Frontline Initiative: Self-Care for DSPs

Frontline Notes

“Life is not merely to be alive, but to be well.” – Unknown

As Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), we remember often putting the people we supported and the work we did ahead of our own needs. Looking back, we realize that by doing this, we did not value our health or wellness. This affected us long term, as well as the people we supported. Incorporating self-care practices into our everyday life helps us in our work and other life areas. This issue of Frontline Initiative is about increasing awareness of how we attend to our own needs. We provide resources for developing self-care practices. We also celebrate DSPs who practice self-care, noting how this helps them continue in and improve as a direct support professional.

Self-care is an ongoing practice. It involves increasing awareness and responsiveness to our own needs. It is about valuing ourselves, and then being able to better support others. Unfortunately, self-care hasn’t always been emphasized in direct support. We want to close this gap. Since Frontline Initiative is a publication for DSPs, we believe it’s about time we focused an issue on your health and wellness. We hope you’re inspired to use these resources to care for yourself. Some other great resources related to health and wellness for yourself and the people you support can be found on Direct Course.

In this issue, you’ll learn about different concepts related to self-care. You’ll hear from DSPs and others involved in direct support who are practicing self-care. You’ll learn about emotional intelligence, developing mindful awareness, emotional agility, resilience, compassion fatigue, and trauma-informed care. You’ll read about the importance of good nutrition, hydration, and regular activity. Several DSPs and others emphasize the importance of taking time for themselves to process and unwind. All these forms of self-care can be components to help you maintain energy and stamina throughout the demands of your day.

These self-care practices carry over to how we support people. How often do we talk with the people we support about going out to do something fun, meaning a trip out for pop or ice cream? Just as easily, going out to do something fun could mean a healthier choice, such as going for a bike ride or a stroll through a park. Self-care practices also help us to better understand ourselves, our colleagues, and the people we support. Understanding, for example, the impact of trauma from our own and others’ experiences helps us to be a more supportive, more compassionate, DSP and colleague.

We hope this issue inspires you to set intention for your work, and to make a plan for your own self-care. This plan will change over time, but the principle remains the same: You’ll be better for others as you’re better for yourself.

The editors

Frontline Initiative • Volume 15, number 2 • 2019

Editors: Julie Kramme and Chet Tschetter

Graphic design: Connie Burkhart

Web developers Shawn Lawler, Jonathon Walz, Kristin Dean

Editorial board

Tony Anderson, Emily Andre, Lisa Burck, Susan Copeland, Richard Garnett, Maren Gibson, Rachel Jacob, Melody Johnson, Robin Kusiak, Mary Lawson, Colleen McLaughlin, Emily Milligan-Thompson, Jennifer Parsons, Diane Potts, Rick Rader, Lori Raymond, and Courtney Swilley

NADSP staff

  • Joseph Macbeth, President and CEO
  • Desiree Loucks Baer, Chief Operating Officer
  • John Raffaele, Director of Educational Services
  • Dan Hermreck, Director of Certification and Accreditation
  • Nicole Dama, Office and Communications Manager

NADSP board of directors

  • Caitlin Bailey PhD (ABD), Chair
  • Jeanne Farr, MA, Vice Chair
  • Josh Smith, Treasurer
  • Janet Wilson, DSP-C-I, Secretary
  • Cheryl Dougan, Director-At-Large
  • Katherine Dunbar, Director-At-Large
  • Chester Finn, Director-At-Large
  • Kelly Friedlander, MSW, MPA, Director-At-Large
  • John McHugh, MBA, MS, Director-At-Large
  • Laurie "Chet" Tschetter, Director-At-Large
  • Gabrielle Sedor, Director-At-Large
  • Becky Watson, Director-At-Large


If you are interested in contributing to Frontline Initiative or reprinting an article, please contact —

Julie Kramme or Chet Tschetter, Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, E-mail:

View past issues of Frontline Initiative here:

Frontline Initiative is supported through a cooperative agreement between the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education (#H133B080005) and the Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC) at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the RTC, Institute, University of Minnesota, or their funding sources.

Frontline Initiative is available in alternate formats upon request.

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