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What Is an Anger Thermometer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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An anger thermometer is a tool people can use to manage anger and apply coping tips. It can be used with people of all ages, including young children and adults with serious mental health conditions. Most commonly, it is applied to children with behavioral problems and is part of a larger counseling program designed to help children handle their emotions productively. It can also be part of anger management counseling for adults.

This tool consists of a visual representation of a thermometer that people can use to identify how angry they are. It can range through options like feeling calm, irritated, annoyed, angry, and enraged. Different words may be used, and some include lists of terms to describe different levels of anger to allow the patient to fully describe emotions.

One use of the anger thermometer can be to identify situations that make a patient angry and determine how to defuse them. A child might express annoyance or frustration when a toy is in use by someone else, for example. The therapist could work with the client to discuss different situations that cause anger and how to deal with them productively. For instance, the child in the above example could politely ask to play with the toy, or could find another activity to work on while waiting.

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It can also be used to assess the response to a situation after the fact. This can be especially useful with children who may be shy about expressing their feelings. They can use the anger thermometer to visually represent their level of upset about a situation, and they can write, or talk to an adult, about what specifically made them angry. Laying out the level of emotion and the response can help the child identify coping skills to avoid such situations in the future. Tools like the anger thermometer can also help people figure out what they need to receive a satisfactory resolution to a situation.

Clients may be asked to keep mood journals, describing their moods throughout the day for a set period of time. The journal can include the anger thermometer as a shorthand to discuss moods, and the client can also explain why feelings of anger arose, and what actions were taken to deal with them. A person with an anger problem at work, for instance, might express frustration with a coworker who is slow to get a concept, and could resolve it by asking a patient coworker to help.

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