Type of Therapy – Anger Management Therapy
Everyone grows angry from time to time. Although anger is a normal emotion that it is perfectly healthy to experience, holding onto anger for too long can create an emotional barrier that prevents individuals from engaging happily in many areas of life. When an individual experiences difficulty moving past feelings of anger and finds that being angry is interfering with the ability to maintain healthy relationships, employment, or personal happiness, then anger management therapy may be a useful tool. More specifically, when anger with a single person, situation, or idea starts to create tension and unhappiness in other areas of a person’s life, then it is often helpful to engage in some sort of anger management therapy to learn how to quell that emotional response.
There is nothing wrong with experiencing anger, but uncontrolled anger or anger that does not subside is a sign that a person should seek professional support to deal with the source of the volatile emotion and find healthy ways to cope with it.
What Is Anger Management Therapy?
Anger management therapy is a goal-oriented therapeutic strategy that targets the emotional response to external factors that cause anger. Factors such as the setting, number of sessions, length of sessions, and even whether the sessions are individual or group vary depending on individual circumstances.
The goal of anger management therapy is to help individuals:
- express their feelings and needs in an assertive and appropriate way;
- identify situations that are likely to upset them, so they can be emotionally prepared;
- recognize when they aren’t thinking logically;
- focus on problem-solving rather than on the problem itself; and
- calm down when faced with situations that cause them to become upset or angry.
- Anger management therapy is available as individualized counseling or via group therapy. There are benefits to both forms of anger management counseling. Individualized therapy offers an excellent platform to discuss personal concerns and to develop highly individualized strategies for coping with and responding to anger. Group therapy provides an opportunity to gain insight into how other people feel and how they react to similar situations, and it can help individuals understand their anger better by relating to others with similar emotional responses.
Anger Management Strategies
Anger management therapy focuses on helping the client overcome an emotional block. The goal of the therapy is to help the individual identify and overcome emotional stressors, especially stressors that cause hyperemotional reactions such as anger.
Common strategies introduced during anger management therapy include:
- impulse control,
- increased self-awareness,
- breathing techniques,
- relaxation strategies,
- personal reflection, and
- emotional awareness.
Counselors often use similar therapeutic intervention approaches to help clients deal with other emotions, such as sadness and fear, that may be interfering with their quality of life. The difference between anger management therapy and more global therapeutic support is that during anger management therapy, the entire focus of the clinical session is on addressing the cause of and response to anger. The most commonly utilized form of therapy for anger management is cognitive behavioral therapy, as this form of therapeutic intervention uses individualized strategies to help individuals identify and overcome emotional stressors.
Coping With Anger
People become angry for different reasons. Mental health counselors help clients develop individualized anger management strategies to help them identify the particular stressors that lead to anger in their lives. Often, what individuals believe to be the primary source of their anger is in fact only one component of what leads to the anger. By taking a step back, evaluating the different external factors at play, and coming up with healthy coping strategies, individuals are able to let go of their anger and move on in a more emotionally healthy way.
Because anger is a perfectly normal emotional response, the goal of anger management therapy is not to eliminate anger from people’s lives but to help them find healthier ways to cope with anger. These improved coping strategies help individuals respond in less damaging ways to situations that make them angry.
Coping strategies introduced during anger management therapy typically include:
- mindfulness meditation,
- finding a constructive hobby, and
- emotional reframing.
Who Can Benefit From Anger Management Therapy?
It is commonly assumed that people only pursue anger management therapy when mandated to do so by a court order or an employment requirement, but this is not the case. Many people voluntarily turn to anger management therapy as a way to cope with trying circumstances in their lives.
Those who are experiencing anger that interferes with their quality of life are most likely to benefit from anger management therapy. Although individuals sometimes attend mandated or recommended anger management classes following work-related or legal confrontations, the majority of people who attend anger management therapy do so voluntarily.
Anger management therapy is often recommended for:
- violent offenders,
- individuals who display bullying behaviors,
- people with cognitive disorders or mental health issues who have difficulty regulating their emotional responses,
- individuals coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
- people coping with emotional or behavioral changes following a traumatic brain injury (TBI),and
- individuals who are experiencing addictionor substance dependency or who are in the process of recovery.
It is not uncommon for anger to incite a violent or hurtful response. Unfortunately, when people act out of anger, they often insult or even physically hurt others, often without intending to do so. Such reactions to anger become more about the emotional moment than about finding a solution to what caused the anger.
Anger in and of itself is not unhealthy, but when people let it dominate their lives, they are not dealing with their anger in a healthy manner. It is important for individuals to understand the root of their anger as well as the reasoning behind their emotional response. Gaining understanding in these areas can help individuals take control over how they react to situations that make them upset.
What Causes Anger?
Anger is caused by either internal or external factors.
Internal events are thought patterns, including perceived failures or injustices; individuals can largely learn to take control of these thoughts. External events are upsetting incidents caused by other people and are generally outside of the individual’s control.
Learning what is and what is not within an individual’s control is one of the first steps in anger management therapy. Individuals must learn that it is acceptable to get upset by something that is outside their locus of control, but that it is not healthy to let that lack of control interfere with their quality of life.
Anger management therapy teaches individuals coping strategies, such as letting go of things that are outside of their control, and encourages people to instead focus on things that they can actively control and change, including their personal perspective on what happens to and around them.
Common Presentations of Anger
There are several ways that people commonly express anger. These include:
We commonly associate anger with violence, but violent behavior is not, in fact, the most common way that anger presents itself. There are many other more subtle expressions of anger, each of which can disrupt healthy relationships.
These more subtle or passive indicators of anger may include:
- spreading rumors,
- ignoring or avoiding another person, and
- damaging another person’s property.
Furthermore, anger can sometimes become displaced, meaning that anger with one person or due to one event spills over and leads the individual to become angry with another person or with regard to a different situation. Typically, displaced anger causes people to shift their emotional response such that they react negatively toward a person or situation over which they have more control or where the consequences of expressing anger are less serious. This is not a healthy way to cope with anger, and it is the reason why so many people who struggle with anger have difficulty maintaining positive relationships.
Risks and Limitations of Anger Management Therapy
Anger management therapy can be a helpful strategy for assisting individuals in overcoming emotional barriers that may be preventing them from maintaining healthy relationships or steady employment. However, teaching coping strategies and healthy behaviors for dealing with anger is only half of the equation. Just as it is important to learn how to cope with anger when it strikes, it is equally important for individuals to learn the cause of their anger. Discovering the root of what makes them upset can help individuals prevent themselves from growing angry in the future and may bring more peace to their lives than simply learning how to change their behavioral response to anger.
Many people develop anger issues in response to a traumatic event that is difficult to process. For example, soldiers often deal with excessive anger after returning home from war. This issue may be amplified in individuals suffering from TBI or PTSD. For such individuals, identifying and working through the causes of their anger is just as important as learning how to cope with their emotional responses. These individuals are best served by incorporating anger management therapy as a component of a more comprehensive therapeutic program. Therapists sometimes recommend that individuals attend group anger management therapy sessions in addition to weekly individualized sessions to ensure that they receive the individualized support they need.
Most anger management therapy sessions introduce helpful strategies and coping devices to help ease the severity of a person’s anger, but these strategies will only be effective when the individual uses them in the correct context. To make anger management therapy work, individuals must want to overcome their anger.
In conclusion, the effectiveness of anger management therapy depends largely on the willingness of the individual to learn and employ the strategies and coping devices learned in therapy sessions. The decision to overcome anger and to find a corrective emotional response is the fundamental factor that will determine therapeutic success.