Anger management refers to therapeutic strategies that allow people to overcome excess feelings of anger, and to not act upon destructive impulses that anger may cause. Sometimes people have individual therapy sessions to work on anger management. In other cases, people may work in group therapy to assist them with anger management. Anger management therapy may be court-mandated, when a person is clearly in need of help to control feelings of rage. Some prisons have also begun anger management sessions to help criminals with violent pasts become free of anger driven behaviors. Frequently, people voluntarily participate in anger management classes or therapy, when they recognize that their behavior and reactions are well outside the normal range.
The most popular anger management model at present is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In this method, those participating in therapy record moments when anger is at its greatest, identify feelings or “hot thoughts” that drive anger, list reasons why such thoughts may or may not hold true, and then reanalyze their level of anger. Emotions are generally rated on a percentage basis.
A person participating in CBT might start with a 95% feeling of anger, and through this thoughtful process, bring this level down to 60%. One of the goals with CBT in anger management is to make people stop and think, and thus analyze their anger instead of resorting to actions destructive to themselves or other people. As people become more adept at CBT, they may be able to do this process in their heads. Situations or “hot thoughts” that evoked anger before will be recognized and easier to dismiss.
CBT also incorporates relaxation techniques, which can help those learning anger management to diffuse anger. These exercises might include deep breathing, as well as the normal analysis work associated with CBT. Most therapists recognize anger as an emotion used to mask deeper feelings of hurt such as grief or sadness. Help is given in anger management training so that people can identify the deeper feelings behind anger. Often anger can be diffused when one recognizes other feelings driving it.
Anger management is successful to the degree at which people are truly willing to address their feelings of anger. Diagnosis of underlying conditions causing excess anger like severe depression, anxiety disorder, or bipolar conditions must also be made to identify those people who might need medication to fully recover. Anger management is certainly possible, and the CBT model does boast success when people actively embrace its process.