In Consultation

In Consultation

The Truth About Bullying: How therapists can help harassed kids

By Stan Davis

September/October 2012

Q: In my therapy practice, I often see kids who are being picked on by their peers. How can I help?

A:The way school professionals, therapists, and families view bullying has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Years ago, the predominant adult reaction to a child's complaints about being mistreated by peers was often annoyance, indifference, or a combination of sympathy and helplessness. Bullying was an inevitable, normal part of growing up, it was thought, and kids were largely expected to "work it out" themselves. The youngster doing the complaining was often accused of being a tattletale, implicitly blamed for the problem--it must have been something he or she had done that had triggered the bullying--and told that crying, showing fear, or anger in response just "encouraged" the bullies.

Now we know better. Kids who are bullied are no more to blame for being bullied than are victims of domestic violence for their partners' abuse. We understand that bullying can lead to a host of long-term problems, including poor school performance, illness, diminished self-confidence, anxiety, and depression.

The best approach is to develop comprehensive, schoolwide policies for creating a safe, secure environment for kids, along with a culture of mutual respect, positive relationships, and inclusiveness for all kids. But without the means to transform an entire school, how can a therapist help…

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Friday, December 28, 2012 5:10:46 PM | posted by Norma Morrow, RN
I agree with the above letter. Helping these children acquire the skills suggested would be close to impossible given the lack of resources for the average child. What about the bullies themselves? They are seldom confronted with their behavior and their behaviors increase with few consequences. This problem will continue until realistic interventions are put into place in every school room in this country.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 5:13:47 PM | posted by Muriel Johnson
Ms. Marcus,

The problem is that bullies grow up, by then they have become more versed in what they do, believe me I have experienced it at several different jobs and as an adult in college. I am experiencing it at this time while working and doing getting my graduate degree. It is still the same thing, but as adults they call it "harrassment". Bullying and harassment both cause the same symptoms and sometimes the same end results. When I complete my degree, this is a topic that I wish to speak to. I am a social worker by degree, and it is the very field that I am in, that has casued me so much harm.

Monday, October 15, 2012 6:51:46 AM | posted by Amy Marcus
This article comes across as almost too simplististic of a way to help bullied youth. By the time these kids arrive in my practice they have been targeted far too long and are quite affected by consistent feelings of anxiety at school. Some are depressed as well. I feel the article doesn't address some of the more long term implications of bullying including the process of trusting the therapist, who may be viewed as yet another adult who says the "wrong things" and can't help them.