Bullying: The Role of Therapy in Prevention

Bullying: The Role of Therapy in Prevention

Bringing emotional education and therapeutic techniques into schools can help children learn to regulate uncomfortable emotions and social situations without bullying.

Bullying has a hugely negative effect on mental health, especially in children and adolescents. It can lead to symptoms like low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and more. Therapeutic mental health treatments can address some of these symptoms and help people who have experienced bullying recover.

Ahead, we’ll explore some of the options for bullying therapy — for both victims and bullies — and share other ways that we can help shape anti-bullying environments.

Therapeutic treatments for victims of bullying

Considering the effect that bullying can have on mental health, therapists and other mental health professionals play an important role in offering support to victims of bullying. Here are some of the therapy approaches that may help address the mental health effects of bullying.

Talk therapy

Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, is one of the most common types of therapy. It’s used to support people with a wide variety of mental health conditions.

One of the biggest benefits of talk therapy for people who have experienced bullying is that it can help them develop skills to better cope with the mental effects of bullying.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing damaging thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT has a long history as an effective treatment option for the symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety, which are common in people who have experienced bullying.

Art therapy

Art therapy is a type of expressive therapy in which you process your emotions through artistic means, like drawing or painting. Art therapy can be beneficial for treating the symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), all of which can develop from long-term bullying.

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Social skills training

Social skills training is an approach for school-aged children that improves “communication, problem-solving, decision making, self-management, and peer relations.” One study from 2010 found that a social skills intervention could improve self-esteem and self-efficacy, as well as reduce social anxiety, in third graders exposed to bullying.

Support groups

While individual therapy can be helpful for people who have experienced bullying, it’s also important for them to know that they’re not alone. Group therapy is another way to learn coping skills — but in a group environment. Support groups offer a safe space for victims to talk about bullying experiences. It can often be a cheaper option, too.

How long does it take to recover from bullying?

We know that bullying has long-term effects on mental health. Many victims of bullying experience symptoms like depression and anxiety. Research from 2020 even suggests that bullying can lead to complex PTSD and other similar symptoms.

Just like it takes time to recover from any mental health condition, it also takes time to heal from the mental health effects of bullying. There’s no one recovery path or recovery time. But with the right support, people can recover from bullying and build positive and healthy relationships with others.

Therapeutic interventions and treatments for bullies

Any of the therapeutic options mentioned above can also be of use to bullies as well as people who have experienced bullying.

People may choose to become bullies for many reasons, some of which could be subconscious. Research from 2023 suggests that everything from personality traits to adverse life experiences can increase the risk of engaging in bullying.

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By addressing these factors in therapy, bullies can learn healthier ways to process their emotions and better ways to interact with others. Children and adults who exhibit bullying behavior may especially benefit from anger management therapies as well.

Outside interventions

Other interventions can also address bullying at the source by teaching bullies different ways to communicate with and treat others.

Anti-bullying interventions at school are an effective approach to addressing bullying behaviors and their effects. Some of these interventions in schools can include:

  • school-wide regulations
  • teacher training
  • administrator training
  • classroom programs
  • peer involvement programs
  • playground and free-time guidance
  • caretaker education

One research review from 2020Trusted Source, which included 69 studies on school-based interventions, found that anti-bullying interventions were effective at reducing bullying behaviors and improving mental health problems.

Creating an anti-bullying environment

Experts share that fostering an anti-bullying environment requires work from everyone, including children and their parents, school officials, and community resources:

  • Parents: Parents should introduce the concept of bullying to younger children as a way to open the floor for safe discussions on the topic. It’s also important for parents to create a supportive home environment, as this reduces the risk of bullying behaviors.
  • Schools: Teachers, counselors, and administrators should be aware of what bullying looks like and stop any behaviors that happen in school. Schools should have safeguards and regulations in place to address bullying, both from a victim’s and bully’s perspective.
  • Community: Community programs that bring awareness to bullying statistics and research can educate community members on how to recognize and address bullying. Community mental health professionals can also provide support for people who have been bullied.
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Takeaway Note

Bullying has more of an effect on adolescent mental health than many people realize — and the effects of bullying can become lifelong for both the person experiencing the bullying and the person doing the bullying.

Through different therapeutic treatment approaches, mental health professionals can provide a safe and supportive environment for healing. Even though we may never be able to fully get rid of bullying in society, we can still strive to create an environment that teaches emotional awareness, kindness, and empathy.


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