Anger Management Therapy
Sometimes it may be appropriate to use the services of a professional counsellor or psychotherapist to help with anger issues.
Anger management therapy can be run as group or one-to-one sessions. A professional will often say that recognising that you have a problem and seeking help is a very positive first step towards solving the anger issues.
Typically, anger management therapy sessions last between four and six weeks, although they may take longer. When looking for a local counsellor it is important to find someone that you think you will be comfortable with. Bear in mind the gender, age, location and, of course, expertise of potential counsellors before making a decision.
Different professionals may use different techniques to help overcome anger issues and their prices may also vary considerably.
See our page: Counselling Approaches for more information about the type of therapy that may be on offer.
If you are in employment, then your employer may offer counselling sessions, either internally or with a local, approved counsellor.
Your psychotherapist or counsellor should be aware of any current and historical medical conditions, including mental health and any addictions, so that the potential causes of anger may be identified and that sessions are tailored to complement any other therapy that you may be having.
The Aims of Anger Management Counselling
- To help you recognise what makes you angry (triggers or catalysts for anger) and to get you to ask yourself questions about your anger such as “What type of people or situations make me angry?”, “What do I do when I am angry?”, and “How does my anger affect others around me?”
- To teach you how to best respond to these triggers without being aggressive. (See Dealing with Aggression)
- To enable you to learn specific skills to help you manage triggers for anger effectively.
- Help you identify times when your thoughts do not lead to logical or rational conclusions. Your counsellor will work with you to change how you think and react to certain situations.
- To teach you how to relax, how to stay calm and be peaceful when you feel a surge of anger. (See Relaxation Techniques and Mindfulness)
- To help you learn how to be assertive. By being able to express yourself assertively you will feel more in control of situations. Assertiveness should never be confused with aggression. (See Assertiveness)
- To help you learn some problem-solving techniques. Solving problems can make you feel empowered and will reduce the risk of triggering anger or frustration. (See Problem Solving)
Furthermore, a therapist may help you to see that anger and calmness are not black-or-white emotions. As with all emotions, there are varying degrees of anger: we can be mildly irritated or in a full-blown rage.
People who have been experiencing anger for a long time may have lost the ability to see that there are different levels of anger and a professional will help you readdress this imbalance and recognise the difference between, for example, irritation and fury.
Know When You're Angry
There are often both physical and emotional symptoms to anger and, by recognising these, we are more likely to be able to control them.
Possible Physical Signs of Anger:
- You rub your face frequently.
- Tightly clasping one hand with the other, or making clenched fists.
- Clenching of the jaw or grinding teeth.
- Shallow breathing and/or breathlessness.
- Increased heart-rate.
- Perspiring, sweaty palms.
- Trembling or shaking lips, hands.
- Rocking motion whilst sitting.
- You become rude and lose your sense of humour.
- You talk louder.
- You develop cravings for things that you think may relax you: tobacco, sugar, alcohol, drugs, comfort food, etc.
Possible Emotional Symptoms of Anger
- A desire to ‘run away’ from the situation.
- Feeling sad or depressed.
- Felling guilty or resentful.
- Anxiety, feeling anxious can manifest in many different ways.
- A feeling or desire to lash out verbally or physically.
It is useful to be able to rate anger on some sort of scale (therapists typically use 1 -10).
Low anger (irritation) may involve some of the lesser symptoms listed above (or others). Full-blown rage is likely to include more severe symptoms. Being aware of which symptoms occur and when they appear, makes it easier to rate your anger on a scale and it may also make it easier to recognise when anger is building and to take some action to calm down.
Anger is not a jump from calm to fury, there are different levels and, by being aware of these, it is can be easier to remain in control, to relax and remain calm.
Having an Anger Plan
Recognising where your current anger level is on a scale is an important first step to understanding and dealing with your anger, it also enables you to devise an anger plan.
Anger plans are unique and personal to the individual with anger issues and often relate to specific circumstances or people that have been seen to cause anger. There are some generic components to an anger plan and these may include:
- Removing yourself from the situation that is triggering the anger so that you have space to gather your thoughts and calm down.
- Changing the subject of a conversation – sometimes particular topics of discussion can include anger triggers so steering the conversation in another direction can help minimise this.
- Slowing down. Counting to ten or using some other strategy to slow down the pace of a conversation can sometimes help. Slowing down when you feel anger rising can help you regain some logical thought processes.
- Relaxation techniques – including breathing exercises and visualisations. (See our section: Relaxation Techniques for more)
Keep an Anger Journal
By keeping a record of when you became angry, and for what reasons, can help you understand your anger more comprehensively.
Keeping a journal can be a very powerful method of anger management; the act of writing down the emotions and feelings associated with anger before, during and after an angry episode can focus the mind. Re-reading an anger journal helps to identify techniques for anger management that worked well and also those that didn't help in various circumstances.
To summarise, anger management therapy is based around the belief that knowledge is power – arming yourself with knowledge about your anger (understanding it more fully) can give you the power to recognise and control how you feel in any given circumstance.