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What is Supported Decision Making and Why is it Important?

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Making decisions can be tough. That’s why it’s important to have someone you trust help you make the best decisions. They can help you understand and consider options, provide support, and sometimes even communicate your decisions on your behalf [1]. This is called supported decision-making and can be used to help with daily choices or future planning. Many families already use supportive decision-making without realizing it! For example, someone might interpret for a relative who does not speak the same language as everyone else. Although we lean on our supporters for advice, using the term “Supported Decision-Making” raises awareness and emphasizes the autonomy and rights of people with disabilities [2]. It’s about respecting an individual’s right to choose.



Supportive decision-making is about respecting an individual’s right to choose. Sometimes caregivers may feel like they know what the person they support would decide and may make the decision by themselves to save time and effort. However, it is always important to confirm with the person during the decision-making process and for the final decision. Doing this allows you to respect the individuals right to choose and can make sure that the outcome best reflects their values, needs, and desires. To prepare for decision-making in the future, take a moment to review the Supported Decision-Making process. In some states and provinces, supporters can legally talk with healthcare providers, pharmacists, employers, and more [3]. The role is often limited to accessing the information the individual needs and to communicating decisions [4]. Check with your state and province for more details. The Supported Decision-Making process means determining where a person receiving support can make a decision on their own, where they would like help making decisions, and where they would like or need someone else to make the decision for them. Once you've determined where a person would like to receive support, you can then determine how best to support them. Supported decision-making is a person-centered planning tool that can look different to many people. Supporting decision-making in action might look like this:

  • Helping individuals understand info, issues, and choices

  • Providing information in the best format for them (plain language, showing info visually, audio, etc.)

  • Weighing options and helping create a pros/cons list

  • Role-playing to understand choices

  • Taking notes in meetings and helping to remember and discuss options

  • Interpreting and communicating decisions [5]

You can learn more about person-centered planning in our blog post, “What is Person-Centered Planning?”

Getting more than one perspective can be helpful! If you have a large network of support, it's important to identify who can help support the decision-making process in the different areas of your life. For example, someone who provides supports with education and employment may not be the right person to support important decisions around medical needs. A person who receives support can have many people in their life to fulfill needs, and one supporter can be chosen to provide help in one or all of the Life Domains. Our favorite tips and resources for supported decision-making:

  • Sharing goals and values in your Vision Tool can help ensure everyone is on the same page about providing the best support.

  • Your Decision-Making tool on LCO is a great guide for determining where and how you need support making decisions. The interactive tool will provide questions and scenarios for each Life Domain so you and your support network are prepared for any decisions that need to be made.

  • Tagging Team Members while making a goal is a great way to remind people of when and how you need support making decisions!

Supported decision-making is an important planning tool because it can fit an individual’s changing needs. This means talking about where help is needed or wanted, who can help, and how. Most importantly, knowing that a person’s wishes will be respected and followed provides a sense of security and peace of mind. You can learn more about the LifeCourseOnline Decision-Making Tool here.


LifeCourseOnline is a life-planning platform and community where you can articulate your needs, pursue your goals, coordinate practical care, and connect with your network of support on a regular basis. To learn more, head over to our main site at lifecourseonline.com

-Article Updated Feb 15, 2023- References [1] American Civil Liberties Union (n.d.). FAQ About Supported Decision Making. ACLU. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/faq_about_supported_decision_making.pdf [2] (n.d.). Supported Decision-Making. Alberta. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.alberta.ca/supported-decision-making.aspx [3] (n.d.). Supported Decision-Making. Alberta. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.alberta.ca/supported-decision-making.aspx [4] Seniors First BC (n.d.). Supported Decision-Making. Retrieved January 11, 2023, from http://seniorsfirstbc.ca/for-professionals/supported-decision-making/ [5] American Civil Liberties Union (n.d.). FAQ About Supported Decision Making. ACLU. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/faq_about_supported_decision_making.pdf

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