Target Bullying Intervention Program

Summary

The Target Bullying Intervention Program (T-BIP) aims to address the cognitive and behavioral issues of students who bully others. A decade of research and the insights of a middle school principal influenced the development of T-BIP, resulting in three central premises that have guided its design and implementation.

Because the perceptions and cognitions of bullying participants often underlie, perpetuate and escalate bullying interactions, the intervention adheres to the principle that these social-cognitive perceptions warrant just as much attention as the aggressive behaviors themselves. Second, compelling research suggests that one-size-fits-all group interventions do not help – and may even impair – the aggressive youth they seek to assist. Finally, the intervention aligns with the research-based knowledge that zero-tolerance policies – and the related practices of suspension and expulsion – fail to change students' behaviors.

Guided by these premises, the intervention program provides a framework for school counselors and school psychologists to work directly with students who bully others, helping them curb bullying and adopt more pro-social behaviors.

Implementation

When a student is referred to school administrators for bullying behaviors, parents have a choice: They can follow the typical protocol of in-school suspension, or they can choose to enroll their child in T-BIP. In every case since the program's 2005 inception, parents have chosen T-BIP.

T-BIP consists of a three-hour, one-on-one intervention session with a master's-level therapist, counselor or school psychologist. The intervention comprises three components: (1) assessment, (2) psychoeducation and (3) feedback.

Assessment relies on several measures commonly used to evaluate students' experiences with bullying, depression, anxiety, cognitive distortions, school climate and self-concept. During psychoeducation, the therapist presents an engaging and youth-friendly presentation about bullying behaviors, which is followed by a short quiz that gauges the student's understanding. After completing several worksheet activities about bullying, the therapist and student watch a video on the subject. The session ends with a debriefing, during which the referred student discusses his or her experiences with bullying and impressions of T-BIP.

Finally, the T-BIP therapist writes a report that offers treatment recommendations based on assessment data and interactions with the referred student. The parents, student and school personnel then collectively review this report during a meeting designed to yield practical solutions.

Principal Investigators: Dr. Susan Swearer (professor, school psychology); Heather Schwartz (doctoral student, school psychology); Ana Cathcart (doctoral student, school psychology)

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Please see below for details on additional Target Bullying research projects:

→ Bullying Intervention
→ Bullying & Health
→ Participatory Action Research
→ Bullying & Hazing
→ Bullying & Empathy