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 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.

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.

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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.


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