What is a PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope)?

PATH is a systematic seven-step process to define strategies for aligning and increasing the energy available to make progress on complex problems. It is a way for a person and members of their personal network to:

PATH for Thomas' Supports

  • Affirm the values that guide them
  • Vividly depict their vision
  • Feel the tension between their vision and their current reality
  • Identify the people to enroll in making progress
  • Specify how they will build the skills, knowledge and stamina necessary for the work
  • Sketch strategies that will move them toward their vision
  • Strengthen their sense of a shared commitment

What It Is Not?

A PATH is not a service plan. It is not defined by and should not be constrained by the limits of what an agency, school, or program has to offer.

“When it is thoughtfully undertaken, it offers a broad view of the person’s vision for their own life, a vision sometimes developed in collaboration with friends and family members, especially when people have great difficulty communicating”

– Dave & Faye Wetherow

Ideas and activities that are identified during the PATH can be added to a service plan but the vision of the person and the direction of his or her life is not limited by what the service system has to offer.

Who to invite?

The person is always part of the PATH session! If the person has had problems being included in meetings in the past, arrangements should be made to have the person there and also to help the person move around or take a break when needed.

Planning and organizing a PATH should be done in a way that can help maximize the opportunities presented by having people who care about the person all together in a room at the same time! Also, a PATH session is a golden opportunity to invite new people to share their ideas and experiences as members of the larger community in which the person lives or wants to live.

With this strategy in mind, we encourage the path guide and his allies to think expansively, creatively and courageously about whom to invite to the PATH session. We mention family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, people who may have been important to them in the past, and especially members of the larger community.

We emphasize people with whom they might share a particular interest or passion, or people with whom they share a strong identity –perhaps people who attend the same church, members of common cultural groups, and so on.

Where to hold the PATH?

The room where the PATH session is held needs to have a wall large enough to tape a 6 foot long piece of white paper onto it. PATHs can be held just about anywhere. Many people want to have it in their own home. Others have had it at a church or restaurant meeting room. It’s better to have the PATH away from a place where some people might be uncomfortable such as a service setting or institution.

It’s good to have refreshments because the PATH session can almost be considered a planning party! This will help people relax and realize that the PATH is not going to be just another meeting.

How long does the session last?

The PATH session will generally take approximately two hours or so, but it’s good to ask people to prepare to spend a bit more time – perhaps as long as 3-3 ½ hours. It’s better to plan longer and leave earlier than to find ourselves short of time and end up rushing the final steps.

Who leads the session?

Trained volunteer PATH Guides will lead the PATH session. This gives everyone else a chance to sit back and focus on the individual’s dreams and goals.