I have been providing anger management counseling services in New York City, Fairfield County, CT, and Westchester County, NY for over 25 years as a licensed clinical psychologist, marriage counselor, and psychotherapist. I have seen the harm that anger management problems can do to relationships, families and careers. This anger management web page is a brief introduction to the psychology of anger and the treatment of anger issues.
The Psychology of Anger and Aggression
It is important to understand the psychology of anger in order to understand how normal anger can develops into dysfunctional anger.
Anger is a natural, instinctive tool of human survival. It helps us to mobilize the energy, courage, and aggression required to defend ourselves and protect others from harm. You can think of this as healthy anger. Dysfunctional anger arises when an inappropriate stimulus elicits an automatic conditioned anger response.
The most common problems with anger or aggression arise when we react to our perceptions of threat or memories of danger as though they were actual life-or-death events. As human beings, we tend to respond to threats to our self esteem (like an insult) or threats to our emotional security (like abandonment) as though something literally vital were at stake.
When we believe that someone is to blame for making us feel diminished, humiliated or helplessness, we are much more likely to engage in some sort of verbal or physical aggression. For example, we may believe that someone is slighting us. If this makes us feel small, we may overreact with an aggressive counterattack. This serves to restore our sense of security and dignity (we feel big again). So we feel better now, and this good feeling reinforces the likelihood of reacting with anger in similar circumstances.
Aggressive behavior can become compulsive or even addictive. Releasing anger, especially pent-up anger, can produce a powerful sense of relief or even gratification. This can strengthen the habit of aggression to the point that angry outbursts are no longer fully within our control. We may feel concerned or embarrassed by our loss of control but continue to rationalize and justify our compulsive behavior.
Angry outbursts, chronic hostility, or episodes of rage may be a reaction to past or ongoing fundamental frustration, trauma, abuse or victimization. Dysfunctional anger can be a feature of a particular psychological condition, cognitive style, value system, or family dynamic.
The Consequences of Anger and Aggression
Anger can undermine careers, relationships, and peace of mind. Anger and aggression inevitably trigger a personal backlash from others or negative consequences which can further entrench our anger. This vicious cycle can transform the habit of anger or aggression into a personality trait or an enduring pattern of relating.
An angry outburst can relieve stress to a certain extent. However, when anger is too intense or lasts too long it produces its own stress. Angry, obsessive thinking, for example, produces stress by maintaining an ongoing state of psychological and physiological upset. Chronic anger drains energy, health, and happiness. Anger has been identified as the key factor in Type A personality which is responsible for heart disease.
When we are under severe or recurrent stress, we are more likely to react with anger and aggression. Many of the factors which produce stress can also produce anger management issues. You can learn more about some of the factors that create stress in the stress management counseling section.
Anger Management Counseling and Treatment Approaches in Psychotherapy
- Anger Management Self-Help
- Psycho-Educational Approaches to Anger Management
- Assertiveness Training Techniques for Anger Management
- Individual Psychotherapy for Anger Management
- Treatment Approaches in Anger Management Counseling
- Cognitive Therapy, Behavior Therapy and Anger Management Counseling
- Problem Solving Techniques for Anger Management
- Psychopharmacological Intervention in Anger Management
- Parent Counseling, Family Therapy, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy
Anger Management Self-Help
- Write a mission statement. Reaffirm your resolve every morning. Evaluate the results every night. Maintain reasonable goals. Learn from mistakes. Praise your efforts.
- Avoid provocative situations and people. Use this tactic, whenever possible, until you achieve better self-control.
- Learn your triggers; know your anger. Recognize the situations which evoke anger. Learn the signs that you are getting angry. Then get ready.
- Prepare for anger. Anticipate triggering situations and plan specific strategies to limit anger and prevent aggression.
- Be assertive. Practice expressing yourself assertively rather than aggressively when provoked, and then move on.
- Lower your routine level of stress. Slow down. Take a break from political and (junk) news radio, TV, and the tabloids. Practice relaxing exercises or enjoyable activities.
- Practice the psychology of positive actions. Cultivate a friendly, cooperative attitude. Do something nice for someone else. You will become happier and less angry.
- Exercise regularly. It can help you to stop obsessing, improve your mood, drain anger, and calm yourself. Don't forget recreation.
- Evaluate your priorities. Are all of your goals and choices worth this much stress and anger? Is there another way?
- Read up on it. Browse a bookstore or a library for self-help books on anger management. Practice what you have learned.
- Get emotional/social support. Talk to trustworthy people who are empathic and non-judgmental. Avoid gripe sessions or talking with people with primarily negative attitudes.
Treatment and Counseling Approaches to Managing Anger
Anger management counseling can you to help control destructive anger without sacrificing your ability to assertively pursue your goals.
My solutions-focused approach draws upon a variety of effective, psychology-based techniques for managing anger in order achieve better treatment outcomes. Here's a sample of treatment approaches that I draw upon.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Anger Management Counseling
Cognitive behavioral therapy includes a variety of helpful tools to gain better mental control over disturbing emotions, reactions and harmful habits. Conceptual reframing or cognitive restructuring help us learn consider alternative interpretations in an upsetting situations. Cognitive techniques, when used skillfully, can help us question our negative assumptions and change the inflammatory self-talk that triggers us from within. Behavioral techniques can help identify triggering stimuli, learn constructive disengagement and alternative, useful responses. I use imaginative eexposure with response prevention, desensitization, counter conditioning, and other cognitive behavioral techniques. I train clients to automatically head off angry outbursts, obsessive resentment, and physical aggression.
Psycho-Educational Approach to Anger Management
Our survival instincts can exaggerate the importance of even minimal threat. Once we are triggered physiologically, we are primed to respond energetically. Understanding how this process works can help to us to control our tendency to react aggressively.
Problem-Solving Techniques for Anger Management
When we are too distracted by upset feelings, it is hard to deal effectively with the situations that triggered our anger. Identifying and resolving real-world problems can get us out of the trap of anger.
Assertiveness Training Techniques for Anger Management
Some people are too aggressive; some are not aggressive enough. When we consistently avoid confrontations and bottle up our anger, we may blow up or implode emotionally after a period of silent frustration. Assertiveness techniques provide a range of useful behavioral options.
Psychopharmacological Intervention in Anger Management
When anger management issues are part of a major depression, bipolar disorder, thinking disorder, impulse disorder, personality disorder or other major psychiatric disorder or medical condition, an evaluation for medication should be considered. Psychiatric medication may also be considered to jump start self control until psychotherapy and anger management counseling provide reliable internal controls.
Psychodynamic and Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Anger Management
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we remain stuck in our angry reactions and aggressive behaviors. We may need to get a better understanding of what we are really angry about and how anger plays its part in our emotional life and relationships.
When ongoing anger is a feature of a psychological condition, it needs to addressed by psychotherapy and counseling within the context of the particular psychological condition. For example, for people described as suffering from Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder, power and control issues are often the key to working with their anger and aggression. By contrast, for people diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, self-esteem and self-regulation issues are usually crucial in anger management.
Parent Counseling, Family Therapy, Child and Adolescent Therapy for Anger Management
Currently, family life has become a casualty of academic, financial and social pressures. Parents and kids tend to vent anger upon each other. It is important to understand the meaning of aggressive behavior and to respond appropriately and effectively. When angry feelings and aggressive behaviors are not addressed effectively, they tend to escalate within a family.
Parent counseling for anger management issues is a first approach to consider when addressing problems of anger in the family. Parent counseling can help to define, defuse and resolve troubling anger management issues in the family. Parent counseling can help, for example, by clarifying the cause of a child's anger or aggressive behavior, by effectively addressing the feelings that lead to the child's upset, by providing the child or family with new ways to handle situations that trigger anger, and by setting limits and creating incentives.
Couple and family anger management therapy can be used to empower family members to achieve mutual understanding and to work together as team.
Anger Management in Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling
Intimate relationships can be a fertile ground for dysfunctional anger. Love relationships often create unrealistic expectations for how our partner or spouse should make us feel, on one hand, and what kinds of behaviors will be tolerated or forgiven, on the other.
Dysfunctional patterns of anger from earlier relationships or one's family of origin may get automatically repeated. External sources of stress, psychological issues, or dysfunctional habits can result in anger that hurts of damages an intimate relationship.
Often, anger management issues in marriage are due to a shortage of information on how to communicate effectively, or how to be in a relationship, or how to resolve conflicts without fighting. In these instances, anger management marriage counseling or couples therapy may include elements of communication, relationship, or conflict management counseling, as needed.
Find Anger Management Counseling in NYC (Midtown Manhattan) and White Plains, NY
I offer psychotherapy, anger management counseling, treatment and therapy from two locations convenient to New York City, Westchester, and Connecticut.
My New York City office is located in midtown Manhattan at Park Avenue and 38th Street. This NYC location is near Grand Central Station. I also offer psychotherapy and counseling services for anger management in Westchester county from my White Plains, NY office. This location is convenient to Greenwich, CT and Rockland County, NY.
Anger Management Class and Group Anger Management Program in New York
Group anger management classes in New York at my Westchester office. To learn more about anger management in New York City or anger management group counseling and classes in New York, please continue to explore this website. Don't hesitate to call me for more information about anger management counseling and to find out how I can help you to achieve your particular personal or professional goals.
You are also welcome to contact me if you would like to discuss psychotherapy and counseling for anger management, road rage and angry driving or other psychology services, or my qualifications and methods as a licensed clinical psychologist, counselor and psychotherapist.