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Person Centered Thinking is a guided process for learning how someone wants to live and developing a plan to help make it happen. The outcome is the life the person wants, not just the plan that describes it.

What It Is:

What It Is Not:


south dakota gathering

Individuals with disabilities, families, self-advocates, community support providers, case managers and staff members from the South Dakota Department of Human Services attend the annual South Dakota Gathering. Each year, The gathering includes teams of Person Centered Thinking (PCT) champions and individuals who are using PCT in their life/work to help people better their lives. The South Dakota Gathering started in 2010 to enhance statewide learning in person-centered efforts and has since branched out to include self-advocates and family members to promote self-direction in planning for supports. Please visit this tab for more information regarding the 10th annual South Dakota Gathering.

Why use person centered thinking skills?

There are a number of reasons. 

Person Centered Thinking PCT tools help us in the current climate of doing more work with fewer resources by making all meetings more productive.  When we don't have enough time, we tend to be "fire fighters"- responding to symptoms that we see; which simply creates more need for meetings and problem solving if we have not addressed the real issues. 

When we have a way to sort what is really important to people, what our primary responsibilities are, what's working and what's not working, we can make action plans that truly impact people's lives and can move forward rather than in circles.  It also gives us a common language that everyone on the team can understand to help support the person.  

  • The lives of those supported will improve

  • It can help to diffuse a situation and serve as a problem solving tool

  • Having the skills needed for partnership with those who receive supports; paid or natural which equals better outcomes, happier lives.

  • Sharing best practices you will have new, better and more natural ways to contribute to a person's plan and help them have better lives

  • To be better able to use and act on the information in a person's plan

  • If you use these skills daily, you will find that the people we support will be better able to communicate, will be happier, and will not have as many or any behavioral challenges.

  • More likely to develop the values needed to support people in having positive control over their lives

  • TCRC and providers are implementing Person Centered Thinking (PCT) in  the way they do business

  • Person Centered Thinking (PCT) just makes sense!

PCT Training Directory

PCT Training Descriptions

Supporting Families and PCT

You will learn

  • To help others see beyond the disability.
  • Tools to help you plan & problem-solve with your family member - LifeTrajectory & Integrated Supports Star.
  • Ways to communicate effectively with school personnel, providers, and others.
  • To develop a One Page Introduction using Person-Centered Thinking Skills & Tools - a way to help school personnel, providers, therapists, doctors, respite providers, and others get to know your family member in a meaningful way and understand how to support them.

Positive Approaches Training

This one day training will focus on using Person Centered Practices to develop plans that will have positive impacts on behaviors, people's perception of behaviors, and how agencies address behavioral concerns. Training includes: how to include person centered practices and skills in your existing process of developing a positive behavioral support program; implementing plans that focus on maintaining mental wellness; and introducing new tools and skills that should be used when identifying and implementing plans of positive behavioral support to respectfully include balancing important to/important for as defined by the person.

It Is About Relationships

As Direct Support Professionals we need to be aware of how to successfully support a person who is experiencing disabilities. We must learn to foster relationships, promote independence and when necessary, intervene to support a person whose behavior may cause barriers to successfully living the life they want. It's About Relationships combines Person Centered Thinking and Positive Behavior Supports to empower staff to think differently while supporting individuals with finding joy in their days.

Sustaining Person Centered Practices

South Dakota has actively and conscientiously taken steps to pro- mote person centered policies and practices since 2007, with a significant amount of resources invested in implementing and sustaining person centered practices in that time. Person Cen- tered Practices (PCP) have grown and evolved considerably. The certified PCT Trainers and Facilitators in South Dakota are com- mitted to continuing to build our own skill sets to enhance learning for others.  In an effort to promote a deeper understanding of PCT and the many ways it can be applied in our day to day work and personal lives, a series of Sustaining Person Centered Practices training is planned and scheduled annually, with mone- tary contributions from the Division of Developmental Disabili- ties, Community Support Providers, Case Management providers, and Parent Connection, just to name a few. The series includes training for self-advocates, families, direct support professionals and provider management.

Our Person Centered Thinking Trainer community would like to say THANK YOU to all those who have contributed and partici- pated in the Sustaining Person Centered Practices efforts over the past 10 years!

Some trainings offered in recent years include:

  • People Planning Together
  • Families Planning Together
  • Plan Facilitation Training
  • Positive and Productive Meetings
  • It's About Relationships
  • Positive Approaches
  • Person Centered Employment
  • Family Support Skill Building

People Planning Together Training

A 2 day training designed for self-advocates. Through a series of activities and exercises, this course provides people with an opportunity to think about what is important to them as well as what is important for them, then look at what kinds of supports the person needs and would like to have in helping them with what matters most. Each self-advocate is required to bring along someone to support them that they are close to and feel comfortable with. It is recommended that the supporter have an un- derstanding of Person Centered Thinking concepts.

Self-advocates will learn how to develop their own person centered plan. They will learn more about them selves and help others learn how they want to be supported. They will also learn ways to express their dreams and determine their goals. It will help them be more involved in their plan- ning and their life!  They will be motivated and inspired!

Supporters will learn effective techniques to listen & communicate more clearly. They will learn proven tools to gather person centered information to develop a Person Centered Plan. And learn creative methods to develop & update the plan. It will help people experience shorter & more productive person centered planning meetings.

Person Centered Thinking Training

This training consists of 2 days of exercises where the participants acquire basic person centered thinking skills such as: The importance of being lis- tened to and the effects of having no positive control. The role of daily rituals and routines. How to discover what is important to people and sort what is important for people from what is important to them. How to respectfully address significant issues of health or safety while supporting choice. How to develop goals that help the person get more of what is important to them while addressing issues of health and safety.

The training in person centered thinking is recommended for families, service coordinators, educators, and all paid staff. It serves as a foundation for eve- ryone who is involved in supporting people. These tools have been proven to enhance services for children and adults when used in planning. This training is the basis for the other Person Centered trainings.

Families Planning Together Training

A 1 day workshop designed for family members. Families will learn Person Centered Thinking tools and create a one page description. The Person Centered Thinking tools can be used to plan and problem-solve with anyone at any age and almost every circumstance!  The tools will assist with planning now and for the future! A one page description is a great way to help others "get to know" the person in a meaningful way! It helps others see beyond the disability. Share it with teachers, therapists, doctors, support staff and others.

Application of PCT helps with

  • Sorting Important To and Important For: Thinking through a situation before deciding what should happen next- making smarter decisions

  • Donut: Identifies roles and responsibilities and provides information that helps with support, plans and organizations

  • What is Working and What is Not Working: Analyzes an issue or situation across different perspectives:

  • 4 + 1: What to build on maintain or enhance and what to change

  • Communication chart: A quick snapshot of who someone communicates

  • Good day, Bad day: Explores what makes a good and bad day enables those we support to make the changes needed to have more good days

  • Like and Admire: Identifies the qualities that people value about each other

  • Relationship Map: Identifies who is important to person

  • Matching staff:  Helps people think about the supports they need, the skills their supports should have to provide those supports, what personality characteristics need to be present AND absent, and what shared interests would be nice to have.  A good match= better outcomes

  • Learning log: Looks at recording ongoing learning

PCT training calendars

It Is About Relationships

As Direct Support Professionals we need to be aware of how to successfully support a person who is experiencing disabilities. We must learn to foster relationships, promote independence and when necessary, intervene to support a person whose behavior may cause barriers to successfully living the life they want. It's About Relationships combines Person Centered Thinking and Positive Behavior Supports to empower staff to think differently while supporting individuals with finding joy in their days.

PCT Tools and Resources

PCT Videos

Person Centered Planning Session - Michael Smull

Important To and Important For - Michael Smull

Making Person Centered Planning Mainstream - Michael Smull

A Rock In The Pond - Why Training Is Not Enoungh and What Managers Need To Do - Michael Smull


The Doughnut