What is Supported Decision Making

What is Supported Decision Making?

Everyone has the right to make decisions that affect their lives. Supported decision making happens when one person gives another person the support they need to participate in decision making. Support needs are different for everyone and every decision.

Decision making is a process we practice. We can learn from our decision-making experience.

There are steps in the decision-making process, and different people will need different amounts of support for each step. Some may need support for the whole process, while others may only need support for one or two of the steps.

Throughout this website, there are questions and information that may help you to support the decision maker. It is important to be aware of the language you use and to ensure that each stage is understood by both the decision maker and you as a supporter.

General Tips for Supporters

Think about how you make big or small decisions and what supports you use when making those decisions.

Talk to the person about how they would like to be supported.

Ask yourself what is your role in their decision making? Are you the right person to be supporting them in this decision?

Talk to the person about what is important to them about the decision. Ask them: what is your ideal outcome? What does your best life look like? This is a good way to support them to imagine more options and think about how the options fit in with their values.

Check in regularly to make sure they feel in control of the process

If the person you are supporting is having difficulty carrying out the decision, having their voice heard or decisions respected, you may need the help of an advocate. An advocate will support the person through the process, communicate the person’s decisions to others and in general represent people who are vulnerable.

Principles for Decision Supporters

Everyone has the right to decide

We all have the right to make decisions about our life

Sometimes we need support to make decisions

The focus should be on the support that a person may require, not their capacity


Decision support is about respecting the values, experiences, and goals of the decision maker

It is important to know that the supporter does not need to agree with the final decision. They need to respect the decision maker’s right to make decisions, take risks, make mistakes and change their mind.


The decision maker is always in control. They choose what support looks like for them for each decision.

Give only as much support as needed

You must only give as much support as is needed for the person to decide

The levels and type of support needed will depend on the decision

Decision making is a skill that can be learned, the same as supporting someone to make a decision can be learned.

By supporting someone to practice making decisions, you can help them improve their skills and build their capacity to make decisions for themselves

Relationship with the Decision Maker

Your relationship with the decision maker should be built on trust

It can be hard to support someone using the above principles if you have a vested interest in their decision

You may have vested interest in the decision if you lose or gain something depending on the option chosen

This interest could be monetary, a duty of care or the relationship between you and the decision maker

If you have vested interest in a decision you need to be aware of how it may affect the support you offer. You may need to find a different supporter who does not have a vested interest in the decision.

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