Anger Management Therapy: Do You Need It?
Dr. Kimberly Riley
It is true, those people probably do need help regulating themselves, but what about the people who you rarely see express their anger. The people who are internally suffering from their angry thoughts need anger management also.
Maybe you know someone who is having major consequences in their life because of their anger or someone who seems to have it all together, but could be going through something alone because of their unexpressed anger; anger management therapy might be their first step in the process of healing.
What is Anger Management Therapy?
Anger management therapy is a therapy that is focused on helping the client understand their anger and where it comes from, express their anger in a healthy way, and manage or cope with their anger symptoms.
Anger management therapy can also take place in a group setting where many people get together and talk about their anger with others in a meaningful way. In the group setting, it is possible to gain insight about your own anger through listening to ways the group members express theirs.
Anger management therapy or anger management group therapy is open to everyone. There are no criteria that you have to meet to get help for your anger. Anger exists inside of people who never outwardly express it. They would benefit from anger management therapy because they would learn how to acknowledge what it is that they feel and how to share it with others.
You don’t have to be out of control to get help. People who are a little easier to identify as angry can benefit from anger management because their angry outbursts may be a symptom of another emotion that is not yet recognized and their current expression might be causing more problems in their life than they want.
Anger management therapy can look very different depending on who the person or people are who are participating. If you have a whole family, therapy may look at the family system and the way that everyone expresses their anger, including digger deeper into the message and norms that already exist in the family system.
If it is a couple who is coming in and trying to determine how to manage the anger in their relationship, the therapy will likely be centered around patterns and responses of the individuals to one another. Children who are part of anger management therapy will probably use a variety of tools to help them understand how to recognize when they are angry and then regulate their behavior, much like what would happen with an individual who comes in to work on their anger.
In an anger management group setting, everyone gets the chance to hear from one another and reflect on how their own anger shows up when they are interacting with other people. The group setting is unique because it is not controlled, meaning it is a space where part of the process includes people managing their behaviors as they work on how they interact with people who are maybe similar in some ways, but different in others.
It can be challenging, especially when a person is learning how to identify and then manage their anger in a new way for the first time, but it is rewarding because the change can be seen by others instantly and the feedback is instant and is also based on how the group members respond to one another.
When Should I Get Anger Management Therapy?
You or someone you know might be in a position where you are suffering greatly because of some current or past hurts in your life. That hurt might be causing you to experience several different emotions, including anger. If you have noticed that your anger seems to be growing and you are unsure of how to manage it, anger management therapy may be something you want to look into.
A lot of people will either not recognize the behaviors in their life as being connected to their anger and frustration or see only their anger and no other emotions that are attached to the anger, such as sadness. Getting into anger management can be helpful for the person who knows something is happening but isn’t sure what it is or why.
Maybe you are expressing your anger in a healthy way, but are concerned about the judgement of others because you are angry or possibly you are upset with yourself because you think you shouldn’t feel angry at all. People tend to have different ideas around what the presence of anger means.
Some believe anger is okay and express it in ways that don’t cause more harm to themselves or those around them. Other people maybe aren’t so sure about anger and the role it has in their life. Christians sometimes wonder what God says about anger and are confused about what is okay and what isn’t.
Here are a few Scriptures centered around anger in the Bible that may prompt some deeper thoughts about what is expected for the Christian who experiences anger:
And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry – Ephesians 4:26 NLT
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19 NLT
People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness. – Proverbs 14:29 NLT
As you read these Scriptures you may be struggling with how to apply them to your life and your personal narrative, so anger management might even be helpful because it provides the space to dig deeper into how your anger defines you spiritually.
We know that anger is something God felt often throughout the Bible, so we may take time in anger management to look at how our anger is similar to God’s and how we can manage our anger in a similar way.
Here are a few Scriptures that point to the way that God displayed His own anger:
The Lord saw this and drew back, provoked to anger by his own sons and daughters. – Deuteronomy 32:19 NLT
In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. – Romans 9:22 NLT
Anger Management for Children
Children who are angry often have enough anger symptoms that they meet the criteria for certain mental health disorders which then puts them in the position of needing anger management therapy. Some of those diagnoses are; conduct disorder, disruptive mood regulation disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and adjustment disorder.
Children will have angry outbursts, destroy property, go against authority, misbehave in one setting or several settings, start fights, or have other big behaviors that affect their quality of life and the quality of life of those around them. These children may have anger management therapy on their own or with their family.
It is important to have at least a few sessions with the whole family because parents and family members will need to learn how to respond to the anger of the child and ways to help the child manage their anger before it becomes out of control.
Not only children who have been diagnosed with certain anger related diagnosis will benefit from anger management, but also children who have experienced loss or been a part of foster care may feel angry about the events in their life and want to come in and talk about ways to manage those feelings or children who might be dealing with a medical illness and who have anger and confusion about what to do next.
Anger management therapy doesn’t have to wait until a child’s behavior is causing trouble. It can also be preventative.
What Are Some Anger Management Techniques?
Maybe now you are curious about some of the things you may take from anger management therapy. Some techniques may be used before you experience anger and some may be used afterwards. Anger management will help you understand your anger and where it comes from so that you can be prepared for your own response or the response of others if that is what makes you most frustrated.
One technique for managing your anger towards others is understanding what makes you mad. If you are the type of person who tends to be frustrated when you get to the movie theater and all of the close seats are taken, you can plan for that by either purchasing your tickets in advance to secure a certain seat or arriving early.
In the middle of your own irritation you may not come up with a solution to something that seems complex but really isn’t once you have a plan in place. You are removing the possibility of being angry about something that you can get ahead of or remove by making a change to your own behavior. You will learn that technique in anger management therapy.
Another technique for managing your anger in specific settings, especially if you become angry when you are confused is to learn how to ask clarifying questions. In relationships people find themselves communicating poorly and living in a world of anger with one another because there is a lack of clarity and an abundance of misunderstandings.
If you know that you and your partner, friends, or children often have arguments only to find out later that something was misunderstood, it might be worthwhile to take a few extra moments to ask for clarity.
You can do that by saying “I am not sure I understood what you said, do you mind repeating that?” or “I think I heard you, but I am not sure what you mean. Could you explain that to me?”. When we stop ourselves long enough to get clarity, often our anger either never starts or goes away when we have a clear understanding of what is going on.
Coping skills for anger work wonderfully. Sometimes we are unable to prevent the angry moment from happening or we cannot remove the things in our life that makes us the angriest, so we are left to respond to our anger.
In anger management therapy we can understand the concept of using coping skills. Some common coping skills are; listening to music, writing in a journal, drawing or painting, taking a walk, exercising, talking with a trusted person, playing video games, watching funny shows or looking at funny material.
The key is finding something that takes you away from your anger enough that you can refocus on whatever the issue is with a clear mind later on. We don’t want to ignore the anger forever, but we cannot live it all the time either, so learning how to cope with our angry feelings is helpful for managing our anger in a healthy way.
Expression of anger is something that people will either do a lot or never do at all. Either way, there are times where openly expressing our anger can lead to a big consequence and not expressing it can lead to the same thing. Learning new ways to express our anger when we have always done it one way can be frustrating all together.
Anger management therapy can be a safe place to start to practice the technique of sharing anger in a positive way. One technique for children that works well is having them draw a picture of their face when they experience something. They don’t have to find the words to say, they can just draw a picture of a person with inward eyebrows or a straight mouth.
It is one less step they have to take to express themselves when they can do it in a way that is natural for them. Adults can do the same or write out their feelings so that they also do not have to search for the words or appropriate tone to actually speak about their anger, instead, they can write a letter to someone and share their thoughts.
These are just a few techniques that might be helpful in managing your anger if you or someone you know is struggling with anger. If your anger feels unmanageable, you can always reach out for help from one of the therapists here at Seattle Christian Counseling. All are equipped and ready to help you learn to understand and manage your anger.
“Alert”, Courtesy of Julian Howard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Remembering Grandma”, Courtesy of Tim Doerfler, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Attitude”, Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “MAD”, Courtesy of Andre Hunter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License