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What is Person-Centered Thinking?

Person-centered thinking is a philosophy related to supporting people in ways that help them maintain positive control and self-direction in their lives. The Learning Community for Person Centered Practices envisions a world where all people have positive control over lives they have chosen for themselves, especially people who “have lost or are at risk for losing positive control due to the presence of a disability.”

The philosophy led to the development of a set of skills and tools that help us have respectful and meaningful conversations with people to discover what is important TO them and what is important FOR them. Through the mastery of these skills and tools, person-centered thinkers change their view of how to support people, and they learn how to keep people at the center of all planning in their own lives.

Important TO and important FOR are the foundational concepts of person-centered thinking. Things that are important TO people are things that make them feel happy, comforted, content, satisfied and fulfilled. These things are related to people and relationships, things to do and places to go, status and control, rhythm or pace of life or things to have. Things that are important FOR people are things that support, health, safety and community value. A balanced relationship between important TO and FOR helps people have lives that matter to them. A deep understanding of this balance allows loved ones and paid supporters to know how to respectfully address significant health or safety issues while supporting choice related to quality of life.

Through skilled conversations, we use PCT discovery skills to uncover the important TOs and FORs, to understand the relationship between them and to identify what supports people need to achieve and keep a reasonable balance between the important TOs and FORs in pursuit of lives they love.

PCT Discovery Skills

  • Relationship Map: This skill helps us discover what relationships are important in a person’s life and what degree of emotional connection exists in the relationships.
  • Routines and Rituals: Routines and rituals bring structure and comfort to our lives. Understanding people’s routines and rituals helps us uncover things that are important TO and FOR them. The discovery of routines and rituals also leads to conversations to discover the best supports for a person, both self-supports and external supports.
  • Good Day/Bad Day: Juxtaposing extremes, especially related to what makes a good day and what creates a bad day, leads to conversations to further discover the best supports for a person.
  • Reputations:Learning about positive reputations helps us understand what others like and admire about the person. Diving deep into understanding negative reputations helps us discover more about important TO, strengths and assets (likes and admires) and best supports.
  • Communication Chart:In addition to words, we all use behavior to communicate. The communicate chart provides a framework for us to discover what is meant by the behavior we observe and what responses are most supportive.
  • Two Minute Drill: Applying urgency to consideration of how to support people can help us sort the most fundamental and important information. This skill does just that and provides additional information for more discovery about important TOs, important FORs and best supports.

In addition to discovery skills, PCT also uses everyday learning skills and management skills to understand people and their support needs on a deep level. Mastery of all these skills results in person-centered thinking becoming a way that users approach all the relationships in their lives.

This post is featured in: BiosReady

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