Person-centered practices assist people in creating a positive and meaningful life and build on people’s unique interests and strengths.  They refer to strategies and tools that are used in many different situations and settings to support people across the lifespan from the very young to the end of life.  These strategies apply to everyone, including people receiving support, staff, organizations, and systems. A variety of organizations and settings use person-centered practices to improve the supports that are provided to people. Disability-related services, nursing homes, behavioral health organizations, family homes, and other human service programs are just a few examples of settings where person-centered strategies are used to improve quality of life.

Person-centered practices are contrasted with agency-centered or system-centered ways of thinking and acting in which people have only systems options or agency-based roles and practices that affect their life choices and experiences.  The goal of systems change in these types of settings is to change the values and actions of staff and caregivers by moving away from the view that one must fix something that is wrong with a person to building on each person’s unique strengths and creating opportunities for them to share these strengths in a meaningful way with other people in their neighborhoods and communities. Traditional planning methods have often focused on placing individuals into already existing services and supports. In person-centered practices, there is an emphasis on determining what is needed and then tailoring supports and services to meet each person’s preferences, and desires for a meaningful future.