ERIC Identifier: ED482767
Publication Date: 2003-12-00
Author: Hogan, Eileen K.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services
Anger Management 2: Counselors Strategies and Skills.
Many different strategies and skills for anger management intervention
have been tried
and tested. Some of the most empirically supported interventions are
cognitive-behavioral interventions including relaxation coping skills,
interventions, behavioral coping and social skills training, and problem-solving
According to Dahlen and Deffenbacher (2001), relaxation coping skills
target both the
emotional and physiological arousal associated with anger with the
intent being to lower the anger arousal. In contrast to targeting arousal,
cognitive interventions target biases in information processing and cognitive
appraisals. They help to identify distorted patterns of thinking, develop
more reality-based and less anger-engendering cognitions, and free up problem-solving
and coping resources.
Behavioral coping and social skills training target the actual expression
of anger (vs.
reducing anger arousal). Specific skills training that has been empirically
includes direct coping skills (e.g., interpersonal communication, negotiation,
related coping skills (e.g., parenting, budgeting and financial planning,
communication), and inductive social skills training (e.g., clients
identify and explore
effective behaviors for coping with anger) (Dahlen and Deffenbacher,
Problem-solving skills training is useful when there are no behavioral
skill deficits (e.g.,
poor social skills) but there is a lack of general problem-solving
skills with which to
assess situations and to choose various coping skills. A basic problem-solving
methodology is to identify the problem, generate alternative solutions,
consider theconsequences of each solution, select an effective and appropriate
evaluate the outcomes of implementing the specific response (Skiba
Additional strategies that have been found to be useful in managing
include avoiding situations that make one angry, changing environments,
something positive, engaging in substitute positive activities, and
communication and social skills. Humor has also been found to be helpful
when it is
used constructively to help face problems; sarcastic humor is just
another form of
unhealthy anger expression (Controlling anger before it controls you,
In addition to the strategies and skills highlighted above, there are
and pre-packaged programs for helping people learn to manage their
effectively. These programs vary in intended audience, theoretical
method, and actual skills and techniques used. A summary of several
programs can be
found in Anger Management 3: Structured Interventions.
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS IN ANGER MANAGEMENT INTERVENTIONS
Cultural Impact of Client's Natural Environment. Howells and Day (2002)
importance of understanding the culture a client returns to upon leaving
a counseling or
training session. Will the culture support the behavior changes and
that the client has been learning? In some cases (e.g., the gang a
client hangs out with,
incarcerated clients, institutionalized clients), the culture the client
lives in day-to-day will not necessarily support the kinds of changes a
client may be trying to make.
Indeed, daily survival may be based on vastly different modes of operation
than a client may be practicing in counseling. It is important to clarify
which culture is in charge of the client's daily life (e.g., the family
and its subcultures? the street corner and friends? the neighborhood? the
school and teachers?) and how it may affect a client's success in
learning to manage anger more effectively.
Transferring Skills to the Classroom / Workplace / Home
Another consideration is the adequate transfer of skills learned in
counseling to one's
natural environment. This could be the classroom, the workplace, or
even one's home.
Besley (1999) conducted an experiment on transferring skills to the
environment of a student client.
According to Besley (1999), change begins at a teachable moment, and
four conditions are necessary for change: 1) the person is in an environment
where he or she feelssafe, 2) the person is supported and encouraged during
the change process, 3) theenvironment is relevant to the person, and 4)
the person is involved and has some degree of control in the change process.
In a school setting, when a counselor has been working with a student
develop more effective anger management skills, there still remains
the issue of
encouraging the student to use the new skills outside the counseling
sessions (e.g., in
the classroom, in the cafeteria, on the playground). One proven way
to do this is to have the counselor sit in the classroom (or cafeteria
or playground) with the student and be available to coach the student right
at the moment(s) he or she becomes angry (Besley, 1999). The counselor
can then coach the student's cognitive processes and help the student cope
with impulsivity and, at the same time, model effective and useful skills
for the other students and even the teacher.
Readiness for Anger Management Intervention
The best anger management training delivered by the most qualified counselor
ineffective if the client is not ready for anger management training.
According to Howells & Day (2003), there are several different things
that can impact readiness for anger management.
Sometimes there are a complex array of factors presenting with the anger
People with certain mental and personality disorders may also have
management problem. Or anger management and control may be a symptom
serious mental or personality disorder.
Existing client inferences about their anger "problem" can impact their
clients may view anger as an appropriate response to many situations.
may believe that catharsis is the best approach (expressing anger is
than controlling it) or that angry responses get results (in reality,
outbursts sometimes generate desired short- term results, they rarely
result in long-term
change). Attitudes of self-righteousness, low personal responsibility,
and condemning others also reduce readiness. For some clients, anger
may not even
be considered a problem. In fact, anger may be adaptive in certain
settings for the
client: it may bring with it many social benefits such as perceptions
of higher status,
strength, and competence. Unfortunately, these types of beliefs and
perceptions can be
difficult to uncover and assess.
The client's skill level also impacts readiness for effective treatment.
certain cognitive processes with which to think about consequences
and choices in
order to improve anger management skills. Sometimes a person's impulsive
interfere with the application of such cognitive processes. Other issues
that impact a
client's readiness are difficulty judging the intent of others, underestimating
reaction to anger-provoking situations, wanting to blame conflict on
others, an inability
to distinguish one's feelings, and poor social and problem-solving
Finally, the client's beliefs about treatment impact readiness. Even
in coerced or
mandatory treatment, if the client concurs with the need for treatment
and perceives the
treatment as likely to be helpful in meeting his or her goals, then
coercion is not as big
an issue. However, if the client believes the treatment is not likely
to fulfill his or her
personal goals, then coercion could definitely impact readiness.
How does a counselor positively influence the readiness variables? Counselors
explore the personal goals of the client and help the client become
aware of any
discrepancies between the actual social consequences of their anger
the pursuit of their personal goals. Counselors can work to incorporate
the client's goals and treatment plan into the values and goals of the
existing informal culture of the client.
Counselors can also help clients build appropriate interpersonal and
cognitive skills and
develop an appropriate vocabulary for communicating triggers, thoughts,
emotions, and behaviors.
Variables that Influence Effective Treatment
In studies on the effect of anger management interventions with student
Skiba and McKelvey (2000) found three variables to have the most influence.
First, the length of treatment: typically, more sessions yield stronger
initial outcomes and booster sessions (e.g., annually) improve long-term
outcomes. Second, proper framing: the more the training is made relevant
to the student and the environments in which he or she lives on a daily
basis, the stronger the initial outcomes. Finally, supplemental interventions
(e.g., utilizing weekly goals, utilizing components of Aggression Replacement
Training) help improve initial outcomes. Although these factors were studied
specifically in reference to student populations, they are likely applicable
to other client bases as well.
Anger. Everybody experiences it and everybody expresses it. Some people
their anger in healthy ways. Other people are managed by their anger
ways. Although there are many skills, strategies, and structured programs
Management 3: Structured Interventions) known to help people improve
how they deal with anger, there are many factors to consider when selecting
an effective intervention. In addition to understanding the expression,
function, source, and resulting problems of a client's anger (see Anger
Management 1: An
Overview for Counselors), practitioners can also attempt to understand
the client's cultural needs with respect to dealing with the problem, the
ability of the client to transfer new skills to their daily environments,
and the client's readiness and skill level for dealing with the problem.
Only then can the practitioner choose an intervention that will be truly
effective for the client.
Besley, K. R. (1999). Anger management: Immediate intervention by counselor
Professional School Counseling, 3(2), pp. 81-90.
Controlling anger before it controls you (n.d.). Retrieved July 23,
2003 from National
Mental Health Association Web site: www.nmha.org/infocrt/factsheets/44.cfm
Dahlen, E. R. & Deffenbacher, J. L. (2001). Anger management. In
W. J. Lyddon. & J. V. Jones, Jr. (Eds.), Empirically supported cognitive
therapies: Current and future
applications (pp. 163-181). New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Howells, K. & Day, A. (2003). Readiness for anger management: clinical
and theoretical issues. Clinical Psychology Review, 23. pp. 319-337.
Skiba, R. & McKelvey, J. (2000). What works in preventing school
violence: The safe and responsive fact sheet series - Anger management.
Retrieved July 23, 2003 from http://www.indiana.edu/~safeschl/AngerManagement.pdf