Anger Management

Since I get a number of inquiries asking if we do "anger management" counseling, I want to spell out some thoughts and responses.  WKM

1. Defining the Issues

Anger Management, Domestic Violence, Road Rage - are increasingly common terms in this age of heightened life stress.

Anger Management problems usually have to do with an inability to manage or control one’s own anger responses in the face of increased frustration and stress.

Domestic Violence is much the same with the addition of coming from a (usually inherited) belief system that it is right and necessary to maintain order in a household by any and all means available.

Road Rage often comes from a perceived violation of "my personal space" on the road - to which an equal (or greater) violation in return is deemed justified.

All three are rightly considered by our society to be "offenses" where internal control is lost or inappropriate, and the intervention of external control is warranted.  When someone loses it (for example, in a domestic situation), it is important that somebody else (i.e. police authorities) step in to provide order and protection.

2. How to Change

The normal goal, or ideal, for each of us, is to develop our own adequate internal controls by which to maintain our own order, especially in the face of increased frustration and stress.  And the purpose of our own internal order includes protecting all others from any violation, especially by our own actions.  For thousands of years, the hallmark of any well-developed society is that the vulnerable within it are protected.  (In the Old Testament, it is found that whenever God heard the cry of a widow or an orphan, his wrath would be kindled beyond all other situations.)  And even our own day, the Vatican has recently seen it appropriate to issue a set of Ten Commandments for drivers.

One further characteristic of the problem is that the part of the human brain that could help us think more clearly about these issues is generally overpowered by that other (much more primitive) part that locks us into "fight, flight, or freeze" responses.  That's why most effective change with "anger issues" is very difficult work.  A good rule of thumb is that if a person has more than one anger episode in five years, it signifies a deep-set problem.

So the process of change is not just a simple shift of behavior, such as changing which way the toilet paper unfolds.  Rather it involves an extensive “re-wiring” of the brain, so that in times of crisis, our manner of responding will come from having formed a very different "groove."

The optimum type of resource to help bring about change - both in behavior and thinking patterns (belief systems) is Group Therapy.  So, if you want your best shot at really changing, this is where to go.  It's definitely not easy, but its effective.

Also, any useful therapy must be sufficiently powerful to overcome the near-universal pattern of denial by the offender that his or her problem is as serious as it is.  This is true even considering the considerable feeling of shame often involved. 

3. Resources for Change

At this time I don't have much familiarity with local resources for specific "anger management" work.

You may also contact Resource Genesee at 810-232-6300 for additional assistance.

I myself will not provide just a quick series of sessions just to satisfy the demands of a court or probation officer.  In such cases, if you work with me, I may insist from the beginning on a written commitment to a lengthy program of therapeutic work.

Individual therapy can be useful in a number of cases.  I have had training and experience in this field, and am familiar with its underlying dynamics.  There are cases where individual therapy may be much more effective over a lengthy period of time, but taking longer and costing more than standard group work. 

In any case, I am willing to provide an initial consultation to further evaluate your needs, circumstances and options.  

4.  An alternative viewpoint 

I have recently come upon a fascinating article by Stanley Siegel, of Psychology Tomorrow magazine, on the 'health' of anger.  It presents an alternative to 'standard psychological practice' in "anger management" counseling.  Plus, it puts into focus some of the evolving ideas that have developed within my own practice over recent years.  Take a look:

    Bill McDonald   810 629-0760

rev. September 13, 2014