NVS Blog

Interview with Sandra Dupont, LA Teen Therapist

Sandra Dupont, MA, MS, MFT

In her debut book, What Would Your Teen Life Coach Say? LA-based teen therapist Sandra Dupont presents fictional teens with real-life situations – like learning how to deal with physical changes, mood swings, and mean girls, how to talk to parents, siblings, boyfriends and girlfriends, how to set goals and define boundaries, and above all, how to be true to one’s self.

I was fortunate to be able to schedule some time to talk with Sandra and learn how she works social media into her practice.

I followed your Facebook timeline all the way back to 2003. You’ve had a strong presence on Facebook almost since the beginning and now are on Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, you write for the Examiner . . . how do you keep up with it all? Do you have a social media team or do you manage it all on your own?

I want to caution against getting caught up in rejecting attitudes towards bullies, as this just creates more humiliation and shame – a contributing factor behind their pain.
I was blessed to have some wonderful mentors early in my career. Casey Truffo of Be a Wealthy Therapist was one of the first advocates of encouraging therapists to create an online presence. I read her book, attended her seminar, listened to her DVD, and then jumped in. The message that she taught was to choose a niche and use your website to create an authentic representation of who you are, such that the clients who are looking for you can recognize that you are a match for them.

Virginia Farrington of Simple Website Service helped design my first website. She helped me choose my URL, taught me about keywords, and search engine optimization. Together we created the first prototype of my website (which was to evolve 3 more times after that). This original website branded me as a Teen Therapist, and from that came invitations to write a teen advice blog, co-author a magazine called RIP for at risk teens, and consult on a teen health project.

Alison Roth, from ShrinkWr@p took my original concept and branded it a logo, color and images. This took my web presence to a whole new level, as I used her branding and ideas to also create my Teen Advice blog.

Because of my WordPress blog, I was approached by Douglas Glenn Clark who invited me to consider writing a book that could be another form of sharing what I do. Thus, the FREE eBook What Would Your Teen Life Coach Say? A Survival Guide For Girls Entering High School was born. At this point, I started thinking of ways to share my eBook and blog, and so I signed up for Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

A friend of mine who is in marketing helped me create an uplifting video about my FREE eBook.  Another friend showed me how to film myself talking about my work with the teen population I serve. Thus my YouTube channel was born.

Twitter was an exercise in trial and error. I noticed what others did that moved me to read or re-tweet, and tried to follow suit.
You can do wonderful work, but if the clients who are looking for you don’t know where to find you, your opportunity to be of service to them is minimized. Also, there are only so many hours a day that I can sit with families and offer support. Social media now allows me to share articles and ideas with families as well as learn from other health practitioners – internationally.
Originally, I didn’t quite know what to do with Linkedin. It seemed like yet another landing page. Many people were asking for connections, but I didn’t know what that meant. Then I joined a few groups and started “listening” to their conversations. One conversation suggested we support each other on Facebook, so I looked into designing a Facebook business page.

Facebook has been, by far, the most interactive experience I have had with the folks following my writing. I try to read and post a little each day. I have found that by being generous, and supporting other’s work, I have had an opportunity to broaden my network of folks that I can share with and learn from. Which is how I come to be having this conversation with you.

Teens are notorious for being connected to social media almost all day and night. Do you allow your patients and/or their parents to connect with you via social media? Why or why not?

I don’t get many requests for clients or their parents to connect with me on Facebook. Maybe three in the past 10 years. I also make a point of not sharing the details of my life on my page. My personal page is more about following and sharing thoughts and images that I find uplifting.

I think we can all remember periods when as teens we were going through a rough patch and were difficult to deal with. What’s the sign to parents that this may be more than just a phase and might require therapy? Are the signs significantly different for girls and boys?

The best time to schedule a consultation with a teen therapist is when you have noticed changes in your teen’s behavior — impacting their ability to connect with others and cope with their challenges. Extreme anger, helplessness and despair are all be indications that your teen is struggling to keep his or her head above water. Changes you want to be on the lookout for include increased acting out behavior, increased irritability, decreased academic performance, decreased attention to personal hygiene, excessive sleeping, loss of appetite and social isolation. These are all symptoms that indicate your teen’s ability to cope has significantly diminished.

There’s been a lot of news coverage about bullying lately. In your practice, are you seeing a rise in concerns/fears about being bullied? And besides offering the victims of bullying coping skills, how do we as a community help decrease the likelihood of our children becoming bullies, especially when it’s happening both on- and offline now?

With Lady Gaga and Ellen Degeneres, and the new movie Bully, bullying is getting a lot of press these days. Therefore, yes, bullying is being spoken about more frequently in my practice. In fact, I was recently asked to interview victims and bullies for a new anti-bullying TV show called The Hate Thing, which is currently being shared with major networks as a possible series for the Fall.

What I learned from the bullies was that they had all been previously bullied, some by their parents. What may have once seemed like normal parental responses when today’s parents were growing up, are now recognized as causing shame. Rage, acting out, self-loathing and self-doubt, wanting to impress others, intimidate others and even reject others originates from feelings of inadequacy — not feeling like one is good enough.

A large part of my work with families has been to teach parents that they lead by example. It is essential that parents create a safe space for their children to come to them with their problems. To do this, parents need to be able to listen to their children without over-reacting, and then help them learn from their mistakes.

If a child is behaving in an aggressive manner towards other kids, it is important to try and understand their behavior. We also want to look at what the adults in their lives can do to make children feel better about themselves, such that they don’t feel the need to attempt to boost their confidence in inappropriate ways.

I want to caution against getting caught up in rejecting attitudes towards bullies, as this just creates more humiliation and shame – a contributing factor behind their pain.

By understanding and addressing the pain that motivates bullies to lash out at others, we will ultimately diminish the number of bullies … and their victims.

Have you found social media instrumental in building your practice? How do you plan to use it going forward?

Unquestionably. You can do wonderful work, but if the clients who are looking for you don’t know where to find you, your opportunity to be of service to them is minimized. Also, there are only so many hours a day that I can sit with families and offer support. Social media now allows me to share articles and ideas with families as well as learn from other health practitioners – internationally.

In the future, I am looking at creating fun, uplifting and educational videos for teens and parents of teens.

P.S. I am the person who manages my social media. I find it fun, stimulating and creative to think up what I want to share. The artist in me loves to share pretty images and the compassionate part of me wants to inspire my readers and leave them with a sense of hope.

~~~
To learn more about Sandra Dupont and her services please visit her Facebook page or her website where you can download her free ebook for teens.  Also, be sure to check out her YouTube channel.

I welcome your comments! No part of this article may be reproduced in any manner without permission and attribution.
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  • My national approach to the issues of bullying would be educational – with a one hour school assembly EVERY YEAR for the elementary, middle and high schools, where a speaker would demonstrate Izzy Kalman’s effective responses to taunting, teasing and physical aggression. This would not be a bully bashing opportunity, but rather a place to learn social skills for handling relational aggression — which is a natural part of life.

    I would also advocate an annual parent assembly where a similar discussion could take place, reinforcing what their children have learned as well as encouraging parents to lead by example, and educating them on how they may be modeling behavior that contributes to the problem.

    Lastly, I see some simple 30 second public service ads which show a handful of examples of a child, parent, teacher, or bystander demonstrating effective responses to various types of bullying behavior.

    Two hours once a year – how much much more cost effective would that be than trying to provide counseling for every kid in school?

    What do you think?

  • Sandra

    “If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.” – Gandhi
    If children frequently hear you talk down about others, or experience you using intimidation to get them to do what you want, you may be teaching them how to be bullies – or victims. I invite you to consider the possibility of using your behavior to teach lessons focused on respect, compassion and acceptance. I think one of the keys to solving the bullying problem is for parents to actively begin teaching a tolerance of differences.
    As for parents of victims being bullied, there will always be people who don’t treat your children in the way you would like. But if you help your child to have a strong sense of self-love, they can respond in ways that avoid giving the bully satisfaction. Bullies are often seeking a particular response from their victim. When they do not get that response, the effort stops being fun to them.
    There are also ways to handle insults that can remove their sting. For example, if someone makes a mocking comment about one’s clothes, hair, accent, or physical features, a viable response could be to simply say: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Thank you for sharing yours.” Of course, physical violence needs to be dealt with through adult intervention, with the intention of creating a corrective experience. (i.e.: perhaps an anger management class for the bully and emotional support for the victim)
    I believe it is the responsibility of everyone who has contact with children to lead by example.

  • I not only suffered as a child from bullys but also as an adult I have to face similar behaviours directed toward others. Including my children. I find the need for some serious solutions which actually work has become pressing.
    I myself now am rather intolerant of the behaviours and confront the issues “Head on” as it was the only solution I found which worked. We can’t ignore the behaviour and we definately can not out bully the bully. Though zero tolerance for this behaviour should be taken by all.
    Zeba Commented about bystander apathy which is really the heart of the matter. By not involving ourselves to let the bully know they are going too far, we are showing tolerance rather than intolerance.
    In short… Get of your damn arses if you see it and do something to stop it.
    Not everyone wants to take up a martial art to be able to defend themselves. And they shouldn’t have to. Personally, and I know from experience and training, a large group of people is much more of a deterrant than one person with the will and ability to kick ass.

  • Bullying is a serious issue, it needs to be beaten but everybody has to work together. The problem is some people even witness others getting bullied but because of bystander apathy they assume somebody else will help instead or they simply do not want to get hurt themselves. I made a youtube video about my own experience on bullying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q7xI0tQBZQ

  • Theresa

    Interesting article – I have worked with young people and have delivered anti-bullying workshops over the past decade. I am also interested in teenage depression and suicide prevention. When someone’s behaviour changes suddenly, it’s usually a sign that something is wrong. There are many signs of bullying and it’s up to all of us to look out for these signs – particularly teachers and parents. Bullying has a devastating effect on the target and it can continue to affect them throughout their life. It’s great to hear of the work you do with teens and their parents, Sandra.   

    • I think it is important for us to understand that kids who are bullied seem to attract the attention of other kids in ways that make them uncomfortable. Perhaps they are smaller, act in odd ways, suffer from mental or emotional challenges, or lack social skills.

      The bully then exploits the other kid’s discomfort, leading them to pick on the victim – or simply reacts out of his own discomfort.

  • Very interesting post.  Lots of really good points brought up here.  As a victim of high-school bullying, I agree with the article and the comments that it can be excrutiatingly hard to have any compassion with the bullies themselves.  However, in looking back at the bullying I encountered 15 years ago (before bullying had the media presence it does today), I realize that the bullies, had no idea how profound of an impact they were having on my life.  I don’t think they realized that what was probably and incidental moment of “fun” and making them feel better about themselves led to a lot of pain and years of low self esteem for my.  This isn’t an excuse for bullies, what they do is still wrong, but I think in a lot of cases, they don’t realize how powerful of an effect they have.  I’m sure that one of the bullies who slammed me up against a locker and was yelling in my face probably saw the fear in my eyes, but I doubt he realizes I had nightmares about that incident for weeks afterwards, and was terrified to run into him at the school because of it.  The teacher who looked into my eyes during that incident and then turned and walked away without helping me, probably doesn’t realize that my sense of safety and security was crushed with that one action, as I realized that even some of  my teachers were against me.

    Thanks so much for sharing this .  It’s great information!

    • Amy, I am so sorry that you went through what you did and proud of you for not being silent about it. It’s very ironic that this post (and my site in general) focuses on how professionals use social media but bullying is such a hot topic now that this particular post resonated with many who are dealing with issues such as the one you described. However, focusing on social media itself, when I was in junior high and high school there was no social media as an outlet and I can’t help but wonder what relief it might have brought me if there had been. Mind you, I’ve never experienced bullying as seriously as you have. There were just some mean girls that would laugh over what I might have worn on a day or didn’t like me because one guy or another did, but I think it would have been comforting to have been able to go online and at least communicate and find resources. And as you said, those who bully don’t realize the thing that they’ve forgotten about a few days later stays with the victim long after the fact. I admit I had a few sick days back then that weren’t sick days at all. I just couldn’t bear to deal with it sometimes. And again, we’re talking just words or looks. I’ve shared your blog post on Twitter as well.

      I look forward to Sandra’s response to your comment. Stay tuned for that and thank you for taking the time to articulate your points here.

  • CharminglySilly

    Ms. Sandra you are helping others take the first step to change people lives. And I really feel like staying in contact through social media would make it easier for kids, who are still in school, who just want advice from someone not closely involved.

    • Thank you, Charming. I do agree that it would seem easier since kids are so connected to social media these days. And maybe initially that would be great but I don’t know if that would be a good long-term solution. Eventually, they need face time to sort through their angst and get down to some actionable tips they can use to survive. I can’t wait to hear Sandra’s viewpoint on this. I would imagine there are some limits to what a therapist can do from a distance in this case.

    • Sandra

      Dear Charming – in some cultures, asking for professional help is not a widely
      accepted a form of getting assistance for one’s family or child. In fact,
      sharing one’s personal problems or concerns with strangers is often considered embarrassing, and sometimes even shameful. For this reason, I offer a free initial consultation, that these families can get a sense of who I am, how I work, and whether or not they feel comfortable with me. I specialize in working with diverse, multi-cultural families with teenagers.I am most happy to answer a question, and direct a family towards resources that might assist them. However, to truly gain the benefit of my professional training, it’s best if I can ultimately sit down together with your teen and develop a relationship that involves trust. 

       

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  • Sandra

    Here is a recent example of how social networking allows me to be of service. Through finding me online, a concerned mother was able to reach out anonymously for help: 
    Q: I am a mother of an 8th grader whose daughter has to go through 8th grade in the high school. My daughter is not happy about the bullying that goes on at the school and that there is no program to help support these young girls. There are issues such as sex and cutting that have been going on since 5th grade- which by the way is in the middle school (grades 5-7).
    There is something at the high school at the beginning of the year they call the “freshman walk.” It is where the senior boys watch the new 8th grade girls arriving at school and pick out which girls they will have sex with before the end of the school year. This has been going on for years and the school had no idea until recently- when a police report was filed.
    I know there are several other women who are interested in helping me get something started in our community. To be honest, I am clueless as to where to start. I know what I want to accomplish, but need some direction. I will be down loading your information, but would really appreciate some insight as to what I may encounter and some further advice. Is this something I should be talking to the school and/or police about?
    A: “Yes, talk to the police and ask them about their suggestions. Then educate the girls going into school about predators, and how to respond to them. Educate the boys about statutory rape, and the possible consequences. Educate the entire school about respectful interactions towards other students, and the responsibility of each person to take pride in their school and look out for each other.
    It’s not about blaming and finger pointing. (You will only alienate others and set-up power struggles.) It’s about creating a new future – a better future.  It’s about gaining allies in the other parents, teachers and concerned adults. It’s about lowering the level of tolerance for hurtful behavior, and inviting the community to come together to protect the emotional lives of their children. (the boys as well as the girls – as the boys’ current behavior is not helping them to develop into loving husbands and fathers).” 

  • Sandra

    Here is a recent example of how social networking allows me to be of service. Through finding me online, a concerned mother was able to reach out anonymously for help: 

    Q: I am a mother of an 8th grader whose daughter has to go through 8th grade in the high school. My daughter is not happy about the bullying that goes on at the school and that there is no program to help support these young girls. There are issues such as sex and cutting that have been going on since 5th grade- which by the way is in the middle school (grades 5-7).

    There is something at the high school at the beginning of the year they call the “freshman walk.” It is where the senior boys watch the new 8th grade girls arriving at school and pick out which girls they will have sex with before the end of the school year. This has been going on for years and the school had no idea until recently- when a police report was filed.

    I know there are several other women who are interested in helping me get something started in our community. To be honest, I am clueless as to where to start. I know what I want to accomplish, but need some direction. I will be down loading your information, but would really appreciate some insight as to what I may encounter and some further advice. Is this something I should be talking to the school and/or police about?

    A: “Yes, talk to the police and ask them about their suggestions. Then educate the girls going into school about predators, and how to respond to them. Educate the boys about statutory rape, and the possible consequences. Educate the entire school about respectful interactions towards other students, and the responsibility of each person to take pride in their school and look out for each other.

    It’s not about blaming and finger pointing. (You will only alienate others and set-up power struggles.) It’s about creating a new future – a better future.  It’s about gaining allies in the other parents, teachers and concerned adults. It’s about lowering the level of tolerance for hurtful behavior, and inviting the community to come together to protect the emotional lives of their children. (the boys as well as the girls – as the boys’ current behavior is not helping them to develop into loving husbands and fathers).” 

  • Deborah

    So glad of your voice here, Sandra. Our society conditions us to criticism, punishment and blame. But those never help the problem! What you speak of here is a contribution toward solution…challenging perhaps, but in the direction of an actual solution. Thank you for that voice.

    • You said just what I was thinking, Deborah.  It really is challenging to treat a bully with kindness.  I was just looking at the posts on Twitter today with the hashtag #bullying and it’s hard not to side with those being bullied and feel angry toward the aggressor, but someone’s gotta be there to reach out and recognize where that behavior is coming from to get to the bottom of it.

  • Freddiemckenna

    Savvy use of social media!