ERIC Identifier: ED482766
Publication Date: 2003-12-00
Author: Hogan, Eileen K.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services
Anger Management 1: An Overview for Counselors. ERIC Digest.
Anger. Everybody experiences it and everybody expresses it. It is a natural and healthyhuman emotion when managed effectively. But it can be a source of various physical, mental, emotional, social, or legal problems when not managed effectively. It is often a problem in one of these areas that brings a client in for counseling, either on a voluntary or a mandated basis. As a counselor, there are numerous and varied options for intervention. And there are numerous and varied aspects to consider before selecting an appropriate intervention.
There are many different views from which to consider the construct
of anger. Dahlen
and Deffenbacher (2001) identify three main ingredients to anger. First,
there is an
anger-eliciting stimulus, typically an easily-identifiable external
source (e.g., somebody
did something to me) or internal source (e.g., emotional wounds). Second,
there is a
pre-anger state, which includes one's cognitive, emotional, and physical
state at the
time of provocation; one's enduring psychological characteristics;
and one's cultural
Dahlen and Deffenbacher (2001) also identify four related domains in which anger exists. First, in the emotional and experiential domain, anger is a feeling state ranging in intensity from mild annoyance to rage and fury. Second, in the physiological domain, anger is associated with adrenal release, increased muscle tension, and activation of the sympathetic nervous system.
Third, in the cognitive domain, anger is associated with biased information processing. Fourth, in the behavior domain, anger can be either functional (e.g., being assertive, setting limits) or dysfunctional (e.g., being aggressive, withdrawing, using alcohol and drugs, etc.).
Rhoades (n.d.) provides additional ways to understand anger. What is the source and expression of the anger? Is it intense and situation-specific or chronic and generalized? What is the extent of the anger? Does it easily and quickly evolve into deep feelings of resentment? Is it coupled with intense aggression or explosiveness? Has it become uncontrollable? What is the anger hiding? Is it a cover-up for fear, being used as a shield to keep other people at a distance so they are unable to see one's insecurities and weaknesses?
The expression of anger can take many forms. Some common means of expressing anger include venting, resisting, seeking revenge, expressing dislike, avoiding the source of anger, and seeking help (Marion, 1997). However, in many cultures, people are taught that while expressing anxiety, depression or other emotions is acceptable, expressing anger is not (Controlling anger before it controls you, n.d.). As a result, many people never learn how to handle their own or others' anger effectively or to channel it constructively.
Gorkin (2000) distinguishes between the intention and the usefulness
Although much of the work in anger management focuses on helping people
How does a client know when his or her anger is more of a problem than a help? Few formal assessments exist to quantifiably measure the level of one's anger. However, there are numerous qualitative indicators to review with clients to understand the extent of their concerns about their anger and anger management strategies.
* Is the anger chronic, long-lasting, too intense, or too frequent (Rhoades,
Although some of these symptoms may be indicative of other issues, they are also often related to unresolved anger. The bottom line is that when a person becomes a victim to his or her anger, the anger is a problem.
According to Wellness Reproductions (1991), there are three main methods of dealing with anger. First, there is "stuffing" one's anger, a process in which a person may or may not admit his or her anger to self or others and in which one avoids direct confrontations. A person may stuff his or her anger out of fear of hurting someone, fear of rejection, fear of damaging relationships or fear of losing control. Often, a person who stuffs anger is unable to cope with strong, intense emotions and thinks that anger is inappropriate orunacceptable. Stuffing one's anger typically results in impaired relationships and compromised physical and mental health.
Second, there is escalating one's anger, a process in which a person
and shame. The purpose is to demonstrate power and strength while avoiding
expression of underlying emotions. A person who escalates his or her
anger is often
afraid of getting close to other people and lacks effective communication
skills. Escalating one's anger typically yields short-term results, impaired
compromised physical and mental health. Sometimes, escalating one's
anger also leads
to physical destruction of property or to abusive situations, thus
adding the potential for
Third, there is managing one's anger, a process in which a person is
open, honest, and
direct and in which one mobilizes oneself in a positive direction.
The focus is on the
specific behavior that triggered the anger and on the present (past
issues are not
brought into the current issue). A person who manages his or her anger
and white thinking (e.g., never, always, etc.), uses effective communication
share feelings and needs, checks for possible compromises, and assesses
what is at
stake by choosing to stay angry versus dealing with the anger. Managing
results in an increased energy level, effective communication skills,
It is this process of managing one's anger that is the primary goal of counseling people to effectively deal with anger. The goal is not to eliminate anger. Anger is a natural and healthy emotion. After a client acknowledges he or she is angry, a counselor can help the client learn how to reduce the emotional and physiological arousal that anger causes and learn to control its effects on people and the environment. To be moreeffective, practitioners should attempt to understand the extent and expression of the anger, the specific problems resulting from the anger, the function the anger serves, the underlying source of the anger, and the domain the problems occur in (e.g. emotional, physiological, or cognitive) before choosing interventions for the client. Specific strategies and skills as well as some additional considerations in helping clients manage anger are reviewed in Anger Management 2: Counseling Strategies and Skills.
Controlling anger before it controls you (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2003 from National Mental Health Association Web site: http://www.nmha.org/infoctr/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.
Gorkin, M. (2000, August 17). The four faces of anger. Retrieved July
23, 2003 from
Marion, M. (1997). Guiding young children's understanding and management of anger. Young Children, 52(7), p. 62-67.
Rhoades, G. F. (n.d.) Anger management online conference transcript.
23, 2003 from www.healthyplace.com/Communities/Abuse/Site/transcripts/anger
Schwartz, G. E. (1990). Psychobiology of repression and health: A systems approach. In J. L. Singer (Ed.), Repression and dissociation: Implications for personality theory, psychopathology, and health. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wellness Reproductions. (1991). Anger management. Retrieved July 23,
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