Bullying Counseling & Therapy

Sabrina Janecek

LPC

Sabrina has come full circle from being born in Ft. Worth, Texas (Yay!), to moving to Houston (Boo!), and coming back to DFW as soon as she finished high school (Yay!) and bringing her twin sister along with her. She received her BS in psychology at the University of North Texas, and made the easy decision to stay in Denton... Read More

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What is Bullying?

Bullying refers to unwelcome or unsolicited acts of violence, aggression, intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse, social exclusion, or sexual coercion, which are enacted with the intent to cause physical or psychological harm.

Although bullying most commonly occurs among elementary school-aged students, adolescents, and teens, harassment among adults in the workplace has earned societal recognition and media attention in recent years. (So… if your work environment is saturated with hostility, or upper management and human resources appear to be in league with one another to destroy your work performance or reputation: You’re not alone! !@#$% ‘s in the workplace are an epidemic!)

In children, adolescents, or teens, victims of bullying are often selected on the basis of perceived differences or weakness. Risk factors for bullying include: minority status (racial, ethnic, or religious minorities or LGBTQ+ identification); low-income students; individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities; overweight or underweight children; transfer students; unpopular or polarizing adolescents; and individuals with mental health challenges (including anxiety, depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, etc.).

What Are The Types of Bullying?

Bullying may include acts of verbal aggression, relational (or social) aggression, cyberbullying, workplace harassment, or physical assault, such as:

  • Verbal Aggression: Name-calling, criticism, threats of violence, insults, public humiliation, mockery, gossip; racial, anti-LGBTQ+, or religious slurs; language that degrades, demeans, or suppresses
  • Relational (or Social) Aggression: Ostracizing or blacklisting other children from play activities or social events; enlisting peers to bully the targeted victim; clique formation; spreading spiteful rumors about another child, gossiping, or backstabbing; ignoring or cold-shouldering the designated victim
  • Cyberbullying: Cellular or online harassment via texting, social media websites, emails, blogging, or instant messenger; using digital technology to spread rumors; impersonating, catfishing, or hacking the victim’s online accounts; disseminating nude or humiliating photographs of the victim; slut-shaming or sexual blackmail; uploading videos of a victim being sexually or physically assaulted; releasing sensitive information about a victim’s identity (address, social security number, medical information, etc.); infecting a victim’s computer with spyware or viruses
  • Workplace Bullying: Participating in malicious office gossip; verbal or sexual harassment; sabotaging an individual’s work performance or ability to meet deadlines; spitefully assigning unreasonable workloads or denying leave requests and extensions; slander or defamation; prejudice or discrimination based upon an individual’s protected legal status (gender, race, religion, etc.); undermining an individual’s work efforts or accomplishments; recruiting other employees or administrators to bully staff members; unjustifiable write-ups, suspensions, demotions, or punishments; yelling, cursing, berating, or belittling employees
  • Physical Aggression: Violent or antagonistic acts, including shoving, hitting, fist-fighting, tripping, spitting, property destruction, kicking, physical intimidation or threatening with the use of a weapon, restraint, and more+.

 

Warning Signs That Your Child Is Being Bullied

Children, adolescents, and teens are unlikely to confide in their parents that they being victimized by another student at school. Unspoken indicators of bullying may include:

  • Unexplainable injuries: Fresh bruises, lacerations, scratches, bite marks, scrapes, or defensive wounds
  • Stolen or destroyed property: “Missing” or damaged belongings (for example: clothing, electronics, toys, school supplies, money, or food)
  • Absenteeism: Skipping school or faking an illness, such as a stomach ache or headache, to avoid harassment
  • Declining academic performance: Plummeting grades, distractibility, or an abrupt lack of interest in academics
  • Social isolation: Regular exclusion by peers from social activities; willful avoidance of “unprotected” spaces where bullying is more likely to occur (e.g. unsupervised school bathrooms or locker rooms, bus rides, or walks home from school)
  • Mood Disturbances: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, social withdrawal, mood instability, PTSD, or irritability
  • Hopelessness: Self-harm or suicidal ideation; articulating feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, emptiness, loneliness, futility, powerlessness, or vulnerability; uncontrollable sobbing
  • Rage: Torments, taunts, or tortures younger and weaker siblings or children
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia, hypersomnolence, fatigue, bed-wetting, or chronic nightmares
  • Eating Disturbances: Disordered eating habits (including anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating); loss of appetite; or stress-induced nausea/gastrointestinal upset

 

Warning Signs That Your Child Is Bullying Others

Obvious (and not-so-obvious) signs that your child is bullying others may include:

  • Unusual injuries: Blackened or bloody knuckles, fingernail scratches, or bite marks obtained from instigating or participating in fights
  • Unusual property acquisition: Unexplained or illegal possession of money, electronics, clothing, or school supplies
  • Behavioral problems at school: A conduct record littered with behavioral offenses, detentions, in-school or out-of-school suspensions, visits to the principal’s office, or expulsions; defiance of authority figures including teachers and school administrators
  • Relational (or social) aggression: Excludes other children from social activities; doles out the “silent treatment”; gossips or spreads malicious and unfounded rumors; forms alliances with peers for the purpose of isolating other children; participates in acts of cyberbullying, name-calling, manipulation, or withholding friendship; seeks revenge for perceived slights
  • Attitudes of pro-violence: Approves of the use of force as a means to achieve an easy end; engages in excessive consumption or idolization of violent videogames, movies, music, or pornography
  • Physical or Verbal Aggression: A history of issuing verbal threats or engaging in physical altercations; quick-tempered; or easily enraged
  • Conspicuous lack of empathy: Remorseless, cold, or indifferent to the suffering of others; regards his or her victims as deserving of physical harm or psychological humiliation; exhibits anti-social behaviors (including torturing animals or forcing sexual contact)
  • Rule-breaking: participates in co-occurring acts of vandalism, breaking and entering, drug or alcohol abuse, shoplifting, arson, or larceny

 

How Can Therapy & Counseling For Bullying Help My Child or Myself?

For victims of bullying:

Few things are as disempowering as witnessing your child being bullied and feeling unsupported or incapable of ensuring your child’s safety. Counseling interventions that support adult and school-aged victims of bullying can enhance psychological well-being and encourage trauma recovery by:

  • Manage complex emotions of anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, or shame and mend deep wellsprings of psychological hurt
  • Enhance self-esteem or emotional regulation and instill healthy coping mechanisms
  • Practice effective limit-setting skills and assertive, pro-active communication
  • Break the victimization cycle of learned helplessness
  • Address co-occurring mental health conditions, including mood, sleep, or eating disturbances; PTSD; substance abuse; self-harm; suicidal ideation; or impulsive/risky behaviors
  • Access group therapy sessions to expand your social network and receive solace from other victims of bullying
  • Connect with innovative, therapeutic modalities for self-relaxation, including mindfulness, meditation, psychotherapeutic yoga, equine therapy, and expressive arts as therapy

 

For children who bully:

People have a tendency to point fingers at the parents whenever a child misbehaves; but we know that you didn’t raise your little peanut become a surly teenager who bullies others! Counseling interventions that identify and extinguish the characteristic behaviors of bullying can assist your child to:

  • Develop a sense of consequence and conscience
    • Outline and adhere to effective consequences for bullying
    • Examine how spiteful actions affect the emotional well-being of others
  • Probe for traumatic events or environmental influences that cultivate anti-social or hostile behaviors
  • Reinforce interpersonal skill developmental, delayed gratification, self-esteem, and emotional self-control
  • Instill coping mechanisms to promote anger management
  • Foster pro-social behaviors (including empathy, altruism, volunteerism, or sharing)
  • Access creative techniques to promote self-soothing and stress management, including psychotherapeutic yoga, equine therapy, mindfulness, meditation, and expressive arts as therapy

 

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