure participants that the practice sessions are to enable people to 'have a go' in a safe environment, facilitators are not being tested and the group is there to support one another.
  • Focus people only have to share what they wish about themselves.
  • Give time for group work to enable participants to examine and compare other approaches which they have learned about in other modules.

Further references

BOWERS, H., BAILEY, G., SANDERSON, H., EASTERBROOK, L., MACADAM, A. (2008): Person Centred Thinking with Older People. HSA Press. 
BAILEY, G., NEILL, M. (2006): Quality in Person Centred Planning
BENNETT, T., CATTERMOLE, M., SANDERSON H. (2009): Outcome Focused Reviews: A practical guide
CAMPS, S. (2010): Celebrating Families Toolkit. HSA Press
LUNT, J., BASSETT, J. (2007): The Best of Both Voices. Person Centred Thinking and Advocacy. HSA Press, 
NEILL, M., SANDERSON, H., SMITH, H., BAILEY, G., CARTER, N, HUGHES, A., JONES, V.: Person Centred Thinking Day Services and Beyond. 
Person Centred Thinking Mini Books series HSA Press 
Person Centred Thinking Cards. HSA Press
RITCHIE, P., SANDERSON, H., KILBANE, J., ROUTLEDGE, M. (2003): People Plans and Practicalities: Achieving change through person centred practice. Joseph Rowntree Foundation
SANDERSON, H. (2010): Habits for highly effective staff: Using person centred thinking in day to day work. 
SANDERSON, H., KENNEDY, K., RITCHIE, P. GOODWIN, G. (1997): People, Plans and Possibilities: Exploring Person Centred Planning
SANDERSON, H., TAYLOR, M. (2008): Celebrating Families. HSA Press
SANDERSON, H., MATHIESEN, R. (2003): Person Centred Reviews.
SMULL, M., SANDERSON, H. (2005): Essential Lifestyles Planning for Everyone, HAS Press
SMULL, M., BOURNE, M.L., SANDERSON. H. (2008): Becoming a Person Centered System: A brief overview of what we are learning in the USA and UK. 
Support Planning Cards. HSA Press
THOMPSON, J., KILBANE, J., SANDERSON, H. (2008): Person Centred Practice for Professionals. Open University Press
WERTHEIMER, A. (2007): Person Centred Transition Reviews.
WILLIAMS, T., SKELHORN, L., MATTHEWS, A.: Total Communication: Person Centred Thinking and Practice. HSA Press


Homepage of Helen Sanderson Associates with many materials to download 
Podcasts of the Learning Community of Person Centred Practise: Michael Smull introduces person centered thinking tools
Helen Sanderson Press Homepage – many books and material on person centred thinking to order
Inclusion Distribution - many books on person centred planning and thinking to order