A Person Centered Approach

The Person Centered Philosophy encompasses the following guidelines and expectations:

Treating all people (people who receive supports and their families, employees and partners) equally.

Celebrating failures to support learning.

Being a resource to support and maintain the balance of important to and important for.

Respecting the unique attributes of people.

People are the primary decision makers over their lives and work.

What is PCT?

Learn more about Person Centered Thinking.


Person Centered Thinking (PCT) is a way of empowering people who need supports because of a myriad of disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, to gain and maintain positive control over their lives.

Underlying this approach is the belief that supports should be centered on what is most important to the person while addressing what is important for them in regards to their health status or disabilities.


Sense of Control

PCT was developed for use in the field of developmental disabilities in the 1980s and is now used in work with other populations, including older adults.

People (customers) who are dependent on others for daily needs are frequently seen as not able to make the types of decisions that give them a sense of control over their lives.

How It Works

An illustration of person-centered thinking is as simple as a change in language: “Joe, a customer, is mentally retarded” becomes “Joe, a customer, has a developmental disability.”

The idea behind person-centered language is to acknowledge the person (customer) as an individual with unique needs, desires and characteristics, rather than as a label.

Focusing on life, dignity, and self-determination.

More than just a change in wording, PCT empowers people by supporting their inclusion in everyday activities and decisions, and challenges the many stereotypes that frequently exclude them from participating fully in the communities in which they live.

PCT is a culture change that means transforming the mindset and practice in community-based settings. It is about changing the culture of an organization so that the focus is on the person’s life, dignity, and self-determination rather than the needs of the organization.

Culture change is based on person-centered values and practices where the voices of the people we support are respected. If PCT is to work, culture change must be continuous and organizational development must occur to address how services are accessed and delivered across the continuum of care.

Culture change can be seen along a continuum of person-centered thinking in the provision of supports:


  • Staff directed – A small group of staff members make most of the decisions with little or no input from the people being served who must accept those decisions.
  • Staff centered – Staff members consult the person or attempt to understand their perspective in making decisions. Despite increased input, the person being supported generally accepts staff decisions.
  • Person centered – The decisions and preferences of those being served inform the actions being taken by staff members. Direct care workers are allowed more flexibility to meet those choices.
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