September 15, 2008

Sue Young's Support Group Approach ≠ the No Blame approach

Yesterday, I received an anonymous comment about Sue Youngs solution-focused support group approach, an approach for responding to incidents of bullying. About half a year ago I interviewed Sue about this fascinating approach. You can read the interview here.

This comment contained two questions:
  1. If so, is the no-blame / support group approach to bullying "solution focussed", considering that it is widely held not to work? See this link: The comments from Prof. Dan Olweus are the ones with the most weight.

I contacted Sue and she was glad with the opportunity to clarify this. In brief: The no blame and Sue Young's support group approach are two rather different approaches with different interventions and different effects on children. Here are Sue's answers:

Is a solution focused approach supposed to work?

Yes, there is plenty of evidence that solution focused practice, whether support groups or individual solution focused interviewing, does work well in bullying situations. I cannot say that it always works – I don’t know that anyone would claim that solution focused strategies always work. On the other hand, I don’t know any other strategies that work more effectively, or I would recommend them!

If so, is the no-blame / support group approach to bullying "solution focused", considering that it is widely held not to work? See this link: The comments from Prof. Dan Olweus are the ones with the most weight.

The ‘no blame’ approach (as it was opriginally called) is different to my solution focused support group approach. For example, the no blame approach involves asking the child to do some writing or draw a picture about how bad they feel when they are being bullied whereas solution focused practice concentrates attention on times when the problem is not happening, what will be happening in the ‘preferred future’ and on behaviour rather than feelings.

The website mentioned refers to criticism of the "No Blame" approach - I very much regret the confusion between my approach and this one, caused partly because I acknowledged the 'no blame' approach as my starting point in my original published article. Maines and Robinson (authors of ‘No Blame’) have ever since claimed my approach was no different and used my successful outcomes as evidence for their strategy, and gradually changed the name of their approach to include ‘support group’ in their title. There is very little I can do about this! There are a lot of things I don’t agree with about the ‘no blame’ approach. My recommendations for support groups are in Coert’s interview (read it here).

Re the critisism of the ‘no blame’ approach on the website mentioned – and just to be clear about the difference in my support group approach: Unlike the ‘no blame’ approach, I do not advocate asking the child for a piece of writng about how they feel or telling the group how bad the child is feeling – I think these ideas are potentially harmful. If I were a parent, I would object to this too. The children in the support group are certainly not made to feel distressed. I would find that unacceptable. I want the children in the support group to enjoy it – that’s part of what helps it continue to be effective over the longer term! The support group meetings keep going until the child, the group, teachers and parents are all satisfied that the child is happy in school. I certainly recommend records are kept – I still have mine… Thanks for this opportunity to clarify this confusion!

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