What is Anger Management Therapy?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Anger management therapy can describe a number of psychological methods for helping to reduce expression of anger. Typically, these methods don’t guarantee that people won’t feel anger, but they often help people keep from “letting fly” with their anger in destructive and unhelpful ways. They may also focus on how to recognize when anger is a symptom of other emotions like fear, sadness, or worry, that people have more difficulty expressing. Seeing a therapist for this issue may be helpful too, because therapists could suggest whether excess anger is symptomatic of other psychiatric conditions that would benefit from treatment.

Some people need help dealing with their anger issues.
Some people need help dealing with their anger issues.

Numerous psychological theoretical orientations take a stab at anger management therapy, but usually if therapy is only for anger management, it tends to be time limited with the specific goal of learning how to process anger. It may be that some people need lengthier therapy, but either group or individual therapy lasting for no longer than 20 weeks at most may help many people who claim anger as their primary psychological issue. It may be shorter than this, and some therapists suggest successful therapy might occur with about 8-10 sessions.

Therapy may help couples to reduce the anger in their relationship.
Therapy may help couples to reduce the anger in their relationship.

Therapy could include learning when to recognize a feeling of gathering anger or understanding situations that occur that are most likely to provoke it. Various strategies for handling anger at these moments could then be tried. These could include trying not to let the mind sink into a state where it exaggerates the circumstances, avoiding some situations, using relaxation techniques, or attempting to take a time out to consider what is creating the anger.

People who suffer from road rage might benefit from anger management therapy.
People who suffer from road rage might benefit from anger management therapy.

Many of the methods used in anger management therapy lean on either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Both of these therapies teach people to evaluate the underlying thoughts creating strong emotions, and help to retrain people to avoid needless and untrue thoughts that have predicted behavior in the past. In particular, acceptance and commitment therapy can work on reframing situations to interpret them in the best possible light, instead of always assuming they mean the worst possible thing. Moving away from black and white thinking to a stance of considering a multiple range of interpretations may prove useful in helping to quell anger or learning to express it in different ways.

Although anger is considered a healthy emotion, difficulty with controlling it may lead to high blood pressure.
Although anger is considered a healthy emotion, difficulty with controlling it may lead to high blood pressure.

In most psychological thinking, anger isn’t wrong. It’s a very normal emotion, but people may be in trouble when they express anger at other people or even at themselves. It can also be an emotion that masks other things. Many people can reach for anger easily but would have trouble expressing loss or sadness. It’s often the case that those with deeply felt anger are in severe emotional pain that they cannot express. Some anger management therapy may be directed toward helping individuals understand emotional pain that is showing up as anger.

Even if people are questing for answers about their anger, they still need to find ways to express it that are not harmful. There are again lots of techniques for this, and each anger management therapy type may suggest slightly different tactics. Many people respond quite positively to the varied anger management therapies available, if they are willing to learn new ways of being. Those interested can find various groups and individual therapists that specialize in this issue in most mid-sized or larger communities.

People with anger issues might benefit from individual therapy.
People with anger issues might benefit from individual therapy.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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