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Anger Management or Therapy?

In our model of anger management, we teach skill-building, new ways to think, and new ways to respond when confronted with anger triggers. This is distinct from a “therapy” approach to anger management which may involve exploring understanding the deeper root causes of a person’ s anger. In some cases, therapy may also involve medications with anti-depressive agents or other drugs.

We recently had a young woman in our anger management classes who was discouraged because she had had a “slip” since completing our classes and had gotten angry at an obnoxious co-worker.  We re-assured her that this happens sometimes and that learning new skills like anger management should be seen as a process, not an absolute. With all processes, there will be ups and downs, forward progress and sometimes back steps.

That said, she happens to be a person who  also needed therapy to deal with her anger because of underlying issues in her life which she has not yet dealt with and which contribute to her angry outbursts. Understanding  where anger comes from doesn’t necessarily change it, but in this case it would probably help, if used in conjunction with the specific anger management  skills she learned in class.

As this case illustrates, as a psychologist, my answer to the question: “Will anger management work for me or do I need therapy?” is usually, “start with anger management (it is much cheaper and much faster), and then add therapy if needed.”  If you are already in therapy, but you still have anger problems, then I would recommend going to anger management to supplement what you are learning in therapy.