6 Therapeutic Interventions for Children and Adolescents Involved in Cyber-Bullying; Interview with Holli Kenley Part 2


Holli Kenley
Holli Kenley

Last post I Interviewed Holli Kenley about her book, Cyber Bullying No More, and she gave so many good tips for therapists and parents I decided to write two posts. Today I want to focus on tips for therapists who are working with children and adolescents who have experienced cyber bullying. To read information about how parents can support their kids, visit “Cyber Bullying No More!, Parenting a High Tech Generation” Part 1: Tips for Parents with Holli Kenley.

What are some reasons you think kids use the Internet to bully other kids?


There are two main reasons why cyber bullying is so prevalent.

  • Technology provides ‘anonymity’ for the cyber bully. This is really important. The cyber bully is distanced from the victim (no face to face connection), detached from the real word (identity protected) and disinhibited from the harm or hurt being inflicted on the victim. Thus, the cyber bully feels disconnected from the real world and his/her actions.
  • Technology provides a “huge power differential” between the victim and the bully. The bully is able to effectuate his/her agenda with ease. An expansive audience and limitless victimization reinforce the bullying behavior, and the bully is emboldened because of the lack of accountability and overwhelming factors of reinforcement.  Thus, the cyber bully feels empowered.

Research suggests that the main motivations for cyber bullying include:

  • Revenge or retaliation
  • Power and control
  • Cool and fun
  • Use as a defense mechanism (insecure, angry, jealous, mean)

It is interesting to note that Albert Bandura’s current research suggests that cyber bullying is a behavioral manifestation of the ‘process of moral disengagement,’ largely learned and reinforced by the factors of anonymity and power differential.  Group work focusing on the areas of restorative justice, with a heavily embedded empathy component is strongly recommended.

How do you feel a therapist could help a child who is involved in Cyber bullying? Either as a victim or the bully?

Many children take on the roles of both cyber victim and cyber bully (cyber bully victim).  It is important to assess for both roles and their involvement in each.  During the intake process, it is extremely important to conduct a thorough 5Axis Diagnosis, paying special attention to Axis I – Clinical Disorders. Also, with both victims and bullies, assess for thoughts of suicide and homicide (Duty to Report and Duty to Warn).

Here are three interventions for each.


For a child who is being cyber victimized, remember the 3 “S”:


  • Safety Net – Implement safety measures and develop a step-by-step plan for the victim who is in danger of harming him/herself or others (victims are more like to carry a weapon than bullies). Pay attention to levels of depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviors. Implement technological safety measures as well. Put a strong ‘net’ around this child!
  • Support – Believe and validate the child and his/her feelings. Listen, empathize, and develop a support system for the child. Let the victim know that he/she is not alone.
  • Social Skills Development – Many victims are feeling powerless. Either through individual or group counseling, working on assertive communication and self- empowerment skills is extremely important.


For a child who is cyber bullying, remember the 3 “C’s”:


  • Consequences –Remember that the goal with the cyber bully is to change the behavior. Research suggests that punishment by itself does not work, nor does solely taking the technology away. There should be appropriate consequences that correlate with degree of severity of bullying. (One exception would be if there is a duty to report given the laws within each community or state.) Making meaningful amends to the victim or acts of restorative justice are highly recommended.
  • Contract  – A Family Online Agreement should be implemented at once with clear guidelines on appropriate use, rules, and expectations. Whether one is in place or not, there are grounds for restricting usage of technology for a designated period of time. During this time, the child must demonstrate accountability and responsibility for his/her behaviors. Frequent monitoring is mandatory.
  • Counseling – It is extremely important to perform a ‘needs assessment’ with the cyber bully. The motivations for bullying vary widely; and thus, effective interventions do as well. Research suggests that group counseling with an emphasis on empathic skill building is highly successful in reversing bullying behaviors.


Tell about other publications that are available, or that you are working on

Resources on Cyber Bullying:

  • One of the best online sites for references is Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) – www.fosi.org . There are all kinds of tools, downloads, materials, etc. available for counselors, therapists, educators, and families.
  • Another excellent reference is Cyber Kids, Cyber Bullying, Cyber Balance (Trolley & Hanel, 2010).


Other Publications by Holli Kenley


  • The PMS Puzzle: a recovery book based on my own struggle with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
  • Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace With, a self-help book addressing recovery from all kinds of betrayal.
  • two e-singles:  Betrayal-Proof Your Relationship: What Couples Need to Know and Do
  • Cyber Bullying no More: Parenting A High Tech Generation.
  •  My newest book is Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding the Way Back…One Breath at a Time, addressing recovery from any type of relapse.
  • I conduct workshops about cyber bullying to parents and at educational workshops and at therapeutic/recovery conferences.
  • Recently, a small group of community members and I participated in a two day Valley Wide Anti-Bullying Outreach Event which will take place August 29th– 30th , 2013 in my hometown of Prescott , AZ.  As part of the event, we will screaned the “Bully Movie’ and we had guest speaker Kirk Smalley, whose family was profiled in the movie, speak to several schools and at an open community forum. Mr. Smalley’s organization – Stand For The Silent – is an international movement of change – an outgrowth in remembrance of his son Ty, who took his own life at 11 years old after years of relentless bullying.

I started this interview by saying that cyber bullying (and bullying) is a family issue, a community issue, and a societal issue.  Yes, parents must do their part, but so must we all.   Thank you Holli for your time and expertise on the important subject of Cyber Bullying. To purchase Cyber Bullying No More, please visit: Amazon.com or other major and independent book sellers. To read more about Holli and her work, please visit her website www.hollikenley.com

“Cyber Bullying No More!, Parenting a High Tech Generation” Part 1: Tips for Parents with Holli Kenley


“Cyber Bulling No More: Parenting a High Tech Generation,” by, Hollie Kenley   is a practical guide for parents to help navigate the issue of cyber bullying with their children, both victims and bullies. You can read my review of her book on Amazon.

The issue of how to teach our children how to be responsible with technology is a hot topic for parents that I work with (and in my own house!), so I know I will be referring parents to this book.

I interviewed Holli and there was so much to say that I have separated it into two posts. Today we will focus on the background of the book, and tips for parents on how to help their children deal with cyber bullying if it occurs.

Tell us about your background.


My first profession was as a middle and high school humanities teacher for almost 30 years. During that time, I returned to graduate school to become a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. I counseled in a faith-based counseling center before moving into private practice.  Early on, I was drawn to the areas of abuse, trauma and betrayal, working with both individuals as well as couples. Later on, my work became specialized in the area of sexual abuse recovery.


What inspired you to write Cyber Bullying No More?


As a teacher, I was disturbed by the bullying behaviors that I witnessed at school.  With the advancements in technology and the birth of a new type of bullying – cyber bullying – I was shocked by its prevalence and its potency.


In 2006, when I started hearing about young people such as Megan Meier taking their lives because of relentless cyber bullying, I remember saying to myself, “Enough is enough! This must stop!”  It was time to action and I wanted to do something to help. And from there, Cyber Bullying No More: Parenting A High Tech Generation(link) was created. It’s all about how to protect and defend your children from this potentially deadly experience.


Who will benefit from this book?


Parents/guardians and children will benefit from this book! I wanted to give busy parents them some straight forward strategies on how to communicate with their children about cyber bullying and how to implement practical steps to safeguard their children.


Educators, counselors, and therapists could also use this book as an educational as well as therapeutic tool with their students, families, and clients.


What age group do you think deals with cyber bullying the most?


Early research indicated that cyber bullying was more prevalent in the middle school years; but a vast majority of the surveys administered were at that grade level. Current research suggests that cyber bullying is problematic at all ages, with an increase correlating with more technological proficiency. Today, it is estimated that one in three children will experience cyber bullying (in some form) during his/her school years. Children with special needs as well as GLTB youth are more highly targeted.



What do you think is the most challenging part for kids involved in cyber bullying? For Parents?



Kids who are being cyber victimized are fearful of reporting because of retaliation. Victims believe that they won’t be believed and that no one will or can do anything about it.  So, they won’t tell and continue to be victimized for long periods of time. They show feelings of isolation, fear, and depression. They are often highly anxious and resort to unhealthy behaviors to self- soothe. Out of frustration and fear, it is common for a victim to also take on the role of a cyber bully.


The most challenging part for parents/guardians is that they don’t know what to do or where to begin. In my opinion, they often turn to the schools to fix it out of their own fear and frustration. This can be one step in the process, but it cannot be the only step. Cyber bullying is an epidemic anti-social behavior that becomes a family issue, a community issue, and a societal issue.  We must all do our part.



What are your top three tips for parents about how to protect a child from Cyber Bullying?


‘Protect’ is a key word.  When I use this word, I am referring to methods that will help ‘safeguard against cyber bullying’.  My top three tips for protection are the following:


  • Implement a “Family Online Safety Contract”. A free download is available at www.fosi.org/resources/html . It is mandatory that parents must begin talking to their children about how to use technology responsibly as early as possible. There is no better way of explaining the rules and expectations about the use of technology than having a written agreement that everyone understands and respects.



  • Parents must know why they are giving children access to a piece of technology or giving them permission to utilize the technology. Think about their age, what they can handle or not, and go slowly. Let your children demonstrate success and responsibility before giving them more usage and freedoms.   



  • Parents must monitor the use of the technology! No, I am not kidding! Remember, our children can go anywhere in the cyber world at any time. Get to know your children’s Net Neighborhood just as you would their school environment or other social groups. Spend time with them; learn with them; begin to communicate and connect with them about their online life.

Anti-Bullying Outreach Event August 29-30 2013

A small group of community members and I have been working on a two day Valley Wide Anti-Bullying Outreach Eventwhich will take place August 29th– 30th , 2013 in my hometown of Prescott , AZ.  As part of the event, we will be screening the “Bully Movie’ and we will have guest speaker Kirk Smalley, whose family was profiled in the movie, speak to several schools and at an open community forum. Mr. Smalley’s organization – Stand For The Silent – is an international movement of change – an outgrowth in remembrance of his son Ty, who took his own life at 11 years old after years of relentless bullying

How to Talk to Children About Tragedies in the News: Wisdom from the Late Mr. Rogers

The recent tragedy in Boston may leave parents wondering how to address devestating news with young children. While I want so much to shield my own child from these horrible disasters in the news, it is realistic that he may hear about it from some other sources. I think Mr. Rogers addresses these issues the best.

Fred Rogers Talks about Tragedies in the News

Mr. Rogers: Look for the Helpers

Huffington Post: Article Highlighting Wisdom from Mr. Rogers


Benefits of Therapy – Sam Feels Better Now! An Interactive Story for Children

Read the Most Recent Review of Sam Feels Better Now! and Interactive Story for Children.

Benefits of Therapy – Sam Feels Better Now! An Interactive Story for Children

Ten Questions to Ask When Looking for a Therapist

question markSometimes when you are entering therapy for the first time at an agency or private practice it’s hard to know if you are making the right choice for your child. Think about it, when looking for a therapist, many people look up their insurance provider list, find a few names, ask a friend, pastor or teacher, and maybe look them up on the web. The following are ten things parents should ask when finding a therapist for their child.

1. What is your background in (_child’s problem__)

2. What are your fees, and do you take my insurance.

3. How long have you been practicing

4. How much will I as a caregiver be involved in my child’s therapy

5. What methods do you use (i.e. play therapy, theoretical background)

6. Can I get information about (play therapy, sandtray,) or Can you explain it to me?

7. How will I know if therapy is the right choice for my child?

8. How much will I as a parent be involve?

9. How long will therapy last?

10. What do you do if for some reason my child needs to see someone else?

“Always My Brother” Interview with author Jean Reagan about Sibling Death

Always My Brother CoverI am thrilled to post this interview of author Jean Reagan, who is the author of “Always My Brother.” “Always My Brother” is a story for children who are dealing with sibling death. This is the first book I have read on this specific form of grief, and I highly recommend it for use with clients, and for parents who may be dealing with their own child’s death. Please visit Jean’s website and read the Story Behind section if you would like more information about their journey of grief, and inspiration for this book.

1. What inspired you to make this a children’s book?

First, some background. In 2005 after a roller-coaster year of hopes and setbacks, our nineteen-year old son, John, died of a drug overdose Jane, our seventeen-year old daughter became an only child. As we faced our grief, I watched how the death of a sibling is discounted. Well-meaning people offered me (and my husband) comfort, but rarely seemed to acknowledge Jane’s tragic loss.

Through research I learned that sibling death is often considered the unrecognized grief.Surviving siblings are sometimes even admonished to be “extra good,” because their parents are grieving.In “ALWAYS MY BROTHER,” I wanted to honor siblings for the devastating loss they face, to normalize the contradictory emotions they experience, and to offer them realistic hope.

I chose to write a picture book rather than a teen book for several reasons.A. There are many teen books about loss of all kinds, including sibling death.B. There are no picture books aimed at a young audience on this topic.(In fact, a “Needed Subjects” column in a writers’ magazine expressed a need for picture books about the death of a sibling.)C. As an author, picture books are what I write.

On a personal level, I wrote this book because I wanted my daughter to understand that at some level I understand the utter devastation of her loss.

Because “ALWAYS MY BROTHER” is aimed at children it does not exactly mirror our own family story.I made the characters younger and did not specify the cause of death.Yet the book reflects the emotions and experiences of our grief journey.For example, I made sure to include a returning-to-school scene, because that is a particularly tough step for grieving children.

For the grieving child or family I wanted to:

  • portray and affirm their often confusing, contradictory emotions.
  • offer realistic hope that with the passage of time the gripping, paralyzing pain would ease as the family members cherish and honor the memories of their loved one.
  • create opportunities for shared conversations.

For friends, extended family, classmates, and teachers observing the grief I wanted to:

  • provide a window for them to see and better understand the internal grief.
  • create opportunities for conversation.
  • foster courage in them to reach out to the grieving child or family.

2. Have you written other books before?

I had written over ten picture-book manuscripts, all silly and quirky. “ALWAYS MY BROTHER” was the first one I sold. When I told my daughter I had sold a manuscript, this one, she hugged me and said, “That’s the one I wanted you to sell.”

My second book, “HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA,” will be published by Knopf in the spring of 2012, in time for Fathers’ Day! And, yes, it’s silly and quirky.

3. Besides writing, what else do you do (do you have another job, stay at home, etc..?)

For four months each summer, my husband and I serve as wilderness volunteers in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. We live in a patrol cabin that has no running water or electricity. There are bars on the windows, to keep out the bears. To reach the cabin you hike (or canoe) four miles from the nearest parking lot. Our patrol area has twelve shoreline campsites scattered across three lakes. We love being surrounded by nature, and we love visiting with hikers and campers from all over the world.

The rest of the year I write and enjoy modern conveniences!

4. What is the main lesson you want children to gain from this book?

I want grieving children to feel acknowledged for their loss, comforted that their contradictory, raw emotions are “okay” and normal, and reassured that their excruciating pain will lighten as time goes on because they carry their loved one’s memory with them always, in their daily life.

5. What would you tell another parent going through the loss of a child?

If possible, seek out peers for you and your child. By “peers” I mean other parents who have lost children and other children who have lost siblings. Many hospitals and therapy centers have grief groups for all ages. Compassionate Friends is a national non-profit organization that offers comfort, resources, and workshops for grieving families. There are local chapter meetings throughout every state. I am also deeply grateful to my two friends who had lost children before me, because they helped “light the path” on my grief journey. They still do.

Writing in a journal always felt like a chore to me. Yet, after John died, I found it very helpful. I didn’t write poetically or lyrically. In fact mostly I made lists. Lots and lots of lists. And they were most definitely NOT “to do” or “should” lists, but instead were “memory,” “wailing,” or “questions” lists. (The latest issue of Grief Digest includes my article, “Baby Steps for the Non-Journaler.”)

Keep talking.Within your immediate family, your broader family.With friends.With colleagues, neighbors, and co-workers.

6. Are you working on any new writing projects for children?

I am in the early stages of two picture book manuscripts: one about a father and toddler’s outing to a park and another one about a new sibling. Fingers crossed that these will become books one day!

7. What would you like for child therapists to know about counseling a child and family who has lost a sibling/child?

Our therapist told my husband and me, “Be gentle with yourself.And be gentle with each other.”We both found that very helpful, especially as we faced particularly difficult and dark moments.

We all grieve differently; there is no right or wrong way to grieve.That can be a hard thing for couples (or family members) to understand.For example, my husband has never read my book.He is very supportive in every way, (He wrote John’s obituary, he faced the media, he created my website, etc.) yet he does not have the emotional strength to face the fictional grief in my book.He is already dealing with all he can.I am perfectly fine and understanding of this.We all do what we can and don’t do what we can’t.

A book I found particularly helpful is A Broken Heart Still Beats: After Your Child Dies. Two grieving mothers (a journalist and psychotherapist) organize a remarkable compilation of poetry, fiction, essays, and journal entries about the pain of losing a child.

8. What are the top 3 things that helped your family through this loss?

Our family has always been open and honest that drug overdose is the cause of John’s death.For us, this decision has made conversations about his death and our grief easier, more helpful, and less guarded.Grieving is devastating enough without coping with layers of judgment or shame!

Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays are particularly difficult.(As much as I heard this, I was still surprised, over and over.)Creating alternative activities while hanging onto cherished traditions is tricky, but critical to try to balance.Anticipating and planning ahead helps.We joined other families in their celebrations or we traveled to other places to help “mix up” our traditions.

Just like the family of four in “ALWAYS MY BROTHER,” our family became a family of three.I remember telling the therapist that our family now felt like a three-legged dog, but then right away adding, “But not happy, like all three-legged dogs seem to be.”The three-legged dog became my analogy for how our family of three will always be missing that “fourth,” but that we would learn to “walk” again and to be happy.Consequently I included the three-legged dog metaphor in my book.

_____________________Jean small

For more about my grief journey or about my writing journey, visit www.jeanreagan.com.

“Always My Brother” Can be purchased at: Amazon, Tilbury House, and other major book sellers.

Sandtray Therapy 101

filley imageI recently attended a wonderful 2-day sandtray workshop with Denise Filley at Marietta Counseling Center for Children and Adults in Marietta, GA. I have been using sandtray work with my clients since I began this journey of becoming a play therapist, this was the most comprehensive training on sandtray work that I have attended. We covered a range of topics including materials, history of sandtray therapy, and also different perspectives of using the sandtray.

This workshop was highly experiential, including practicing with a partner, group activities, and also individual sandtrays.My favorite part of the training was a partner activity where we did mutual story telling in the sandtray. I had the privilege of practicing that activity with a co-worker, and we took turns picking a figure and adding a story line. I found that after this weekend workshop, we created about 6-7 different types of sandtrays, and I stayed with the same partner throughout the training. At the end of the training we had a larger group tray with about 4-5 different members. We all took turns adding figures until we thought the tray was finished. I found it to be very process oriented, and by the end of the training felt more relaxed and had relieved some stress that I had been experiencing at the time, in addition to feeling like I build some positive relationships with other therapists.

The staff at Marietta Counseling showed professionalism and also hospitality by providing breakfast in the morning, snacks and beverages throughout the training, answering questions, encouraging networking, and also the time they spent setting up all of the sandtray figures!

After this training I felt prepared to go back to work and utilize the techniques we learned right away. I look forward to practicing and increasing my experience using sandtray therapy. I hope to attend future trainings led by Denise Filley, as well as held at Marietta Counseling Center for Children and Adults.


Denise Filley’s Workshop Schedule

Information about Marietta Counseling Center for Children and Adults

Another Children’s Trauma Book??

What kind of book is it? Is it a picture book? I am asked. Well, yes, but…

It is not just a picture book! It is interactive. It has activities, like drawing and storytelling so that the child can interact with the main character, Sam. He or she will feel like they are helping him learn how to cope, all the while learning how to cope with their own situation. Also, I have included a therapist guide in the back to encourage further reading about children, play, and trauma. It will also show theoretical background for the book itself, and answer some of the questions adults may have.

Sam Feels Better Now! To Be Released!


My most current project is a children’s book titled “Sam Feels Better Now!: An Interactive Story for Children” Illustrations by Kevin Scott Collier, publisher is Loving Healing Press.

About the Story

“Sam Feels Better Now!: An Interactive Story for Children” incorporates elements of trauma therapy, as well as play and expressive therapies to assist children in working through crisis situations, traumatic events, and grief by helping the character, Sam learn ways to cope after his own difficult situation.