Why Control Anger?

Posted on: July 5, 2007

George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF

Rather than speak for an hour as requested, I have opted to speak for 40 minutes and allow 20 minutes for questions and answers.

Since anger management has been my area of specialization for the last 25 years, I am in daily contact with Certified Anger Management Providers from all over the world. These providers are the real experts on this topic.

Therefore, in order to make my presentation more relevant to real world concerns, I decided to tap into my extensive network of providers.

I sent emails to a select number of providers in Canada, Australia, England, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, the Philippines and the United States. In my email, I made a very simple request: Please send me ten reasons why anyone should consider completing an anger management course. I will share some of these responses with you, but, first, I would like to make certain that we define what anger management is and is not.

In passing, I would like to suggest that anger management became an international issue following the tragedy of 9/11. Prior to 9/11, anger management was becoming popular in the United States; however, it was almost unheard of in other non-English speaking nations.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anger is a normal human emotion. It is not a pathological condition. Anger is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Nervous and Mental Disorders.

Anger is considered by the American Psychiatric Association as a lifestyle issue which is a problem when it is too intense, occurs too frequently, lasts too long, impacts health, destroys interpersonal relationships or leads to person or property directed aggression.

Given this definition of unhealthy anger, it is immediately apparent that controlling anger is not the issue. Rather, it is unproductive anger which needs to be controlled.

In Birmingham Alabama, a fragile quiet African American woman refused to give up her seat on a local bus to a white man. Her anger was the impetus to change the way our nation treated people of color. In this case, her anger was used in a positive way and did not need to be controlled.

Controlling anger is important and necessary when the anger is a problem to the person experiencing it, or to others.

Mahatma Gandhi was angry over the domination of India by England. He used his anger in a non-aggressive manner to gain independence for India from England. Gandhi taught the world the importance of non violent protest.

There is general agreement among most knowledgeable experts that the way one responds to anger is learned and, therefore, can be unlearned. Alternative approaches to dealing with anger can be taught.

Since anger is not a mental disorder, it is not responsive to counseling, psychotherapy or psychotropic medication.

Therefore, psychiatrists, psychologists, or clinical social workers are not necessarily trained to provide anger management classes unless they have completed specific post graduate training and certification in anger management. If you take a survey of all the residency programs in psychiatry in the United States, you will find that none of them offer training in anger management. If you survey Ph.D. programs in psychology or clinical social work, you will find that there is no training in anger management whatsoever.

Unfortunately, there is a natural societal tendency to assume that Doctors (MDs, PhDs) can provide the answer to any behavior which is considered unacceptable. In the case of anger management, this is simply not true.  Anger management is a course which includes an assessment, workbook, videos, DVDs, posters and other ancillary training materials, teaching enhancement skills in recognizing and managing stress, anger, improving assertive communication and enhancing emotional intelligence.

Anger is a normal and secondary human emotion which is always preceded by some other emotion such as stress, anxiety, depression, shame, disrespect or humiliation. Therefore, anger management classes must deal with the associated issues of stress, communication and emotional intelligence, which are keys to success in managing anger.

All participants in anger management classes should first complete an assessment, which is designed to determine the participant’s level of functioning in recognizing and managing stress, anger, assertive communication and empathy or emotional intelligence.

A fifth category, motivation to change, is also assessed. Candidates who are not motivated to change are not likely to benefit from participating in an anger management class.

Following the completion of an anger management class, each participant should complete a post test to determine the success or lack of success in the course. Success is determined by the results on the Post Test and feedback from significant others.

Many, if not most of the news reports of persons attending anger management courses are inaccurate. Ron Attest is a major league basketball player currently with the Sacramento Kings. He was previously with the Indiana Pacers. Ron is reported to have completed an anger management class while with the Pacers.

This is incorrect. What really happened was quite different. Ron was ordered to see a Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist informed him that he was suffering from depression and gave him a prescription for anti-depressant medication. Ron’s response was, “bullshit, I ain’t crazy and I ain’t taking nothing”. So, in this case, anger management was not a failure. Rather, it was never attempted nor completed.

Milton Bradley, who is now with the Oakland Athletics, was ordered by the Dodgers to attend an anger management class. He found a Christian Counselor from his mother’s church who provided anger management counseling. Unfortunately, the counselor had no training or experience in anger management. This religious based counseling was not in anyway related to teaching skills to recognize and manage anger or stress.

Many celebrities, who are ordered to attend anger management classes through no fault of their own, receive either counseling for non-existing mental disorders or no help at all.

But most of all, in nearly every county, there are classes for people ordered to attend anger management by the court – including such celebrities as Sean Combs, Courtney Love, Mike Tyson, Tommy Lee, Omar Sharif, Alec Baldwin, and Shannen Doherty. In spite of this, there is no state in the nation with standards that regulate the practice of anger management. Anyone can claim to provide anger management with or without training, experience or a specific curriculum.

Throughout the nation, such classes have become a fixture of modern life, run by thousands of criminal justice systems, private therapists and community mental health centers. The lack of a specific, tested curriculum is common nationwide.

The most credible research on the effectiveness of anger management comes from the Canadian Bureau of Prisons. The Canadian Bureau of Prisons has conducted a fifteen year study which demonstrated that anger management classes are effective under the following conditions:

  1. When there is a curriculum with client workbooks which include all of the material to be presented in the course.
  2. All providers are trained in the most effective techniques for teaching the course content.
  3. Pre and Post tests are conducted on each participant.
  4. Only motivated defendants are accepted into these classes.
  5. There must be integrity in the teaching of these courses which means that no ancillary handouts or shortcuts are taken.

I have many case examples of successes in anger management which I would like to share with you.

I will now share with you now, a summary of the responses which I received rewarding the question: Why Control Anger?

The most important reason to consider controlling unhealthy anger is the fact that legitimate anger management programs actually work.

Anger management works

According to the Canadian study, 87 per cent of motivated participants who complete a structured anger management class teach the anger management skills offered in these classes.

Seven years ago, I conducted a pilot program for the U.S. Postal Service for 16,000 employees in one postal district in Los Angeles.

In twelve months, the postal service experienced saving of 1.5 million dollars.

There was a reduction of accidents, sick day usage, absenteeism and workplace violence. There was an increase in morale and productivity.

It has been a long time since you heard of anyone going postal. The Postal Service is proactive. Rather than waiting until a problem develops, the postal service has moved to prevent workplace aggression.

Any Postal Employee can attend an anger management class on the clock for ten sessions without cost. A manager or supervisor can recommend anger management for an employee whose work performance indicates stress or anger. Any manager or supervisor can order anger management for an employee for behavior which suggests the need for help in managing anger as a condition of continued employment.

When Anger management is done properly, it is cost saving intervention

Anger management reduces costly litigation

Currently, the largest numbers of referrals to anger management Classes come from businesses including fortune 500 companies.

When employees are the victim or perpetrator of verbal of physical threats or a hostile workplace environment, it poses a tremendous liability for the parent company. The

average cost of a liability lawsuit by employees in this type of situation is $700,000 per episode.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of the company to mandate anger management for employees who threaten or create a hostile work environment.

My main office is located in Brentwood. Because of this, I receive a large number of referrals from the movie industry. Many of these referrals are from film production companies and Artist Agencies. Both film production and agencies representing artists are historically high pressured places to work. I recently provided services for an agency executive who had lost an out of court settlement for creating an unsafe environment. He and his company had paid the settlement as well as the attorney fees and the court costs. To their surprise, three years later, they were forced by the litigants to follow through with anger management, which had been a part of the original settlement but was ignored.

Anger management improves the bottom line

The Malibu realty association contracted with me to provide emotional intelligence coaching for most of its members. While this is not anger management, it is one of the four topics which are the anchors of most anger management classes.

Anger management enhances communication skills

Assertive communication is one of the most powerful skills for anyone to acquire. I have many examples of this from clients who have taken the time to master assertive communication skills. For many anger management clients, anger management turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Anger management teaches stress management skills

Anger management leads to a reduction of sick day usage

Anger management reduces accidents and absenteeism

Anger management provides a framework to develop an early warning system to detect potently explosive employees

Anger management Improves employee retention by improving your work environments using emotional intelligence and assertive communication.

Anger management Reduces malingering

Here are some of the benefits of controlling anger for individuals

Anger management improves self-esteem

Anger management increases empathy

Anger management improves morale

Anger management improves leadership skills

Anger management improves interpersonal relationships

Some benefits of controlling anger for physicians

As an indication of the importance of anger management, in the medical field, the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation has recently determined that all hospitals in the nation must have a written policy on “disruptive physicians”

Disruptive physicians are defined as physicians whose aggressive behavior impacts patient care.

Anderson & Anderson has a contract to provide executive coaching for a hospital chain with 63 hospitals throughout the nation.

Anger management improves doctors’ bedside manner

Anger management improves patient care in medical settings

Anger management reduces staff burnout

Anger management improves interdisciplinary communication

Reduces financial and/or legal problems

Anger management reduces staff turnover among nurses and ancillary staff in medical settings.

The advantages of controlling anger for substance abuse programs

Anger management reduces relapse in substance abuse

Anger management can be apart of the program’s Aftercare.

Anger management can be used in Relapse Prevention

Anger management can be used in Activities of Daily Living groups.

Anger management can be used in Family Groups

Anger management can be used for Staff Training “Teamwork Building

Anger Management can prevent a small relapse from turning into binging.

Often, substance abusers find themselves binging after a small relapse because the pain, shame and anger of relapse are uncomfortable in themselves.

Anger Management is a deterrent to initial drug use as many drug users begin their drug career in an effort to escape pain and anger.

Anger Management is essential in relapse prevention as drug users learn how to manage their emotions and reactions to daily life stressors.

Some results of anger management in graduate schools

A University of Florida study found that anger management lessons improved the behavior of all pupils, not just the troublemakers.

 Professor Stephen Smith and his team designed a 20-lesson anger management curriculum and tested it on 200 Florida pupils aged 10 and 11. They found that classroom ‘harmony’ improved when the children were taught how to control their temper and avoid trouble.

In summary, if anger management is defined as a class which is designed to teach skills in recognizing anger, stress, communication and enhancing emotional intelligence, anger management actually works. If anger management is defined as counseling or psychotherapy, it does not work.

Regardless of the intervention offered, without motivation to change, nothing at all can be expected to work.

The most effective anger management is provided by trained facilitators with a curriculum and an assessment component.

George Anderson, BCD, MSW, CAMF


2 Responses to "Why Control Anger?"

[…] anger management classes must deal with the associated issues … article continues at Carlos R. Todd brought to you by Depression and Clinical […]

George Anderson is an exceptional speaker and healer in the area of anger management. Thank you George for offering this imporant information to the public. This piece offers the community a chance to understand the benefits and personal value of getting help. The Anderson model works! As an Anderson & Anderson Anger Management Provider I have had the opportunity to tranform the lives by offering a clear path and great education that can save marriages, careers, and one’s personal integrity.

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