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COMMUNITY WELLNESS: Person-centered planning helps consumers build the life they want to live

COMMUNITY WELLNESS: Person-centered planning helps consumers build the life they want to live

September 18, 2015

By Susan Richards, LMSW, Ionia County Community Mental Health

Posted Sep. 18, 2015 at 11:46 PM

A key component of care for anyone who enters the doors of Ionia County Community Mental Health is person-centered planning. Person centered planning, or PCP, is a strategy that assists individuals to plan the life they desire for themselves, with input and support from the people who care about them, which increases the opportunity for success.

Anyone who uses our services experiences the PCP process to create an individualized plan of service before they enter treatment at Community Mental Health. The PCP process is essential, so that consumers not only have something concrete to work toward but also know when they have achieved their goal(s) and have reached the point where they feel better, or are functioning the best they can, and have the highest quality of life they can have.

Using person-centered planning, the consumer outlines what they feel they want to work on. This includes their goals, hopes, strengths and preferences; how they plan to reach their goals; and who will be involved to support them in each part of their plan to maximize their success. The plan is a living, breathing document that changes when the individual’s circumstances, needs or desires shift. It is reviewed at certain required time intervals, but can also be reviewed and updated whenever a consumer asks to change it. For example, if, down the road it is learned that there are other services that may be useful to the consumer’s recovery, they can be included in their plan.

Here’s how PCP works. Once it has been determined that our services are medically necessary, a clinician will complete a comprehensive assessment. During the assessment we will collect information about the consumer’s history, health, current and past medications, any behavioral health treatment they’ve received before, any trauma they have experienced, how they are doing with relationships and housing, and their ability to take care of themselves. The process identifies all the areas that should be addressed that may affect and inform the consumer’s treatment.

Then we begin to preplan for the PCP meeting. We ask the consumer who they would like to participate in their planning meeting. This may include friends, family members and professionals. Teachers, para pros and school social workers may all be involved when a consumer is in school. We ask the consumer what they want to talk about, and what they don’t want to talk about during their PCP. We may give them worksheets to help them think about the most important things to address in their PCP, all toward this goal: “Where do I want to be, and how will I know that I’ve succeeded?”

And then we hold the meeting to create the plan. The aim of the meeting is to identify the goals of the consumer, in the words of the consumer (whenever possible), and help the support people at the table know what they can do to help the consumer reach those goals. For example, a goal could be, “I want to decrease my anxiety so I can feel comfortable leaving my house.” What are the steps to reaching that goal? They may decide they want to attend a group, participate in therapy or work with a Peer Support Specialist. The focus is on what will make the consumer most successful in reaching their goal and getting creative with the resources available. Along with behavioral health goals, each consumer is encouraged to create a physical health goal because physical and mental health are connected.

We want the plan to be strength-based, so we always incorporate the consumer’s strengths: attributes, characteristic and skills of a person that are seen to be positive in nature and support the person to achieve their goals; as well as their needs: resources, supports or services that are required or desired by the person to meet their goals; abilities: skills, talents or competencies of a person; and preferences: services, workers, locations, communication styles preferred by the person served. The strengths, needs, abilities and preferences of the person served or the “SNAP” is the golden thread that is pulled from the assessment, then to the treatment plan, then to the transition plan and then onto discharge.

Person-centered planning is required by the state of Michigan. The PCP authorizes the actual services that are medically necessary for treatment and shows the consumer what services are authorized, what amount of coverage is provided, and what the cost will be. The PCP is essentially a contract between the consumer and the service provider. It should always be informing, moving and guiding services.

This type of process is a good one for everyone to think about, whether or not they are consumers of behavioral health services. It’s important for everyone to set goals.

What would your life look like if you reached your highest potential?

To learn more about person-centered planning, contact Susan Richards at For more information about Ionia County Community Mental Health, visit, or call 616-527-1790. For a mental health emergency, call 911 or the ICCMH 24-hour crisis line at 1-888-527-1790.