The LA Teen Therapist, Sandra Dupont, gently guides teenagers on a journey of discovering who they are, and how to express themselves with kindness and grace. In the following interview, she discussed her decision to specialize in working with teenagers, and recommendations for students interested in becoming teen therapists.
1. What inspires you to help teens with their concerns and problems?
It has been said that people teach what they most need to learn. I specialize in working with shy, sensitive and highly intelligent teens from diverse multi-cultural families. I teach them how to be assertive, handle mean girls, talk to their parents and discover their authentic self-expression. My personal journey has been to first overcome these challenges, and then help others to do the same.
2. Who helped you to get where you are now?
I have been fascinated by the study of psychology since my first course in high school. There were many role models and teachers along the way who have contributed pieces to my understanding of myself, and the human psyche.
3. Who supported you most in your decision to become a therapist?
There was one social worker in particular who inspired me to embark on making my dream of being a therapist reality. The peace she exuded was what I too wanted to experience when I went to work each day. What better way to accomplish this than devoting my life to being of service to others, through facilitating healthy relationships within families?
4. Do you get a rewarding feeling knowing you’re helping teens and their families?
Unquestionably. There is something very precious about seeing parents and teens heal their relationships with each other. When teens learn to love, appreciate and accept themselves, I know that they now have the potential to pass this on to the next generation--by being a conscious and respectful parents. It’s my small way of contributing to greater peace in the world.
5. What motivates you to wake up every day and continue doing your job?
I love what I do. I care deeply about the clients I see, and look forward each new week to finding out the progress they have made towards their goals. I also get to meet a lot of other interesting therapists and health care providers in seminars and conferences. Last, but not least, is the fun and creative aspect of writing articles and books, creating teen support group trainings, and staying on top of the latest information in my field.
6. Has there ever been a time you couldn’t help a family or child?
Yes definitely. Sometimes there are co-occurring undiagnosed disorders that complicate treatment, and need to be addressed (like substance abuse, learning disorders, child abuse and neurochemical imbalances, to name a few). Sometimes a referral for educational testing may be required. Sometimes medication will be indicated. Occasionally, a referral for the parent’s own emotional support can be helpful. Every now and then, a therapist is simply not a good fit for a particular family.
7. What classes did you take to prepare yourself for being a therapist?
My undergraduate work was in psycho-biology. My graduate work was in clinical psychology with child specialization studies. My coursework included:
- Family Systems
- Child Advocacy and Social Policy
- Treating Adolescents: Coping with Emerging Identity
- Parental Support and Participation in Child Therapy
- Adolescent Development
- Treatment of Diverse Clients
- Cross-Cultural Infant Observation
I then went on to do advanced work in:
- Respectful Parent Training (RIE)
- Working Effectively with Resistant and Burned-Out Parents
- Child Custody Mediation Training
- Attachment Theory
8. Do you have any words of advice for students who want to become teen therapists?
Yes. Do your own inner work. Spend time getting to know yourself well, and integrating that information into your life. Heal your relationships with parents, siblings and friends. Learn to embrace what you might consider your flaws, and/or weaknesses. And then learn everything you can about wholeness, balance, inner peace ... and those who are different than you.
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