On the last track, we 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.
On this track, we will discuss steps three and four of the direct intervention stage. These steps are meeting jointly and identifying common goals.
Alan, age 17, became a target of internet bullying after breaking up with his girlfriend Janet, age 18. After Alan broke up with her, Janet started a web page dedicated to spreading rumors about Alan and making vicious threats. Her website included hand-drawn images of Alan being mutilated in various ways, and Janet sent every new drawing to all of Alan’s email addresses.
Alan stated, "I don’t want to work with Janet on this. Half the problem is that I can’t get away from her! It’s like I’m tied to her! She’s in three of my classes at school, and then when I get home she’s on my phone and my computer. Why would I want to sit in a little room and be around her more? I just want someone to get Janet away from me!"
Although Alan’s feelings were certainly understandable, since he and Janet attended the same school, it was necessary that the two learn cooperative strategies through working together jointly. Janet faced expulsion if she did not participate in a full course of conflict resolution therapy, and her parents were also adamant that she attend. Alan’s parents were also firm in their desire for Alan to participate in the conflict resolution process.
2 More Steps for Direct Intervention
Step # 3 - Meet Jointly
A third step in the direct intervention stage is to meet jointly. As mentioned on a previous track I find that the critical purpose of the initial meeting between internet bully and victim is to make progress in the identification of commonalties, and to gain confidence in the joint meeting format.
Eight Parts to Structured Joint Sessions
The eight parts I use in the structured joint session are as follows:
-- Part One - I briefly review the problem, goals, and progress that has been made, and restates the purpose and structure of the meeting
-- Part Two - I seek input from everyone to find common recognition and potential differences regarding how things have progressed
-- Part Three - The internet bully first is asked to express in sincere and positive terms an understanding of the victim’s situation. The victim is then asked to express personal thoughts and feelings about the internet bully’s interpretation. If the responses are positive, clearly a good start is underway.
-- Part Four - The first situation is now repeated with a change of roles. The victim is asked to express in sincere and positive terms an understanding of the internet bully’s situation, and the bully is asked to react.
-- Part Five - I give recognition to the differences, reinforces specifics of the progress made, states clearly the positive actions taken by all concerned, and requests suggestions for what they can do next to improve the situation.
-- Part Six - Potential goals and next steps are discussed and agreement sought on which one or ones are achievable and agreeable to internet bully and victim. How, where, and when such actions will be carried out an evaluated for effectiveness are agreed upon.
-- Part Seven - I emphasize the need to continue previously successful actions, clarifies the specific new actions that the clients will take, reviews the benefits of the actions for everyone, and restates the agreed upon next meeting time, place, and focus of the next meeting.
-- Part Eight - People make mistakes and someone may not do all they have agreed to do. Forgiveness and tolerance for mistakes as well as how to get back on a positive track must be emphasized rather than penalties and sanctions. However, the school also made it clear that if the two students did not meet certain behavioral standards, they would face suspension.
I have found that this pattern, while useful, is not a natural one and may take some adjustments for all parties involved. Since the relationship between the internet bully and victim is characteristically lacking in agreed-upon cooperative behaviors, the idea of giving attention to progress towards common benefits may be resisted. However, this structure does provide a new way for internet bullies and victims to work with each other. I have also found that this technique can be useful for reducing the tension victims of internet victims feel concerning feeling tethered to their aggressor.
Step # 4 - Identify Common Goals
In addition to meeting jointly, a fourth step in the direct intervention stage is to identify common goals. Clients like Janet and Alan may seem to have no common goals at first. However, once common goals are understood by the students involved, these common goals serve as the picture of what they are seeking together and why it is necessary to continue.
Common goals, as you are well aware, provide the reasons for the clients to continue to come to the joint sessions. Since it was important to not encourage unrealistic or idealistic goals for Janet and Alan, I developed the following three low-level, reasonable goals through working with Alan and Janet:
3 Reasonable Goals
1. Encouraging separation during high stress times
-- 2. Emphasizing recognition and avoidance of actions and situations that are particular problems to one another
-- 3. Identifying situations and topics where positive interactions have the most potential for being valued by both Janet and Alan.
For Janet and Alan, the common goal of reestablishing a friendship would be too remote to provide realistic day to day hope and motivation. Think of your Janet and Alan. What realistic, achievable goals might be appropriate to establish during the fourth step in the direct intervention stage?
On this track, we have discussed steps three and four of the direct intervention stage. These steps are meeting jointly and identifying common goals.
On the next track, we will discuss steps five and six of the direct intervention stage. These steps are agreeing upon actions and conditions, and reevaluating goals regularly.
- Harmon, A. (2004). Internet Gives Teenage Bullies Weapons to Wound from Afar. The New York Times.
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.
What are steps three and four of the direct intervention stage?
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