Violence and conflicts in schools

Violence and Conflicts in Schools: How to empower students to help themselves with the help of Mythodrama (In: The Japanese Journal of Play Therapy, 2002, Vol 1, No. 1, p. 17 – 27)

First of all, I want to thank Tomoko for inviting me to Japan to talk about crises intervention and Mythodrama. For me this is a very pleasurable opportunity. Tomoko visited my institute and me many times and in the meantime I got to know many of her colleagues at Konohana. My colleagues and I were anxious to know more in detail about the activities and work of Tomoko. I am very happy to have this opportunity to get to know her work more and Konohana.

My lecture is divided up into two parts. First I will relate the way Switzerland is confronted with violence and conflicts in schools. I will then continue and explain our method of crises intervention, with the key element Mythodrama. I will depict how we make use of myths and stories in order to alleviate the problem of violence. Mythodrama is used in Crises interventions in schools. Originally Mythodrama was developed as a method in group therapy. In my position as director of the depart­ment for group psychotherapy for children and adolescents of the out-patient clinic of the educational counseling center of the state of Bern, I developed Mythodrama as a tool for working with children and adolescents with behavioral problems, for children and adolescents from bereaved families, or who have parents going through divorce, or for groups of young female or male adolescents. I will not talk about Mythodrama as a therapeutic tool however, but rather, about the way we implement it in crisis intervention in schools.

Before I start, let me say a few words about Switzerland. Every culture gets its projections. These images can be accurate or misperceptions. Switzerland is associated with mountains, small villages, cows, chocolate and of course banks, where gnomes cunningly count money coming from tax evasion. Our country is considered to be very peaceful and struggling with hardly any conflicts. Now these images are only partly true: 1/4 of the Swiss territory is an urban sprawl. This is where the vast major­ity of the inhabitants of Switzerland live. Our country is also heavily industrialized. The average Swiss lives in a town or suburb. This is also, where most of the schools are located. Another fact one tends to forget is the fact that Switzerland offers a broad ethnical and cultural diversity. Our 8 million inhabitants belong to four distinct regions, which use French, German, Romantsch and Italian as their mother tongue. Apart from these cultures our country hosts more than a million foreigners. This demography manifests itself in schools: schools have an average of 30% foreign students. In some urban areas this number has risen to 100%.

By foreign students I don’t mean the neighboring countries, but Albania, Kosovo, Turkey, Ex-Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, North Africa. We have many immigrants and refugees from these countries. In many schools teachers are confronted with students alien to our culture. They are not acquainted with our costumes and rituals. As conflict and violence are often coded according to one’s cultural background, this can create a problem. The difficulty is, that these students perceive, manage and ritu­alize conflicts differently. Their reactions and the issues sensitive to them are not the same as ours. This is one challenge that schools are confronted with. The cultural mix is of course not the only cause for violence. Many other reasons led to the recent upsurge of violence. Maybe one should also name disorientation, lenient school policies, schools becoming gang territory and the “turf” being expanding into the schoolyard.

Violence among children has become a public concern, not only in our country, but throughout Europe and the U.S. It has created a heated public debate in Europe and the U.S. The media is full of stories of bullying, shootings, bomb threats and harassment. Remedies are being discussed and causes debated on television and in the press, and many books dealing with violence among children and vio­lence in schools have been published. Now, it is important that we take this public debate into con­cern. The way one discusses the issues of violence of course influences us. Unconsciously we quote the arguments and cite the images, which we hear in the public debate. We begin to see the problems of violence according to the conception in the public debate. When certain ideas are repeated by the press again and again, we begin to believe them and develop a biased view of schools. We fail to real­ize that the situations and problems that are discussed in public don’t reflect the reality of schools. The public debate follows its own rules. For instance: one often hears the argument, violence is cause by students not knowing what to do with themselves. Control students more and give them something to do and you might alleviate the problem of violence. Often in the public the foreign students are blamed. They cause all the trouble. These arguments might have a tiny bit of truth, but they are cer­tainly not at the root of violence. These are explanations that define the public debate and should not be confused with analysis of violence in schools. When you deal with violence in schools, you have to be able to differentiate between the arguments and images you hear and read about and the actual conflicts in schools. As a professional you cannot go into a school thinking: «Oh, I know what the reason is: the male students are to blame!» or «negligent parents are to blame». When you want to tackle to problem of violence, you first have to able to observe closely what happens in school and gather as much information as possible. Violence has many faces. First you need to make a clear diagnosis, something that is habitually done in medicine or psychotherapy. Unfortunately, in the realm of schools to diagnose a conflict is often unheard of. What the exact profile of the conflict is important to know. Violence occurs differently from school to school and from town to town. Each case has to be dealt with separately and not with preconceived ideas. In one particular school bullying might be the problem. Students shun a fellow student maliciously and systematically by ignoring him, not talking to him, giving him false information and tricking him. In another school black mailing might be the problem. Conflicts arise differently from school to school. It is our duty to identify the specific pattern of violence, which occurs in a particular school.

We at our institute for conflict management make one simple differentiation though, when we work with schools or try to explain our approach: We distinguish between manifest incidences and con­cealed violence or aggression. Manifest incidence is when something happens, which draws every­one’s attention. It is an event, that shocks and alarms teachers, parents and students alike. For exam­ple, when a gang engages openly in a fight using weapons leaving someone injured on the premises of a school, or a teacher is attacked by students. After such incidences teachers, parents and students are angry, scared, worried and aggravated. Something serious has happened. Incidences like these cause scandals, as you can imagine. When you have to deal with manifest incidence, you have to consider the reaction of the public. The community may react hysterically, or become infuriated or puzzled. The lack of sound information can further escalate the situation. Many times we experienced televi­sion crews arriving quicker on the scene than the officials. This can create a further problem, especial­ly when false or imprecise information is being disseminated. Concealed violence or aggression is also widespread. From an outsiders view everything seems in order. Even professionals often have difficulty to detect anything abnormal. It could be though, that a student is being severely bullied or mobbed, as we say in Europe. A spell might be put on a particular student. A group of students give out the order, that no one is allowed to talk or even look him or her into the eyes. If he or she takes a seat, it will have to be cleaned immediately, because the seat was contaminated. A victim of mobbing might not even be touched by anyone, according to the commands. To be under a spell like that is of course an absolutely horrific experience. For the student it can be a trauma, which could even lead to suicide. One student hanged himself on a tree, just in front of the school. He felt like an outcast that something was wrong with. We found out that neither the teachers nor his parents were aware of this mobbing. He suffered quietly, because he felt embarrassed and imagined something was wrong with him. In some cases students were engaged in violence, in hideous plans, without anyone realizing it. Klebold and Harris, the two students guilty of the horrifying shooting in a high school in Colorado, meticulously prepared their attack under the unsuspecting eyes of their parents and teachers. While they were surreptitiously amassing ammunition and compiling guns they attended a course in “anger control” at their school. Needless to say, they got excellent reports and were perceived by the teach­ers as eager students. Nobody realized what was going on in their heads. During the program they adapted to the wishes and demands of their teachers, without ever divulging their true fantasies and intentions.

Now let me draw your attention to another phenomenon. Dealing with violence, interrogating with perpetrators and victims alike we repeatedly experience that perpetrators don’t seem to exist. Nobody calls himself or herself violent. If you talk face to face to the bullying students and ask them their views on violence, you get the same responds: «Of course I am against violence!» they might assert empathically, and add «we have to learn to solve our conflicts peacefully». I remember sharing views on violent behavior with a twelve-year-old student. He declared solemnly: «How can we ever hope that peace reigns on earth, when we cannot deal with aggression blocked up inside of ourselves». Two hours later by coincidence I observed the same student on the schoolyard. He ferociously attacked a group of schoolmates screaming: «Now you will smell blood!». If I could have asked him right away, how he explains to himself his behavior, I would have gotten an answer like: «I didn’t bully! I am completely innocent! It is the others who looked at me indignantly. I had to react, defend myself!». The reality is that the bullies, the beaters or the perpetrators, nearly always view themselves as innocent victims. They had to retaliate, react in defense. The same happens with wars: when you study the rhetoric in wars, it is always the enemy who is to blame. Remember, the Second World War soared when Germany attacked Poland. The Nazis stating, that they justifiably stroke back, after they had been assaulted by Poland. We are always just defending ourselves, according to our personal per­ception. Students assert that the others violated, harassed, bullied or insulted them. The deeper reason for this mechanism is our need to preserve a positive self-image. We all develop an identity, which attributes features to ourselves. The purpose of this image is to make it possible to live with ourselves. It helps us to keep our emotional-psychological equilibrium. When you get up in the morning, look at the mirror and you have to be able to say to yourself: It is worthwhile to present this individual to the world! Our self-image encompasses features of our personality, which are presentable. This is why our self-image is always biased. Abysmal, appalling, hideous aspects of personality are ignored. We fail to identify the shadow of our personality, because it would irritate us. In order to uphold a self-image we project repulsive features on others. This mechanism is perfectly normal, sane, anything else would be threatening. Our cognition has the duty to retain a more or less positive self-image. It creates stories and images, which enable us to live with ourselves. Because of this self-preserving instinct, we fail to listen to rational arguments. As we need to protect ourselves, we refuse to listen to criticism. This is why we need to develop other approaches. Mythodrama, which I will explain later, is one possibility.

Crisis intervention and violence prevention

When you do crisis intervention or prevention work, you have to take the following into considera­tion: of course everyone is against violence and hates conflicts. Students and teachers usually empha­size that they abhor fights. They agree with you, when you declare, that violence is no option. Because it would contradict their self image, they usually don’t argue. Also, children and adolescents can often hear out clearly, what the parents, teachers or conflict managers want to hear. They choose their words according to what is desired. Consciously or unconsciously they adapt to what they think is expressible. This adaptation syndrome is widespread in schools. Students don’t really show them­selves. It is something you have to realize, when you work in crisis intervention or do prevention work.

A second fact that one has to take into consideration is peer-orientation. Adolescents distance themselves from parents and teachers. In their struggle to obtain a distinct identity in society, the peers become extremely important. What their colleagues think, what goes on among them and the trends they follow is of prime interest. Peers are influential in the forming of their personal distinc­tiveness. The peers define the likes and dislikes. Adolescents lean on peers, in order to get some empowerment. Among their peers they learn about themselves and others. Positive personality traits, as well as the dark side of human beings are being encountered. Often peer influence is problematic. The peers might sidetrack adolescents and instigate bad behavior or addictions. Among some peer groups violence is considered an acceptable behavior or is even admired. We should not look at peers as merely difficult. Peers are not just a problem, they also have potential. In many times, peers hold the key to violence prevention. With the help of the ideas of peer group, violence can be alleviated. Violence prevention should be based on the ideas of the peers.

Now lets proceed to our actual intervention program. It consists of 7 steps. Not that these steps are the magical solution, but where violence occurs there is also a lot of confusion and anger. People need an immediate answer, as they want to know what to do next. The seven steps give a perspective, on how things might go on. A process starts, which assures everyone, that one is not just a victim of the events, but can move on.

Teachers talk

The first step is the Teacher’s talk. We confer with the teacher. This talk follows a certain routine and should not be confused with a chat or a counseling session. After the teacher has agreed in doing the intervention we ask him or her to inform us on everything he or she has experienced or heard, and his or her fears about the students. Also we ask the teacher to tell us, why he or she chose the teacher profession and maybe to also add some words about his or her personal situation. We want to know how the teacher is doing and if he is satisfied with the job. We then inform the teacher of our specific approach. We will take up the role of the devils advocate. We confront him or her with all informa­tion we obtain from the class. What we hear about him as a teacher and an individual will not be used to discriminate against him or her. He or she might hear some unpleasant details about his work. He or she has to be prepared to hear some criticism. We don’t discriminate though and don’t give advice. The teacher has to decide for himself, what he wants to do with the information he gets. There is only one thing we demand: one concrete change. The teacher has to decide on a change in his teaching style, his approach to the students, his agenda or the school setting. It has to be something that can be detected from the outside. If a teacher decides, that from now on he is going to be friendlier, that does not suffice. How do the students realize, that he is being friendlier, how does it become obvious, that he has worked with himself. We want to initiate change beyond rhetoric. It is vital, that the students and parents are convinced, that it is not just them who have to contemplate change, but also the teacher. If the school is left out of the process, the other participants will fail to understand, why they have to work on themselves. The information we give to the teacher serves him or her as a source.

Parents meeting

If the teacher agrees with this procedure, we proceed to the second step: The parents meeting. The parents’ cooperation is vital when we want to tackle the problem of violence among children and ado­lescents. Many times troubles at home manifest themselves in school and vice versa. The attitude the parents convey to their children is decisive. If the parents back up the work of the teachers and the children, interventions are more likely to succeed.

We try to get the consent of the parents at a special meeting. All the parents are invited and with the help of the teacher we try to get a high attendance. The gathering starts with a statement by the teacher. He declares that he endorses the intervention and is ready to engage himself actively. He also points out that his work will be evaluated during the process. This is important, as everyone par­ticipates in the intervention. We don’t put the blame on a particular student or group for what hap­pened and don’t distinguish between victims and perpetuators. Our message is: something unpleasant has happened in school, but let’s not permit violence to expand and let’s do something against it, unan­imously. We then explain to the parents that we expect them to back up the teachers, students and the psychologist’s work too. After giving a brief explanation on our work – putting emphasis on the group dimension – we ask the parents in groups to relate to us their view of the situation at school. We want to hear from them as to how they feel and what they have heard of the happenings in the school. Often they draw a completely different picture than the teachers. They are able to give us valuable information on what is going on and how their child perceives the troubles. Of course we realize that this information might be biased and one-sided, but it renders us helpful insights on what is going on. After the group discussion, all the parents gather again and exchange their views. They then discuss the situation in school and get the chance to hear the teacher’s opinion. We don’t look for culprits though. We intend to understand the dynamics of the class, which led to the troubles and maybe enabled violent students to dominate. The psychologist in charge of the intervention explains that in order to begin the work with the students, the parents have to reach a unanimous decision to support the intervention. All mothers and fathers present have to agree. If there is one parent who opposes the intervention, we stop right there. We make it clear that we are serious: without their back­ing nothing will happen. Often the parents do not believe us. They suspect we are bluffing or that actually it is our responsibility to tackle the problem. Some parents might even get emotional, yell at us and proclaim: «You can’t do that!». We respond by telling them: «Of course, we can. We are neither the teachers, nor employed by the state. All we have got to offer is a program, which has proven to be effective, but the choice is yours». We clearly communicate, that the well-being of the children is their prime responsibility and not ours. We explain to the parents what we want from them. They can backup the intervention work by refraining from negative actions against the school and encouraging their son or daughter to participate in Mythodrama. We promise to organize a second parents meeting after the intervention is completed. At that meeting, criticism is allowed and an eval­uation of the work is done. In the vast majority of parents meetings, we have managed to reach a mutual consent.

Visit of the school

The next step of the program is to get an impression of the school culture and the atmosphere in the class. A member of the intervention team visits the school to gain some insights on teaching styles, set up of the class room, decoration, general mood among students and maybe something which attracts the eye.

One teacher complained that his students were ungrateful. They had asked him to adorn the class­room with plants. He agreed and spent a whole afternoon buying and transporting the plants into the rooms. The result was that they were still disgruntled. When we visited his classroom we soon real­ized why: he had purchased cactuses!

Mythodrama session

After obtaining an impression of the school, we proceed to the next step. The Mythodrama ses­sions, the core of the program, start. The students assemble in a large room or a gym hall. We need plenty of space, so they can move, run around or enact a play. We convene with the students on three to four occasions, in the morning or afternoon during a time span of three to four months. We invite them to do Mythodrama. It is very important that the teacher is not present and the students meet on neutral territory, not in their classroom. In the classroom they are not free, and cannot relax and unwind. The Mythodrama has to take place at the right place, for the temenos is important. We meet the 20 or 25 adolescents or children in the hall. Usually they wait there for us or enter the room when we tell them. Often they are anxious, or aim to appear indifferent, cool and apathetic. Sometimes they signal us that they are certainly not interested in working with psychologists. The way we man­age this initial contact is decisive for the further work. We don’t want to appear as an extension of the teachers or the parents, neither do we want to be seen as good doers or righteous educators. For us it is important to concentrate on the quality of the actual encounter; maybe we are feared, maybe we sense distance, maybe curiosity or perhaps we are just unappealing. When we meet the students, we advance gradually towards each other, without letting anything predetermine the next step. We need to catch the momentum by our slow advancement. Of course we have already gathered a lot of infor­mation about the class, so we might know what to expect and adjust our behavior accordingly. Due to this information we might be informed about specific hierarchies, the cool guys, or students who are being bullied. Our introduction has to fit the psychodynamic of the class. We might present our­selves as super-gang leaders or maybe as buddies. It all depends on the breach we detect. Often we do not pay any attention to the students. We might ignore them for a while, talk among ourselves until they react and shout: «Hey, why don’t you start, aren’t you paid for this?». In situations like this we might coolly react: «we start when you are ready!». An attitude like this might be very important, because especially adolescents cling on often to preconceived ideas about psychology. That is, that psychologists burst with empathy and fervently seek patients in order to provide their services. We want to destroy this image. Psychologists can also be ignorant and insensitive to the demands of their clients. Psychologists might act as brutes and be inconsiderate. We choose this approach, because we want the students to avoid the victim trap. It is them, who have to become active. We as psycholo­gists are only facilitators. They have to approach us, if they want something. In some classes we might present ourselves as cool, in order to get the message understood, in another class it is sufficient if we stay aloof. Of course, when the class was traumatized by a suicide or a brutal event, we would not present ourselves as aggressive or aloof. Of course we introduce ourselves in a way that is appropriate to the emotional situation. After the first contact is established, we reiterate the problem that started the intervention. We use blunt language and don’t dodge by using sweet talk or psychological jargon. «From what we heard from your teachers and parents, in your class students are being beaten up, bullied. We disagree with that kind of behavior. We don’t know if it’s true, but obviously it is a major concern to the people around you. Now, we will work with you for three afternoons, and you can prove that these accusations are false or if they are true, we can work together, in order to stop these incidents. It is you choice!». After having addressed the students like this we proceed to exercis­es. We don’ t allow any discussion. At this moment we are not interested in the views of the students yet as we want them to reflect on their behavior. The exercises are chosen according to the age-range of the students. Small children are invited to join in some classical warm-up exercises. When they are older, adolescents, we offer them interactive exercises. Maybe they can try to communicate with their hands or make a short enactment of a real event. The exercises are followed by the key element of the intervention: the story. We relate a story, legend, myth or real event. We tell them the story aloud. The story is carefully selected according to the problem, challenges or difficulties the group of stu­dents is facing. The narrative has to mirror the events the students encounter in class. This is the rea­son why we collect information beforehand. The story contains the difficulties of the class in a con­cealed way. It is important, that the students don’t recognize the similarities right away. Unconsciously they might grasp, that the story might have something to do with them. With the help of the story, we try to galvanize their emotions. If we detect fear among them, the story depicts a frightening situation. Thanks to the story, their emotions and fantasies are stirred up. The narrative is seldom a “Goody-goody” story and never carries an educative or a moral message. We use stories in order to help the children to imagine and reflect upon themselves. The stories have to stimulate them mentally. The stories might be outrageous, provocative, extreme and politically incorrect. Some classes need to be shocked, in order to open up. It may happen, that the students are stunned: «What are they telling us! These psychologists must be mad!». This reaction might be necessary. We use the story as a mind opener and not as an entertainment. Our goal is to tear down their psychological defenses and invite them to drop the masks, which school forces them to wear.

Recently we chose a story of a gang, in which a man in a wheel chair was mobbed and pushed out of his wheel chair. He was left helplessly weeping on the pavement, while the gang was having fun playing with the wheel chair. When narrating a story like that without the slightest sign of moral con­demnation, you are bound to get strong reactions. While of course some may find it “cool”, the majority is shocked and repulsed. Their disgust is important. It is an indication that they might reflect morally. «Handicapped should not be treated like that!» they might assert. A reaction like that is what we count on. We try to stop them being cynical, detached or aloof. We do not relate the narra­tive to the end though, but stop just before a drama or climax is suggested by the story line. We now invite the students to fantasize the end themselves. They imagine individually how the story might go on. After this we employ different techniques. The students might draw a picture of their personal end, before sharing it with a sub-group led by a psychologist. Often he or she interprets the picture in the sub-group, before even hearing the end of the story. He or she has to read the picture on a symbol­ic level, see it as an expression of emotions, complexes, fantasies, problems or events. This part is not so easy, as it needs some understanding and psychological knowledge to interpret the images of the children. Another possibility is to divide the class into sub groups and then let them invent a mutual end, without the help of a grown up. We ask them to dramatize their version and then rehearse it in front of their colleagues. The ending is played out or drawn in order to get a new perspective on pos­sible solutions or steps in order to alleviate the problems they are struggling with. As the story was a reflection of their difficulties or challenges, the chances are, that they might unconsciously depict a possible answer. What they imagined, have drawn or played might contain valuable information about the resources and perspectives of the class. By using this indirect method and unconscious material, we might get an idea of their potential and their difficulties. At this point of the program we change the focus again. Their endings are connected with the troubles they are going through. We go back to the actual problem we stated at the beginning of the intervention and now try to relate it to their endings. The psychologists have to help the students to do the transferences. This is the moment when we might detect what the students really experience in their schools. During Mythodrama, the students unconsciously divulge their emotions, experiences and anxieties. Their paintings and plays reveal what is going on inside of them. It needs a trained eye though to see through and uncover what their worries and thoughts are about. The crisis interventionist has to able to read symbols and be acquainted with interpretation philosophies and techniques. Besides the personal paintings, the stu­dents also express the specific group dynamics they are identified with in the ends that they invent together. When they try to reach a consensus in a story, the specific psychology of their group feeds in. Consequently we not only recognize individual problems, but also identify the difficulties, poten­tials and challenges of the group. Their conflict styles, taboos, codes and group roles become appar­ent. Of course we also study the behavior of the children before we reach conclusions. How they try to reach an agreement or which suggestions are taken up among the group is often significant. We connect these observations with possible interpretations.

After this work we move forward to the concrete change. We made it clear to the class, that we would not moralize or educate them. We stated their difficulty or challenge according to our knowl­edge bluntly at the beginning of the intervention though. What we expect from them is that they decide on a concrete change. A change, which of course is connected to the problem and which might help alleviate it. The students know, that their parents as well as their teachers are committed to do their best to ease the situation. We don’t distinguish between perpetuators, culprits or victims in our program. Nobody is to blame. What we do want though, is that everyone does his or her share. The involved parties decide themselves on their contribution. We only try to facilitate the process. The change, they will have to suggest, has to be concrete. It cannot be something vague or fuzzy. We don’t want a rhetorical change – for example, ‘from now on we will be good’ – or evasive sugges­tions. By concrete we mean, that people from the outside have to be able to see that they have changed something. It could be something superficial, which is related to the problem though: change the way they sit in the classroom, a joint event or a change in the behavior. The whole group or class has to decide on the change. In some classes it takes some time, until everyone agrees on a common solution. This means, that the interventionist has to do a lot of work. He or she has to monitor the dis­cussion, gather suggestions, supervise and define the rules for the decision making process. The interventionist has to react to disturbances and finally formulate clearly what the group or class decided. All this has to happen, without him or her putting too much pressure on the group. The resolution has to originate in the group. Often they voice one or two good ideas. Part of the art of this kind of inter­vention, is to focus the student on the suggestions which are sound. We help them not to concentrate on the suggestions like «build a swimming pool on the playground», but maybe suggestions to change the classroom, form a club or improve the marks. When the concrete change is one initiated by the group, the chances are greater that it is part of their culture. They suggest something, which fits their culture. The will to implement the change is a lot higher, when the students themselves have born the idea. It is not something, which comes from top down, but was bred in their own stable.

It is not sufficient to propose a concrete change. The interventionist insists, that the students decide when they start implementing the change, who will do what and when. Also they have to decide on how to inform the teacher and who has the right of veto (which is never exercised). Finally the inter­ventionist invites the students to consider a celebration or prize, when they succeed in implementing the change.

According to our experience the students usually do very well. In the majority of intervention the students enjoy working with us. Once a week they work with us over a time span of four to five weeks. Sometimes the students are cynical though, and don’t take our work seriously after the first intervention. In cases like that we might inform them: «Now, listen, we are not here to play around. This is something serious». In classes like this we need to employ a lot of energy get the class to cooperate.

Teachers training

The first three interventions are followed by a time period of three to four months, during which we don’t see the students. We concentrate solely on the teachers. Working with the teachers we choose a special approach. We help him or her to devise changes, which will impress the parents and students as substantial changes. We try to help the teacher to change his image among the students and par­ents. We want everyone to see, that now he or she is being taken seriously. The students have to get the message that the teachers are also participating in this program. The changes in teaching, perform­ance or the attitude to the students are implemented on the basis of the information we present the teacher. We help the teacher to reevaluate his or her teaching style and the specific approach to the difficulties in school.

Final intervention

This period is concluded by the final intervention. We see the class to find out if changes are per­manent. Is violence alleviated, did the students manage to make a difference.

The last intervention is usually no problem. In most cases the students want to get rid of us. Sometimes they even declare that to their knowledge violence was “never” a problem and that they certainly are not in the need of a psychologist. A reaction like this might be a sign for us that they have stopped victimizing themselves. They have taken the responsibility in to their own hands. If they were still in need of an intervention or even longed for us, we would have to get suspicious.

Parents meeting

The last intervention is followed by a parents meeting. The teachers are present, the school board, the parents and sometimes the students. The teachers and we reflect on the intervention and place the sheet on the overhead, on which we had written the problems and difficulties at the first parents meet­ing. We now compare the situation in school with what we had written down. The vast majority of the interventions are successful, in the eyes of the parents and teachers. Some interventions reveal dif­ficulties, which were concealed up until now, so further steps might be taken.

The reason for the success of this method is, in my opinion, its radical group orientation, no blame approach, the technique of Mythodrama and the fact that we don’t infantilize or victimize the students. We convey to them, that it is them who are able to deal with the problem of violence.

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