This article discusses the first stage of a grounded theory study in which people with intellectual disabilities participated in focus groups to explore their definitions of advocacy and their advocacy support needs. Participants' ideas were influenced by their situation, the availability and type of support offered, and their relationships with supporters. Many different definitions of advocacy were revealed which were classified as reactive or proactive advocacy at micro, meso or macro level. The aim of advocacy was seen as empowerment, but this occurred only when support was readily available, concentrated on people's abilities, and facilitated opportunities for them to exert maximum possible control over their lives. © 2008 SAGE Publications.