Anger Management for Doctors

Posted on: May 22, 2007

Anger Management for Doctors

One of the first questions posed by physicians inquiring about resources for abusive physicians is “Do I have to undergo a psychiatric assessment”. This question is extremely important to any practicing physician as it will almost certainly affect his or her entire career if there is anything in any file suggesting impairment or even an assessment. Therefore, if the goal of a program is to help abusive physicians who are not addicted to drugs/alcohol or psychiatrically disturbed, it must not include a mandatory psychiatric assessment.

— Carlos Todd, Anger Hurts blog

Since the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders (DSM-IVtr) does not classify anger as a mental disorder (other than Impulsive Explosive Disorder, which is not common anger), a psychiatric evaluation is not indicated for physicians, police officers, executives, or anybody else who has an anger problem.

It is important to screen for other mental disorders. Doing anger management with a person suffering from untreated schizophrenia or bipolar disorder will rarely work until the underlying disorder has been treated. Frequently, screenings reveal dysthymia, depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which had previously gone undetected. This, however, is not a psychiatric assessment, but a mental health screening which can be done by any licensed and qualified psychotherapist. It need not become a part of anybody’s record.

Anger management classes or executive coaching sessions are psycho-educational. They are interventions to train the recipients in skills to help recognize, contain, and defuse anger, to help prevent aggressive or hostile situations for ever occurring, to develop emotional intelligence, to gain skills in stress management and stress prevention, and to communicate in assertive, rather than pathological manners.

None of these fall under the province of psychiatric or psychological treatment. While some cognitive behavioral interventions are taught to anger management students, this is not cognitive behavioral therapy. Participants are students, not patients.

Often, physicians, attorneys, executives, and other professionals need discretion. They fear taking an anger management class where others will know about their shortcomings. Additionally, law-enforcement officers who need anger management training fear both the stigma of an “anger management” label as well as being in a group with those whom they may have to police.

The solution for these reservations is to offer one-on-one executive coaching or professional development. Additionally, a “Law Enforcement Interaction Skills” group may be the perfect venue for helping police officers who cannot afford to pay for one-on-one sessions.

Executive coaching is inevitably more costly than tuition for an anger management class, but professionals should be able to afford this. Anderson & Anderson offers training and certification in the additional skills needed for executive coaching, above and beyond what are required for teaching anger management classes.

An interesting suggestion for anger management facilitators is to offer Law Enforcement classes at a drastically reduced rate … nearly free! Why? Because the people who are required to take these classes put their lives on the line every day to promote civil order. This is one way of showing gratitude to police officers for their thankless job. A weekly class for police officers only may not generate much income, but it will generate good will, and can be used to generate favorable publicity.

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Article by John Elder


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