What is Person-Directed Planning?

photo of a person directed plan

A word about planning…

With the shift from institutions to individuals, it is important to consider how to get people involved in planning for their futures and expressing what they want.

A person-directed plan tells us about the focus person, future dreams, supports needed to be successful and action steps to move towards those dreams. The focus person directs and owns the plan. Every plan should uphold the following principles:


  • Person generated, directed and owned
  • Built on individual strengths, gifts, dreams and aspirations
  • Supports are tailored and relevant to the individual’s choices


  • Is a flexible, open-ended and on-going process which enhances the individual’s quality of life

Individual Rights

  • Recognizes and respects individual rights, entitlements and responsibilities


  • Promotes dignity
  • Honours individuality, culture, and beliefs


  • Fosters meaningful and lasting relationships with family, friends and community members
  • Values and strengthens involvement of a personal support network


  • Facilitates participation in and contribution to community life

At Community Living Toronto, visual planning tools have enhanced people’s experiences. Such tools help bring people together to begin developing a person-directed plan. All the person-directed planning tools are based on the principles and follow a similar process:

Passport is a more detailed tool to support people in developing a plan for funding requests. It is often used for community planning with people who are not connected to agency supports. The meeting may last up to 3 hours.

Muse was developed internally within Community Living Toronto. It uses different images to reflect parts of the planning process. The meeting lasts approximately two and a half hours. This planning tool also involves annual follow-up sessions called Muse Reviews to re-visit the dream, celebrate accomplishments, recognize challenges and develop new outcomes (action plans) for the next year. Followup meetings may last up to two hours. It is designed to be more flexible for all individuals and the visual pieces can be adapted according to personal preferences.

MAP stands for Making Action Plans. It supports people on the team getting to know the focus person and each other better; it enables them to start thinking about the focus person’s dream (vision) for the future. It can be helpful for any person or group who is at a crossroads and is not sure what to do next, or for a group that has not yet connected as an established network. This is often a beginning step before PATH, Muse or SEED. The meeting lasts approximately two and a half hours.

PATH stands for Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope and centres strongly on a focus person’s or group’s vision. The team has a clear dream (vision) and they are well established as a network. This is a more intense process, lasting three to four hours.

SEED stands for Seeking Enjoyment Every Day and is used to explore meaningful community activities. Such a planning tool may be applied when the focus person and network feel other areas of the person’s life are well established and there is a need to focus specifically on community participation.The process includes an image of a tree, which looks at activities based on interests, strengths, abilities and the person’s community. The meeting may last approximately two hours.

For more information on person-directed planning at Community Living Toronto

Important Components for a Successful Planning Session

  • Invite people who really know and care about the focus person
  • Share the reasons why people are invited to a planning meeting
  • Describe the process so everyone knows what to expect and can think about the questions in advance, such as: describe the focus person, likes, gifts, role in community, what is needed for the person to be successful
  • Consider if any accommodations are required, i.e. interpreters, communication aids, time limitations
  • Inform people that the session could last approximately 2 to 3 hours
  • Choose a meeting environment where people will feel most comfortable
  • The environment for the planning session should be welcoming, i.e. food and refreshments for everyone to create an atmosphere of celebration
  • The planning session must include the focus person, otherwise re-schedule
  • It is important to reduce distractions, i.e. cell phones on silent, people not moving in and out of the room all the time, a space with limited interruptions

There are a great many reasons to participate in planning. Here are some of the benefits:

Focus person –

  • Has a voice and is heard
  • Feels valued
  • Owns the plan
  • Is the key decision-maker
  • Keeps everyone accountable for outcomes

Family –

  • Feels supported
  • Enables them to hear what their family member really wants
  • Encourages partnerships with others
  • Gives them a direction and clear action plans
  • Respects their role as supporters

Network –

  • Gives them a purpose for why they are together
  • Connects and strengthens the members
  • Supports the person to achieve their plan
  • Shares resources and opportunities
  • Is a source of creativity for ideas and possibilities

Staff –

  • Gives them a purpose for why they are supporting the focus person
  • Adds direction and value to the support they are providing
  • Provides them with a common vision which enables them to work in partnership with a person’s network
  • Enhances creativity and team work
  • Increases resources
  • Makes them feel supported
  • Creates positive work environments
  • Increased job satisfaction

Coordinators –

  • Identifies a small team to support each other in following-up on the plan
  • Provides them with specific action plans to ensure outcomes are achieved for the focus person
  • Provides them with a leadership role to hold the network accountable for outcomes

Who should be invited to the planning meeting?

It is easier to list anyone connected to the focus person; then consider the roles of people during the planning meeting. Everyone plays an important role during the planning meeting.

Focus person –

  • Decides who attends the planning session
  • Is supported to lead the planning meeting at all times
  • Has first say in what goes in the plan
  • Is one of the people responsible for every action plan
  • Owns the plan

Family –

  • Believes in the potential for their family member to live a meaningful life
  • Helps their family member to express what is wanted and needed to live a meaningful life
  • Advocates for the dreams and goals of their family member to be respected and followed
  • Supports everyone to make the plan happen
  • Assists in coordination of the plan to ensure outcomes

Network –

  • Supports the focus person and family to enjoy the experience of person-directed planning
  • Is respectful of the person’s dreams and goals
  • Sees the person’s potential to live a meaningful life
  • Contributes ideas and resources for the plan
  • May be one of the people responsible for action plans

Staff –

  • Supports the focus person and family so they are prepared for the planning sessions (i.e. purpose and questions)
  • Supports the person to express what is wanted and needed to live a meaningful life
  • Respects and advocates for the person’s dreams and goals
  • Assists people to follow through on the action plans
  • Supports in the coordination of the plan to ensure outcomes

Coordinator(s) –

  • Other members of the team may be chosen to support the focus person in this role
  • One or more people may transcribe the visual plan into written format
  • Distributes written plan to the person who owns the plan and others selected
  • Checks in with others to ensure implementation of the plan
  • Reviews follow-up on action plans with the group

Planner –

  • Upholds the principles of person-directed planning
  • Enables everyone in the group to participate in the planning meeting
  • Promotes a positive outlook towards the person’s dream or vision of the future
  • Ensures the planning process really stays focused on the person’s strengths, abilities and what they want
  • Assists the group to develop clear, measurable, achievable outcomes (action plan)