Supported decision making: a review of the international literature

Int J Law Psychiatry. Jan-Feb 2015;38:61-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2015.01.008. Epub 2015 Feb 9.


Supported decision making (SDM) refers to the process of supporting people, whose decision making ability may be impaired, to make decisions and so promote autonomy and prevent the need for substitute decision making. There have been developments in SDM but mainly in the areas of intellectual disabilities and end-of-life care rather than in mental health. The main aim of this review was to provide an overview of the available evidence relevant to SDM and so facilitate discussion of how this aspect of law, policy and practice may be further developed in mental health services. The method used for this review was a Rapid Evidence Assessment which involved: developing appropriate search strategies; searching relevant databases and grey literature; then assessing, including and reviewing relevant studies. Included studies were grouped into four main themes: studies reporting stakeholders' views on SDM; studies identifying barriers to the implementation of SDM; studies highlighting ways to improve implementation; and studies on the impact of SDM. The available evidence on implementation and impact, identified by this review, is limited but there are important rights-based, effectiveness and pragmatic arguments for further developing and researching SDM for people with mental health problems.

Keywords: Guardianship; Mental capacity law; Mental health law; Substitute decision making; Supported decision making; UNCRPD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Mental Competency* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Mental Competency* / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health Services / legislation & jurisprudence