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 their anger issues, while others may attend group therapy. This 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. People often voluntarily participate in classes or therapy, however, 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 the emotion, 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 this type of therapy is to make people stop and think, analyzing their anger instead of resorting to actions that are 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 may be recognized and easier to dismiss.
CBT also incorporates relaxation techniques, which can help people 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 a person recognizes other feelings driving it.
Anger management is often successful to the degree at which people are truly willing to address their feelings of anger. A 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. It is certainly possible for most people to control their anger, and the CBT model has good success when people actively embrace its process.