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Honoring Direct Support Professionals


While Thanksgiving leftovers become a pleasant memory, we still think it’s a good idea to remain thankful. 

At Citizen Advocates we are thankful for a lot. We are thankful for our team of 750 health professionals who serve more than 8,100 individuals and families annually. We are especially thankful for the many Direct Support Professionals on our team who allow Citizen Advocates to carry out our mission of making lives better through our unique person-centered approach.

We want to express our appreciation for the many caregivers who work every day to help others. These professionals provide critical support to people, yet don’t seem to get the kudos that other health care professionals do. These people worked in-person throughout the pandemic and were our frontline workers. So, here’s to you, Direct Support Professionals! 

We see you. And we thank you. 

Technically, a Direct Support Professional (DSP) provides residential, day, and community habilitation for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs). However, we see that DSPs do so much more. DSPs remind us that humanity is based on mutual care and aid. DSPs ensure that members of our communities remain connected and active and are not alone, all during a brutal pandemic that created even more isolation.

At Citizen Advocates, a DSP is the bridge who helps individuals cultivate more independence, connection, and self-reliance. By providing daily therapeutic and skill-building activities, such as helping someone to improve their resume, shower, or set up technology. DSPs also create behavior plans, teach self-care skills, cook meals, and provide transportation, giving individuals an environment in which they can grow and develop autonomy. In the past, DSPs were asked to perform tasks for people. 

Now we see that DSPs actually help people to learn how to do things for themselves.

Through the support of DSPs, individuals with IDDs are able to reach their desired level of independence. You might not know how much a DSP does on a daily basis. They actually perform some of the same functions that clinicians, service coordinators, managers, and social workers perform. They also are held to a high, nationally-validated Code of Ethics and set of Core Competencies. Thousands of New Yorkers with intellectual or developmental disabilities rely on DSPs every day for help with life’s essential activities.

If you are interested in becoming a health professional, a therapist, doctor, or a nurse and are looking for valuable and meaningful work in the field, working as a DSP is a great starting point. Marc has worked in direct support positions for over 30 years at Citizen Advocates and finds the work very fulfilling: “Leaving here for me would be like leaving my family and home. I want to continue to support the individuals that I have over the past 30 years and get to know a few more. I want to continue to support and hopefully mentor our next generation of staff here.”

Working as a DSP allows one the opportunity to meet individuals of all ages from all walks of life. DSPs are an integral part of someone’s life and will have the opportunity to expose them to new opportunities. It is incredibly rewarding to witness someone else’s growth and transformation. Additionally, there are so many nuances involved with caring for someone with IDD. Each client at Citizen Advocates is unique and each DSP needs to be able to cultivate a successful relationship based on trust and understanding. This requires patience, emotional-intelligence, resilience, and the ability to solve problems efficiently while aiding someone. 

At the heart of every DSP lies a desire to bear witness to someone else’s life and to help that person discover independence. We celebrate that commitment and we thank all of the DSPs at Citizen Advocates for their commitment to serving others. You make a positive difference in the lives of others and we hope that you too feel the satisfaction of being essential to the wellbeing of our clients.

To learn more about working at a DSP at Citizen Advocates, please visit: