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22 October 2020 by Dr Letizia De Mori

Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy (REBT) to support the phenomenon "Bullying"

In recent years the phenomenon of bullying, even in the most recent form of cyberbullying , has spread widely and is been extensively analyzed by the mass media.

Whatever form of bullying we talk about it is indisputable that it is a phenomenon, as more and more studies testify, with a strong impact on victims in terms of loss of self-esteem, self-efficacy, perception and low personal value. This can lead to both physical and psychological disorders such as anxiety and panic attacks, depression and, in some cases, can even lead to extreme gestures (Klomek, 2007; Kowalski, 2013; Beckman, 2012).

The term bullying derives from the English "bullying" and is used in international literature to connote the phenomenon of peer bullying in a group context (Olweus, 2006). In order to talk about bullying, both physical and verbal behaviors and violence must be repeated over time and always directed towards the same person who, in most cases, is in a situation of inferiority (he is younger, lower , weaker, etc.) (Olweus, 2006). Bullying is not always explicit, i.e. there is not only physical or verbal violence (direct bullying); there is also a form of psychological violence (indirect bullying) which is probably far worse since, more subtle and pervasive, it has a greater impact on the victim's life because it is mainly based on defamation and isolation of the intended victim, with the goal of making “scorched earth” around her (Olweus, 2006).

Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy (REBT) can represent a valid support, together with actions of a more practical nature, for children who are victims of bullying, through work aimed at modifying what the REBT calls dysfunctional thoughts, which have the characteristic of being so deeply rooted, rigid and automatic that they do not allow to interpret reality objectively. Using the REBT can help to see more clearly how much thought influences emotion and, consequently, to determine behavior. It is thanks to this awareness and targeted work that it is possible to change the inevitably negative thoughts of the victim of bullying, or of anyone in similar situations.

It is therefore possible to start thinking differently in reference to yourself and the reality you are experiencing and, while not underestimating it, you can learn to deal with it in a less destructive way.

Finally, it stimulates you to train yourself in acceptance, understood not as passive resignation, but as a drive to try to change what is objectively modifiable, accepting, on the other hand, what cannot be objectively modified, especially oneself and one's own features.

Finally, behavioral interventions are useful for improving the relational skills of those who are bullied: among these, for example, there is communication training, aiming to avoid the use of an aggressive and/or passive style, making use instead of assertive communication, which allows one to express one's emotions clearly and effectively and opinions without bullying or being bullied. In this way it helps to improve relationships and, therefore, to develop a sense of self-efficacy and to increase self-esteem.

It is therefore a very flexible and useful approach for those who are victims of bullying and, more generally, for all those who want to undertake a path aimed at improving their personal well-being.

Dr. Arianna Polato

Psychologist - Psychotherapist


Dr. Letizia De Mori

Chief psychologist

British Psychological Society


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