In the last section, we discussed the final step in the evaluation stage for dealing with an incident of internet bullying. This final step is to explore potential feelings as seen from the other participant’s point of view.
In this section, we will discuss the first two steps in the Direct Intervention stage. These two steps are decide on individual therapy needs, and have individual discussions of common concerns.
Once a decision to have the internet bully and victim come together for joint sessions is made. There still remains a need for individual work prior to the joint meetings. After control of the situation has been established, and the problematic internet bullying situation has been evaluated with all of the participants, direct intervention can help prepare both internet bully and victim for the joint work ahead.
I have found that a seven step model for this direct intervention stage, focused on determining what direction to take in joint therapy, who to involve, and how individuals should be involved, can be useful in providing support for each client’s increasing awareness of self and other in relation to the internet bullying incident.
2 Steps for Direct Intervention
♦ Step # 1 - Individual Therapy Needs
A first step in the seven step model for direct intervention is to decide on individual therapy needs. As you are well aware, reactions to the psychological trauma associated with victims of internet bullying are similar in form to other victimizations cases. The severity of the trauma reactions is generally associated with the extent and duration of the abuse, and the coping capacity of the victim. Clearly, clients need basic levels of strength, confidence, and control to work on relationship problems, and individual therapy generally is needed to assure the establishment of these basic interpersonal levels.
As you recall from Section 4, Kasey and Laurie had been brought to counseling following a series of incidents in which Kasey had sent harassing and threatening emails and direct messages to Laurie. Although Kasey had been involved in other incidents of bullying, bullying had not been an ongoing pattern in Kasey’s life, and her problematic peer relationships had been relatively recent, and mostly related to her early pubertal development.
During the evaluation stage, Kasey also displayed personal strength, and motivation to work directly with Laurie on improving their relationship. Because of Kasey’s motivation and history, I concluded that individual work with Kasey could be relatively brief. On the other hand, clients such as Tommy and Amy, who we discussed in Section 3, might require more than cursory individual counseling due to the severity of the internet bullying and their attitudes towards therapy and each other.
Clearly, individual counseling does not need to end when joint therapy begins. However, for some victims of internet bullying, the trauma reaction has been so severe that attempting to put the victim and internet bully together in joint counseling quickly would arouse so much fear and feelings of inadequacy that little productive work in likely to emerge, and substantial harm might result. For these clients, smaller steps designed to build confidence and strengthen intrapersonal characteristics obviously needs to come first.
♦ Step # 2 - Individual Discussions of Common Concerns
A second step in the seven step model for direct intervention following an incident of internet bullying is to have individual discussions of common concerns. The goal of this stage is to lay the groundwork in preparations for the individuals to meet jointly.
Clearly, all possible commonalities do not need to be discussed prior to a joint meeting, but in this second stage enough common concerns should be addressed so that something positive can occur during the meeting. As you know, observable progress is more important in early meetings that trying to arrange a joint session with the unrealistic hope of solving the problem once and for all.
Kasey and Laurie provide an example of a situation regarding step two. As you observed in Section 6, Kasey was making significant progress into understanding Laurie’s point of view. Both girls are in different aspects of the same puberty stage, and both feel a great deal of pressure to be liked by others, although they react in different ways.
♦ Assessing Group Readiness Checklist
I use the Assessing Group Readiness checklist in order to help assess whether or not individuals involved in counseling following an incident of internet bullying are ready to proceed out of step two into working jointly. I find that for both bully and victim to move to meeting jointly in a productive manner, the following need to be in place:
-- 1. Common issues have been identified by each individual
-- 2. The potential value of a joint meeting is recognized
-- 3. The potential outcomes of a joint meeting are identified
-- 4. The specific process of how a joint meeting will go is clearly understood
-- 5. Agreement is reached on the willingness and ability to take the next step of meeting jointly
Think of your Kasey and Laurie. Would the assessing group readiness technique assist you in determining their readiness to move on to joint counseling concerning the internet bullying incident?
In this section, we have discussed the first two steps in the Direct Intervention stage. These two steps are decide on individual therapy needs, and have individual discussions of common concerns.
In the next section, we will discuss steps three and four of the direct intervention stage. These steps are meeting jointly and identifying common goals.
- Hazer, R. J. (1996). Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Interventions for Bullying and Victimization. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Barlett, C. P., Heath, J. B., Madison, C. S., DeWitt, C. C., & Kirkpatrick, S. M. (2020). You’re not anonymous online: The development and validation of a new cyberbullying intervention curriculum. Psychology of Popular Media, 9(2), 135–144.
Gradinger, P., Strohmeier, D., & Spiel, C. (2017). Parents’ and teachers’ opinions on bullying and cyberbullying prevention: The relevance of their own children’s or students’ involvement. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 225(1), 76–84.
Juvonen, J., Schacter, H. L., Sainio, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2016). Can a school-wide bullying prevention program improve the plight of victims? Evidence for risk × intervention effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(4), 334–344.
Waasdorp, T. E., Mehari, K., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2018). Obese and overweight youth: Risk for experiencing bullying victimization and internalizing symptoms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 88(4), 483–491.
Yang, C., Sharkey, J. D., Reed, L. A., & Dowdy, E. (2020). Cyberbullying victimization and student engagement among adolescents: Does school climate matter? School Psychology, 35(2), 158–169.
What are the five factors that need to be in place before moving from individual to joint sessions?
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