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In the last section, we discussed the three steps in the recognizing common issues technique for helping adolescents in an internet bullying crisis. These three steps are convey realistic concern without undue anxiety, delay making final judgments, and develop positive working relationships with everyone.
In this section, we will discuss the first two steps in the evaluation stage for dealing with an incident of internet bullying. These first two steps are, see the probable bully first, and identify concerns regarding the problem.
I have found that the recognizing common issues technique, as we discussed in the last section, is extremely useful in the initial intervention with students dealing with internet bullying. Once the emotions of the students have become more moderated, I have found that a five-step approach to the evaluation stage can be very successful in helping provide an organized therapeutic direction and increase the likelihood in success at overcoming the problems that lead to the internet bullying.
During the evaluation stage, I have found it important to meet with each student involved on an individual basis. This allows me to get to know each student involved and assess areas in which each student needs information, support, or possible skill building. This also allows me to more clearly define common concerns among participants identified using the recognizing common issues technique, thus setting the stage for subsequent group counseling.
In my experience, this six step model for this evaluation stage also serves to lower the pressure on each student involved. This individual approach allows me to give attention to the personal needs of both aggressor and victim, and test how well each student involved can begin to understand the other students’ view of life and the relationship. The overall goal, for me, is to accomplish these steps in a way that will set a cooperative tone for future sessions, both individual and joint. Would you agree? How do your current goals for the evaluation stage compare to mine?
Kasey, 13, had been one of the first girls in her class to physically mature, and had felt socially isolated as a result. Kasey had on several occasions been singled out and teased about her appearance. Kasey had accumulated a history of in-school disciplinary action as a result of lashing out physically or verbally against students who teased her. Recently, Kasey’s lashing out had become more random.
Laurie, also 13, stated, "I barely know Kasey! The other day, though, I bumped into her in the hall by accident. I said I was sorry! But that night she started sending me all these scary messages, saying she was going to get me, calling me names! Every time I checked my mail or signed on to instant messenger, Kasey would start telling me she was going to wait for me after class and beat me up. I got scared to go to school!"
♦ Step # 1 - Probable Bully
Because of Kasey’s history, I felt it would be necessary to implement the first step of the evaluation stage before the recognizing common issues technique, in order to protect Laurie and create a better therapeutic relationship with Kasey. The morning after the internet bullying was brought to my attention, I had Kasey called out of her first class.
During this first session, I did not address Kasey’s internet harassment of Laurie. Instead, I asked Kasey general questions about how she was doing in school, and whether she was having any problems. I then arranged for a private session with Laurie, so that she would not be called out of class in front of the other students. Would you agree that meeting with Kasey first helped to start to establish a therapeutic relationship, as well as adding protection for Laurie?
♦ Step # 2 - ‘Up Front’ Counseling Technique
I stated to Kasey, "Kasey, I have heard that you have been having trouble getting along with several girls lately, and most recently have been sending upsetting messages to Laurie online. I’ve asked you to come in here because these problems seem to be hurting your grades, getting you and other girls in trouble, and making school less enjoyable for everyone. I’d like to see what we can do about these things. I hope you are willing to work with me."
Kasey may not like the reason she had been brought in for counseling, but at least by using an Up Front approach, she knew right away she could expect me to be straight with her. Still, Kasey’s initial reaction was understandably defensive. Kasey stated, "How do you know what’s been going on? What else do you think happened? Do you know why? Did Laurie tell on me? What makes you think this is my fault?"
I stated to Kasey, "No, I have not talked with Laurie. I have heard things from a variety of students and adults who are all concerned with helping people. I don’t really know much more, and that’s part of why I would like you to help me understand and work on these problems."
By using an Up Front approach, I gave Kasey all of my relevant information, without going into a discussion of all possible details. Had I actually gone into a discussion of every detail I knew about the event, I would have turned the focus of our discussion onto myself, my knowledge, and the accuracy of my knowledge. Giving Kasey all known and perceived details would have taken attention away from Kasey and her perceptions of what occurred and why.
As you know, proving to Kasey reasons she may be at fault would not be my prerogative. That responsibility belongs with the school administration; I see my role as seeking a deeper understanding of the people involved, so that the sessions can lead to healthy change regardless of the judicial punishments that may need to be taken. Would you agree that building an honest relationship with the client by beginning with an up front approach is helpful to building this deeper understanding? Would the up front technique be useful in working with your Kasey?
In this section, we have discussed the first two steps in the evaluation stage for dealing with an incident of internet bullying. These first two steps are, see the probable bully first, and identify concerns regarding the problem.
In the next section, we will discuss the steps three and four in the evaluation stage for dealing with an incident of internet bullying. Steps three and four are, gain the individual’s understanding of the situation, and explore the feelings of the individual being seen.
- Smith, F. (2006). Going after cyberbullies a group of Internet "angels" is out to protect children. Prevention, 58(9), 143-144.