Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Anger management counselling

Anger Management

Anger in itself is a naturally occuring state, and can be considered a natural emotion. It should be noted from the start that "feeling anger" and "acting angry" are two different things.
Sometimes we get the "feeling" of anger. This can be for good reason, or inappropriate. An example of a good reason might be when you are in danger of violence, you can not avoid it and the "fight and flight" response kicks in. This is a natural example of where feeling angry and aggressive might save your life!

The problem with "feeling" angry is it does not always kick in when we want it to. This is because of mis-association between events, people, things, or places and a feeling of unease or danger. Thus we inappropriately respond to something with the "feeling" of danger or anger. There are two main reasons for this:

1. We have learnt a lesson somewhere in life that causes us to associate something with an angry feeling. This might be because of abuse, trauma, unusual circumstances, bereavement, grief or unnatural events. We then associate elements of whatever happened with the feeling of anger. This is the perception process at work, and is thus a Cognitive area for therapy.

2. We are in a physical or mental state that causes inappropriate response. This might be a fever, a manic or depressed state, halucinations, PMT, Low blood sugar, or a high pain level. In this state our cognitive processes are compromised.
Therefore there are times when the "feeling" is there when it should not be, and therefore needs cognitive work to resolve. This is an area that "off the shelf" anger management books, pack and self-help aids virtually ignore, and frankly only qualified therapy can help resolve. 

The second area is "acting" angry. This is where we have a "feeling" of anger or irritation, and this results in an "action" or "behaviour". This is the area of anger management most commonly talked about since it is the "behaviour" that is displayed to people around you. Most "off the shelf" books and courses deal just with this area.

When we have felt the"anger feeling", whether for good reason or not, we tend to respond with angry "behaviours" such as aggression or passive aggression. There are actually a variety of display types, from the most obvious violence, to sulking, shouting, being a angry manipulative person who seems like a "victim", and various other variations. These are all outcomes of the behaviour being "angry". 

Between the "feeling" and the "behaviour" are occurances that "trigger" that response. Theses are the people, things, smells, sounds, places, actions, words etc that "trigger" the person into feeling angry. What happens then is the "feeling" is felt, the person goes into a kind of "autopilot" and the "behaviours" result. 

The "autopilot" is a laymans term for learnt response or conditioned response. Over time we learn to respond to certain triggers with certain behaviours. As these become "natural" responses for us, they become unconcious rather than deliberate. Thus we automatically respond that way without thinking about it conciously. While the person continues to automatically respond with "angry behaviours", the problem persists. The most common advice for dealing with this is "to count to ten before responding". It is sensible advice, but most clients need help in making this possible! According to eastern psychology thinking, we spend way too much time in this conditioned state.

Anger management coaching and therapy

So what can be done about it?

1. Deal with underlying causes, the reasons why the person has high stress or aggression levels.

2. Deal with the perceptions that cause a person to tend to be angry by "seeing things" a certain way. These are the learnt perceptions, or way you have learnt to see / understand things.

3. Change responses to triggers. This means unplugging the autopilot! The behaviour can thus be addressed, and freedom of choice returned to the client! Part of this is the client choosing new responses that work for them.

4. Environmental factors. Addressing any factors, relationships or other things that may have causes the client to get stuck in this mind set initially, or kept them there since. This helps to prevent slippage back into the old patterns.

CBT is highly effective in dealing with anger management, especially when combined with hypnotherapy, personal development counselling skills, psychological therapy and other methods. Primarily these should be combined as necessary in a fairly seemless way.

Cognitive therapy helps to resolve perceptual issues. Counselling skills or psychological therapy methods help to look at deeper issues. Hypnotherapy and behavioural therapies help to change responses to triggers and give back freedom of choice. Life coaching helps to resolve environmental factors.

Mindfulness, Naikan, Satori and other eastern psychology methods are helpful in retraining perception and resultant behaviour.

The most important part of anger management is to ensure that the problem is addressed on all levels, thus preventing reoccurance.


We are complementary health practitioners, not alternative health practitioners. This means that we work WITH the medical profession. If you have an illness or injury, or if you are going to embark on a new diet, fitness plan or if you have any uninvestigated symptoms, you must consult your medical doctor. 

Anger management consultancy and training

Stuart has written practitioner training courses in anger management coaching (Level 4 award), life coaching (Level 4 award) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Level 5 Award). Anger management is a specialism that Stuart has researched, worked on and written training courses about for many years, and he has provided many interviews on live Radio in the UK as an expert on anger issues and anger management. 

Stuart is a NCP and NACP approved psychotherapist and counsellor. We support the coming voluntary regulation of psychotherapy and counselling. Stuart is a CNHC registered hypnotherapist (voluntary regulation of hypnotherapy).

Clinics at:
Salisbury Centre, Edinburgh
The Healthy Life Centre, Edinburgh
The Embody Massage Clinic, Glasgow