On the last track, we discussed steps three and four of the direct intervention stage. These steps are meeting jointly and identifying common goals.
On this 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.
2 More Steps for Direct Intervention
Step # 5 - Agree on Actions, Time Frames, & Conditions
A fifth step in the direct intervention stage is to have both internet bully and victim agree on actions, time frames, and conditions. Karen, age 15, had recently moved to a new school. Karen stated, "everything seemed to be going really well at first, but then I went in one day and instead of being friendly like they had been, everyone in my class started giggling at me. This went on all week, and then that Friday I got an email from someone I didn’t know. I opened it, and there was this really embarrassing picture of me eating lunch. For the next five weeks, I got emails of embarrassing pictures and rumors from this same email address. I didn’t know who was doing this to me, and I was terrified!"
Karen eventually found that all of these pictures had come from a website dedicated to making fun of her. After the harassment had been going on for two months, Karen told a teacher she felt close with about the bullying. The email address and website were traced to Jeff, 16, an honor student who was in most of Karen’s classes. Although Jeff was unwilling to work with Karen, school policy required that he either comply, or face expulsion from school. Jeff’s parents were concerned that an expulsion would ruin Jeff’s chances for higher education, and they insisted he comply with the requirement.
During the evaluation stage, Jeff stated, "I started picking on Karen I guess because she always has to make herself look good. She’s always showing off in class and in gym. So I decided to teach her a lesson by catching pictures of her at times when she looked awful." It became clear during early joint sessions that the biggest buildup of tension for both students occurred during their math class. Since there were only eight students in the class, it was inevitable that the two would be forced to interact.
During the fifth step of my direct intervention with Karen and Jeff, I asked the two to brainstorm some actions that might help them work towards their goals for the relationship. The first goal for Karen and Jeff was to become non-enemies who interact as necessary. Together, we agreed that an important action to take towards this goal was to agree that neither Karen nor Jeff would use negative names or disrespectful language either to or about each other. We agreed that this was appropriate in both face to face interaction with each other and classmates, and online.
Further, we discussed that this chosen action of never using disrespectful language should always happen, and the requirement for avoiding disrespectful language would be in place forever. I stated, "It’s natural and understandable that every once in a while one of you will slip up and say something online or in person that goes against this action you have chosen to take while working towards your goal.
If a slip happens, I suggest that you agree to apologize in a way and place that will not embarrass the other person." Karen and Jeff agreed to the need for apologies, and gave themselves a one-week time limit in which to come up with a procedure and place for making apologies in a low-stress manner.
‘Attack on the Compulsion’ Technique - Three Steps
Jeff stated, "I understand why my website hurt Karen. And I really mean to stop picking on her. But sometimes, I just get this urge to post something on my web page and I do almost before I think about it." In order to help Jeff further work towards the goal of becoming non-enemies who interact as necessary, I introduced Jeff to the ‘Addressing Compulsion’ technique. I stated to Jeff, "The three steps in the Attack on the Compulsion are:"
-- First, make an all out-effort to stop the activity, whether you are posting something on your blog or instant messaging a friend, for a short time if you can’t yet stop permanently. When the urge to say something to Karen comes up, ask the same questions you would when breaking any other habit. Ask yourself why specifically you want to resume the behavior. What seems missing in your life without the behavior?
-- Second, state the underlying problem to yourself as well as you can. Examining your thoughts as you stop the activity will help.
-- Third, list the disadvantages of the compulsion. What does you behavior towards Karen cost you? Does it have a cost in terms of your reputation? Your time?
Think of your Jeff. Would the Addressing Compulsion technique be helpful for him or her?
Step # 6 - Regularly Evaluate Goals
A sixth step of the direct intervention stage is to regularly evaluate and redesign goals. Clearly, since young clients tend to change quickly, it is necessary to continually reassess where each client is in the progression towards her or his goals concerning the relationship with the internet bully. While the initial goal for Karen and Jeff was to become non-enemies who interact as necessary, the likelihood that this goal would remain constant or appropriate over the course of our sessions together was very small.
As you know, the structure of joint meetings between internet bully and victim may not need to change very much at all over time. However, the areas emphasized will vary greatly. I found that after several meetings, Karen and Jeff’s sessions centered mainly around making adjustments to goals and actions based on changes that had occurred for each student since our last meeting.
On this track, we have discussed steps five and six of the direct intervention stage. These steps are agreeing upon actions and conditions, and reevaluating goals regularly.
On the next track we will discuss four steps in a technique for structured termination of joint sessions for internet bully and victim. These four steps are, setting the stage, introduce the rationale for termination, introduce preparation tasks, and the final joint meeting.
- 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.
What are steps five and six of the direct intervention stage?
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