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Does Anger Counseling Work?

Learn about the effectiveness of anger counseling from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


Hi, I am Ryan Fuller. I'm a cognitive behavior therapist practicing in New York city. I'm going to talk to you a little bit about some frequently asked questions about anger management.

The first is, "Does anger management work?" Well, the good news is that it does. Let me be clear. There are plenty of disorders that in fact cognitive behavior therapy and really any psychological treatment that we have does not work for, but even though there is a lack of diagnostic information available for anger, we do know that people have anger management issues really do benefit from at least four different effective treatments. Now I want to be clear. There are treatments out there that in fact will not help anger management issues and might even make them worse. So it's important that you really advocate for yourself by speaking to the clinician about what kind of training they have and asking them to talk to you about the scientific support for that particular treatment but we do know is that if you engage in individual or group anger management and you're receiving very effective cognitive interventions, so that's a kind of cognitive behavior therapy where you learn to change your thinking. We're talking about inferences, attributions, beliefs, evaluations and expectancies. If we learn to change them and to become more realistic, flexible and rational, we tend to decrease our anger responses, and so cognitive interventions are in fact helpful.

Another intervention that's been shown to be quite helpful is relaxation. First, we can learn to just use relaxation to bring down the level of physiological activation, which helps anger, but there are additional techniques. This is where you really want to consult a professional where you, in fact, pair the anger response, so we get the client angry and then have them relax themselves right afterwards. So they practice becoming angry and then relaxing again and again, and eventually become quite adept at bringing on a relaxation response and calming their anger down in the moment.

The third is problem-solving skills. So this is where they actively address the problems, and the triggers, and any other skills deficits they might have at figuring out how to overcome or navigate around the potential anger trigger and then we work on communication skills really teaching people to assertively, respectfully and effectively communicate so they can really navigate in a personal conflict at a much higher level.

So with those skills and a combination of all of those, we find that anger management strategies actually can be very very successful, and people who have anger management issues when they engage in individual or group therapy can in fact bring down their anger symptoms and improve their behaviors.

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