What Makes a Successful DSP?

There are plenty of reasons to become a Direct Support Professional (DSP). DSPs are one of the few entry-level roles that interact directly with clients, and it can be an attractive option for those who want to dive headfirst into a healthcare career. Direct Support Professionals assist people who live with intellectual or developmental disabilities. They help clients with a wide range of tasks, address their behaviors or conditions, and teach life skills. On top of the opportunity to work hands-on with others, the job is extremely rewarding and fulfilling. DSPs make a difference in the lives of their clients, from building strong relationships with them, earning their trust, to understanding their needs to succeed in the community.

Though the work is meaningful and the learning opportunities endless, the DSP job is not for everyone. Direct Support Professionals must be extremely adept when it comes to people skills and emotional intelligence. Specifically, the best Direct Support Professionals will have strong suits in the following characteristics:

Patience and Understanding

A client’s behavior might determine the pace or progress of certain tasks, life skills, and habits. Keeping composure and persisting in times of thinning patience is so important to helping clients be successful. Understanding your client’s strengths and areas of improvement can help set the expectation when it comes to mastering skills or participating in the local community, and can prepare you to be poised even on long days of work.


Clients need to know that their DSPs have their backs in any given situation. Without that trust, motivation declines and the relationship will simply fall apart. With this in mind, DSPs must exercise empathy, kindness, and grace when spending time with their clients. Caregivers have to want to make the lives of their companions better, and need to show that commitment to helping others day in and day out.


A day in the life of a Direct Support Professional is never the same. One day they may be teaching their clients how to manage their budget, and the next they might be volunteering. With different activities come different demands of the caregiver. Not only are DSPs expected to readjust to new activities and environments, but their client’s mood and actions will likely fluctuate as well. After all, we’re only human and we all have good and bad days. In these moments DSPs need to adapt to the situation and their client’s shifting needs during the time they spend together.

Reliability and Attentiveness

DSPs cannot afford to be disorganized or unprepared when helping individuals. Clients count on their caregivers to show up on time to scheduled shifts so that they can tackle their activities for the day. Even more important, DSPs must be alert and give their clients their undivided attention. Those receiving care will be grateful for a Direct Support Professional who is present and attentive to their needs. This isn’t just in the case of potential emergencies, but also to build the relationship and make for better outcomes with their client.

Direct Support Professionals are vital to the well-being of their clients, as they spend a lot of time with and get to know their clients in ways others do not. Because of this, DSPs are close with and understand their clients well – they can be advocates for their clients in times of need and can tell when something isn’t right. When DSPs are patient, compassionate, adaptable, and reliable, they are equipped to do right by their clients and their families.

Interested in learning more? Check out our DSP opportunities at Open Systems Healthcare.