Dear Direct Support Professionals (DSPs):
Thank you for upholding the field of direct support. Many thanks for being there for everyone who needs you to be there. Many have seen you working, and, in fact, many more see you work everyday and every night. Hats off to you because people are beginning to understand the nature and scope of your work. You have come a long way, and the journey still lies ahead given that change is a constant in what you do. I know because I was once a DSP. You have had different titles in the past and continue to have distinct ones based on geography and choreography of providers’ mission or evolving social policies.
You have a bragging right, and if you have a colleague who cannot completely comprehend what you do or you have a friend, family member or another professional who does not understand your varying titles or actual job, this letter might help.
A DSP is a generalist. You regularly counsel although you are not a counselor; your work can be therapeutic where necessary although you are not a therapist. Like the police, you serve and protect; like a physician, you observe and even examine, and make recommendations, and although you are not a psychologist, you understand all
components of a behavior, you are a manager although not usually paid as such, and all at the same time must, where necessary, be a career specialist, a trainer, a recruiter, a customer service representative, a teacher but also an attentive learner.
In fact, you are the best kind of learner because although your profession is a work in progress you still adapt both to the practicals and to its ever changing blueprints. All of these, you do in conjunction with everything else that empowers the individuals and ensure their participation in an everyday life as everyone else.
All hail to your noble profession of direct support. Your's is one of the professions that demand a range of personal qualities rather than expertise. Although preferable, there's no specific demands for you to possess any particular skill set only that you must possess a demonstrable passion and trust--qualities that you do readily embed within a holistic willingness to be accountable. And unlike most professionals, the expectations placed upon you is a trust of life-- maintaining and enhancing the whole livelihood of another person.
It is clear that what you do is your passion. In a passion as practical and life-long as assisting another person to lead a self-directed life and providing a support purposely measured to facilitate full participation and empowerment, you demonstrate independent decision making on an everyday basis. Regardless of your personal beliefs, you make judgments that are not only practical and ethical but particularly customized to reflect the circumstances and preferences of the person you are supporting.
Not everyone can do what you do. This is not because there are skills that are hard to acquire but because your passion for it is distinctly limited among men and women regardless of their greatness or status.
As a direct support professional, you are selfless. You are beyond categorization in the sense that your personal qualities, practical, and ethical acumen put you in the bosom of society. Your work and the way you conduct yourself in the course of the work reflect just about how society as a whole views our fellow citizens whose lives are shaped by your work.
You are an advocate, a true advocate. An advocate who gains nothing outwardly other than fulfilling a passion to protect and empower other people. An advocate who, irrespective of personal belief system, and without any personal aggrandizement, is the voice of the voiceless and the support in the voices of those individuals who are exposed to advancing their own agenda.