Depending on your needs, you may choose to work with a counselor or
counseling group to get control of your anger, or you may be able to do
the work on your own using one of the self-study resources available.
A word of caution is important here. Research shows again and again
that it is hard to change habitual behavior, and that it is easier to
make and sustain real changes in behavior when you have a good support
group. For this reason, if you are really serious about changing the
way you handle anger, you are likely to be better off participating in
a formal anger management program than taking the self study approach.
A formal program provides structure to guide your change process, helps
motivate you to continue to work when you might otherwise want to quit,
and helps you recognize and be proud of the progress you make.
The following is a brief overview of the types of anger management programs and resources available.
Individual and Group Therapy for Anger Management
For some people, the easiest way to change the way they handle anger is
to work with a psychologist or other licensed mental health
professional in an individual or group therapy setting. A therapist,
who can observe and analyze your behavior from an impartial
perspective, can help you with your reality testing. If you participate
in an anger management group, the other group members can help you do
this too. An anger management therapist will also be expert in all
manner of effective anger management strategies, and will be able to
help you develop a personalized set of strategies for changing both
your thinking and behavior that will work best for you.
If you go the therapy route, make sure that you select the right kind
of therapist! There are multiple schools of therapy out there.
Therapists who subscribe to dynamic, psychodynamic, humanistic, or
psychospiritual schools of thought may lead clients to get better in
touch with their feelings. While this approach is helpful for some
emotionally over-controlled people, it is not helpful for people whose
main difficulty revolves around not being able to control their
emotions (e.g., angry clients)! Instead of exploring your feelings, you
want to be learning to control them. A cognitive-behavioral therapist
will generally be in the best position to help you do this.
There are a few other qualities you'll want to select for in a
therapist. Any therapist you select should be licensed by their state.
Additionally, they will ideally have been trained in anger management
techniques and therapies and/or have specialized their practice for
anger management problems.
A typical course of therapy for anger management unfolds more like a
class than a traditional therapy session. Participants are helped to
become conscious of their emotional, cognitive and physical responses
to anger and the different ways they respond to conflict. Depending on
your needs, your therapist may work with you on breathing or meditation
exercises to reduce anger arousal, safe and appropriate emotional and
physical techniques to release anger, communication skills, or
'cognitive restructuring' (a method for disputing and changing the
thoughts that shape your emotions).
Therapy can take several months to have an effect. On average progress
may be visible after 8 or 10 sessions. How much progress you make will
in part be determined by how dedicated you are to the process: how
regularly you attend, how much you take the lessons to heart, and how
often you practice your homework.
Anger Management Classes
Anger management classes may be available through your employer, or
through a variety of organizations serving your community. Anger
management classes vary in length and quality. While some stretch
across multiple weeks and begin to approximate the therapy approach
described above, others span a single weekend only. It is better to
select a longer class than a shorter one if you have a choice, as
longer classes will provide you with more sustained support for your
change process. Regardless of their length, anger management classes
will often assign you homework projects to complete, and will use
quizzes to track your progress through the course.
Think carefully about your specific needs when choosing to participate
in an anger management class. Do you need help dealing with your anger
in general, or would you benefit more from a class geared toward
couples? If most of your issues occur in the workplace, would a seminar
about anger management in the workplace be more helpful? Perhaps you
have been asked by your employer or mandated by the courts to attend
classes. In either of these cases, you will need to make sure you
select an approved class that will keep track your progress and provide
you with formal proof of your participation and completion.
You can learn to deal with your anger issues on your own in a number of
different ways. Video and audio recordings and online classes allow you
to complete programs in your spare time and work at your own speed.
Some of these programs offer email or phone support, and online message
boards or chat groups.
If you are looking for a more specialized approach to anger management,
such as strategies specifically tailored for women or for corporate
executives, your local library or book store might be your best
resource. There are a great number of books available today that
address anger and anger management from a variety of perspectives.
Several of these books are listed at the end of this article. Perhaps
the best way to learn about and understand your problems with anger may
be to do some more research.