While bullying is known to occur in schools, it can also take place within families, in the workplace, or even among friend groups. How someone might find help or support when they are being bullied depends on the person’s age, where the bullying is taking place, and how mild or severe its effects have been. For instance, a young child who is bullied might see a child counselor while their parent works with the school to stop the bullying. An adult who is experiencing bullying in the workplace may begin by talking with a therapist about what next steps they might take.
Victims of bullying may find a supportive and safe environment to address their feelings in counseling or therapy.
Being a victim of bullying can result in difficult emotions such as anger, shame, anxiety, and isolation. Therapy can help victims of bullying notice, share, and process painful feelings, which left unattended can negatively impact one's personal well-being. Some people who are victims of bullying may internalize the role of victim, which can cause challenges in one's relationships and one's sense of self.
A trained therapist can help a person better understand how this role of victim impacts their lives, as well as teach coping skills for moving forward, such as assertive communication and boundary-setting. Some victims of bullying benefit from support groups or group therapy, in which people who have experienced similar types of victimization can support one another in healing.
Children who are victims of bullying in school may find it helpful to talk to their school counselor. The school counselor may be able to act as an advocate for them at school, check on their mental well-being, and boost their self-esteem.
People who bully others may also benefit from therapy, though they may be reluctant to acknowledge their bullying behavior openly. In therapy, bullies may begin to understand the impact their hurtful behavior has on others, explore reasons for why they bully, learn new skills for communicating positively with others, and address personal experiences that may have contributed to their bullying behavior.
Often bullies have unresolved personal wounds that contribute to their bullying behavior, and addressing these emotional wounds or identity and social issues with a qualified therapist can be an integral step towards stopping bullying behavior.
Being bullied can be a stressful, or even traumatizing, experience. There is no one right way to respond to bullying, and how to respond often depends on details about the situation at hand. Here are some general tips for what to do if you are experiencing bullying:
- If you are being cyberbullied, do not respond to the attacks. Take screenshots of the conversations as evidence of their behavior.
- Tell a trusted authority figure such as a parent, teacher, or community leader about what is happening.
- If a bully threatens to be physical, try to leave the situation as soon as possible, but defend yourself if necessary.
- Keep trusted friends who know about the situation with you to deter bullies.
- If you are being bullied at work, try contacting your human resources representative, a trusted manager, or other trusted senior level individual.
- Work on showing assertiveness and confidence. People may bully others if they seem easy to take advantage of, so it can help to show you are not afraid of them.
- Bring in humor. Sometimes, using humor toward someone who is bullying you may through them off—it may also help you feel better in the process.
Remember that all of these tips will not work for everyone, and that there is no "one size fits all" solution to dealing with bullying. Talking to a trusted and compassionate therapist may also teach people about their options. Therapy may help inform victims of bullying about what they might do to deal with the specific situation they are in.
Preteen experiencing bullying at school: Josie, 11, has been experiencing frequent bullying at her middle school and cyberbullying in private. A group of popular girls have been calling her names, teasing her in public, throwing paper at her, and posting mean messages about her online for other students to see. Josie is afraid, anxious, and upset about how the girls are treating her, but she keeps her feelings to herself because she does not want to be considered a tattletale. One day the girls at school humiliate Josie so badly she finally tells her mom about the experience after school. Josie's mom immediately contacts school officials and meets with school administration to discuss the bullying problem. Josie begins seeing the school counselor regularly to talk about her feelings, practice behaviors for effectively responding to bullies, and build self-esteem. The school administration also begins a school-wide program to crack down on peer bullying. With the support of her parents, the school, and the school counselor, Josie feels much safer and is better able to assert herself in the presence of bullies.
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- Dryden-Edwards, R. (n.d.). Bullying. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/bullying/article.htm
- Respond to bullying. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/respond/on-the-spot/index.html
- What to do if you’re being bullied. (2017, May 3). Retrieved from https://ie.reachout.com/inform-yourself/bullying-and-personal-safety/what-to-do-if-youre-being-bullied