Alex Fribourg is a licensed mental health counselor/psychotherapist, working in Manhattan. Alex works with clients in a relaxed, informal environment using a collaborative, strengths-based approach, and tailors her methods to the unique needs of each individual. She is committed to providing a safe, supportive, nonjudgmental space for clients to explore their issues, work to overcome obstacles, and start feeling better. Alex specializes in working with adults & young adults, managing issues with relationships, stress, self-esteem, anxiety and depression and with issues surrounding addictions and mental illness. She talks to us about Treating the bullying victims.
Treating the Bullying Victims: Is bullying a much bigger issue today that it was in the past?
I don’t know that it is a much “bigger issue” but it is certainly much more known. The term bullying has now been defined for everyone to understand, and has been shown to be much more than a series of simple childhood conflicts like it was once thought to be. It is much more openly and widely discussed than it was in the past, and when an issue is known in the national and international conscience, then policy makers and authorities can begin to make changes that can help to prevent bullying, and provide interventions and support for the people who have been targeted by bullies.
Treating the Bullying Victims: Do you see a difference in how bullying happens today – for example social media, mobile phones?
Absolutely. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and those phones have cameras. It’s possible to capture an embarrassing moment, or an act of bullying on those cameras and then post them on the internet, on social media sites for everyone to see. It makes bullying both more pervasive in the sense that many bullies can have access to a vulnerable individual, and also more safe and potentially anonymous for the bullies, as fake profiles on social networks can be created simply for the purpose of harassing others. Bullying used to occur only in certain spaces, when authority figures weren’t present, in the hallways, bathrooms and classrooms at school, at a party or on the playground, but now it can occur anywhere and at any time. The information age has given way to many more bullying opportunities, but there is also light at the end of the tunnel because it can give way to many more resources for people who are the victims of bullying.
Treating the Bullying Victims: With current media coverage on Bullying and Cyber Bullying is the situation improving?
For all of the cases that we see covered in the media, there are millions that will go unnoticed. I hesitate to say that coverage will automatically lead to improvement. On the one hand, coverage leads to knowledge, and knowledge can lead to creating support systems for victims and penalties or consequences for the bullies, but on the other hand it can also glorify bullying in the minds of potential bullies, and it can seemingly normalize the idea that suicide is a viable response to being bullied. This is a terrifying component to increased media coverage, and I don’t mean to imply that this is intentional, but when a solution such as suicide is presented on television, and a victim of bullying is watching while wondering how to solve their own issue of being bullied, things can go very wrong. In order to combat this issue, there needs to be increased media attention paid to resources, supports and options that victims can use should they need it.
Treating the Bullying Victims: Have you knowledge of any severe cases and consequences of Bullying?
Professionally I have worked with individuals who have been the victims of many levels of bullying, some quite severe. Although I cannot share their detailed stories, I can comment that the consequences have the potential to be very grave. The human psyche is a very vulnerable thing, and repeated attacks, whether verbal or physical, by a more powerful individual can cause very long-standing damage to a person’s sense of self, self-worth, and well being. It can be the trigger to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other emotional and mental issues.
Treating the Bullying Victims: Have you come across patients in your practice who have suffered from bullying?
Yes. I have worked both with victims and perpetrators of bullying. I would imagine you would be hard pressed to find a therapist who has been in the business for a while who has NOT worked with a victim of bullying. It’s sad to think that there are so many victims, but it is comforting to know at least some of them are seeking treatment.
Treating the Bullying Victims: What therapeutic treatment would you suggest to someone who suffered from severe bullying?
Depends on the individual (age, gender, other supports available, etc.) and the nature of the trauma (physical, verbal, perpetrated by how many individuals, over what period of time, etc.) but generally it’s important to assess suicide risk, provide a safe space, explore the feelings that have resulted from the bullying, increasing skills for emotional healing, internal validation, and self-worth. There are many different treatment methods that can help with these things, from solution-focused brief therapy to EMDR to longer term talk therapy with a focus on emotional healing.
Treating the Bullying Victims: Is there likely to be long-term effects on people who are Bullied?
Bullying by definition is a consistent victimization of an individual who is has the short end of the power differential. I would say it is likely to have a long-term effect if the individual doesn’t have access to support and resources to assist in managing the issue. However, there is also a great potential for healing. Caring, non-judgmental support systems, therapy and/or counseling can all help a victim to heal from the emotional wounds of bullying.