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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is anger management counselling effective in treating the problem?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 3

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    Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    Anger management research has mainly been carried out with children and adolescents, where it's usually effective.  The improvements are maintained over time. Research with adults is also positive, with most people benefiting.  Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the main approach that has been used.  My experience with anger management is that the motivation for the person getting help is often important in whether they will benefit.  Someone attending because they're forced to, such as a court order, is less likely to improve than someone who is attending because they know they have a problem and are keen to do something about it.  In some cases, an anger problem ends up being closer to depression, except that the person is blaming other people rather than, as in the case with depression, themselves.  

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    With a passion to see people move forward and break free from the barriers holding them back, Grant is a highly experienced counsellor with over … View Profile

    Hi, interesting question. On the surface it would be easy to say no. Many people know people who have had ‘anger management counselling’ and it doesn't really change them. Why is this?

    Anger Management is about managing anger, that is, utilising strategies to prevent and minimise your anger, e.g., deep breathing, positve self-talk, time outs etc. These strategies definitely work, no doubt about it. However, much like proven diet or fitness plans, they don't seem to work on everyone. It is up to the individual on how committed they are in terms of understanding, applying and reviewing these strategies and this is where the problem lies. 

    I see many people with anger issues where it is a values issue rather than a management issue - their beliefs justify their anger, for example;
    - if someone swears/yells at me I'm entitled to swear and yell at them
    - if someone cuts me off in traffic I'm entitled to get out of the car and tell them what a dipstick driver they are
    - if my kids . . . of course I'll . . .

    When people hold beliefs that justify behaviour that is dis-respectful and abusive they generally leave a path of damaged relationships behind them. When angry they feel entitled to implement destructive behaviours (yelling, swearing, threatening, intimidating, name calling, put downs and physical assault) and their anger outweighs their values of trust and respect. I constantly hear statements like, “well if she doesn't want me to yell at her she shouldn't ………” With these beliefs relationships erode.

    So, for many people to resolve their anger it is about looking at their own belief systems and changing the ones that are unhealthy and replacing them with healthy ones - in conjunction with anger management strategies. For people who are prepared to do this and are determined to be respectful of others, even when they are angry, then YES, anger management counselling is very successful. 

    My opinion is that groups are more successful than one-to-one counselling. I do both but always try and channel people into groups if I can - businesswise there is more money for me in 1-to1 but I think groups provide greater benefit for people. So if you or someone you know is struggling in this area contact your local community/mental health service or Google and find out if there are groups running near you or find a counsellor who specialises in anger. Contact me a call if you would like to chat more.

    Keep pushing on, and don't forget to breathe,

    Grant

  • David Lawson

    Counsellor

    We all have times when we need to talk with a person who really listens to us, someone outside our family or social circle - … View Profile

    In short yes it is.

  • 2

    Thanks

    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    Anger management counselling can be very effective when people are simply seeking help for this particular problem. Often, though, people are sent to anger management when the problem is actually that they are making the choice to use violence (verbal, physical or cmotional) as a way of having power and control over others. This is NOT an anger management issue! The difference is - people who are choosing to use violence are only doing so in relationships or situations where those they are being violent toward are less powerful, or have less status than themselves. So someone may be aggressive and intimidating toward their partner or child, but is obliging and pleasant to their boss, or in their friendship group. This type of person is already able to manage their anger - they are in fact managing it very well in some situations (e.g. when their boss tells them off for a work issue, or directs them to perform a task they may not want to do). They are better to attend a group for people who are choosing to use violence - these are often called Behaviour Change groups, and are offered both privately and through government funded organisations. These groups address underlying beliefs and attitudes that justify violent behaviour, and invite people to be accountable for their choices. These groups do not always work for everyone - after all, someone may not want to give up their beliefs that support them to justify their actions - but can be a very powerful motivation for change, especially when they weigh up what the cost is to them in terms of having positive relationships with others.

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    My speciality is Anger Management for individuals and couples. The program I developed is held over 4 one hour sessions and substantially reduces anger over … View Profile

    Anger management is the term everyone uses, but it is not about managing anger, which is a normal emotion, it is about managing abuse or rage, which is where the anger is taken personally or made personal. I achieve an 80% success rate in reducing anger where those clients want to reduce it and about a 20-30% success rate when clients are mandated to come and don't really want to change. About 60% of my clients are mandated, but a high percentage of those do want to change.

    I use the cognitive principle therapy technique which focus on changing principles or values, not behavior. That is, most abuse is caused by either lack of trust, where jealousy is involved or lack of respect, where the person gets frustrated with themselves or others. The anger cycle where the other person is not doing what I want is therefore:

    -They are not listening to me or doing what I want [lack of respect]

    -They are still doing it  [frustration from lack of respect]

    -I am getting angry [feeling the lack of respect]

    -I become abusive [trying to force respect].

    If the person then complies with the abusive behavior the abusive person feels they got respect through abuse, which was most likely out of fear, but the abusive habit has been created and is easily triggered in the future.

    The method I use to reduce anger in four sesisons is shown at www.cogntiveprinciplematrix.com.au

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    David is a qualified and experienced family therapist, counselling supervisor. He uses acceptance and commitment therapist(ACT) Gottman Method and other evidence based modalities. David has … View Profile

    I think sometimes we can place too much emphasis on an anger management programs and perhaps even counselling to bring about effective behavioural change. Both are good! However in my experience effective behavioural change usually depends largely upon the persons own commitment and willingness to want to make effective change. Some of the characteristics that I have noticed for those that are successful are:

    -People that are willing to take responsibility for their behaviours i.e. non- blaming

    - People that that want to make change for themselves i.e. not to appease others

    - Those that learn to practice self-kindness. I.e. if I am ok then it is easier to be at peace with everyone else.

    - those who can learn to invite acceptance into their lives i.e. Accepting that this is how it is right now, I may not like it but trying to force something different is only going to increase tension, stress and suffering.   

    - Those who are able to be grateful for what they have i.e. gratitude ‘I have’… instead of I don’t have enough which just leads to more tension.

    At the end of the day angry feelings are really determined by what we are thinking or perceive to be true.

    Cheers David   

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    Thanks

    I am a registered psychologist with many years of counselling experience in the field of relationships and fertility issues. In particular my focus is on … View Profile

    Anger management is often effective when using a CBT approach with a combination of calm breathing visualisation, getting in touch with core beliefs and meaning and matching this with clients behaviour. In my practice I find people respond really well to being listened to and understood at what drives their anger and if anger is a secondary or primary emotion.

    For example anger is often a response to hurt, or betrayal and anger especially when it is accompanied by irritability is sometimes a masked depression. On further questioning, the client will discuss other symptoms such as trouble sleeping, feelings of sadness and chronic tiredness with lack of pleasure in social or other activities.

    Most people who benefit from anger management are those that are driven by wanting to improve their relationship with significant others or those who want to start feeling better about themselves. It is good to assess with an angry person if there is any suicidal ideation as anger is often an attempt to push the feelings of despair or helplessness onto others.

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