What Happens in Anger Management Classes?

In This Article

Whether you’ve been mandated to attend anger management or you’re interested in attending a class on your own accord, you might wonder what to expect or how it could help. While there are many different ways a class might be led, in general, anger management classes aim to teach people the skills they need to regulate their emotions and calm themselves down.

Attendance

Attending a class may feel a little intimidating at first. But, you could learn valuable life skills that could help you gain better control over your emotions so anger doesn’t cause problems in your life.

Anger management classes may be taken by anyone who wants to get a better handle on their anger. A mother who yells at her kids, a partner who is emotionally abusive during arguments, or a supervisor who blows up at his employees are just a few examples of the type of people you might encounter in an anger management class.

Sometimes, anger management classes are court ordered. A judge may order a violent offender to complete an anger management program. Or, a judge may mandate a parent attend anger management class as part of a custody agreement.

Anger management classes are sometimes used in residential settings. People with traumatic brain injuries, for example, may attend anger management classes while in a psychiatric setting.

Classes or Individual Therapy

Many anger management classes are conducted as educational classes rather than group therapy. Usually, a trained instructor walks participants through a series of anger management strategies. Then, armed with new strategies participants can diminish their aggressive behavior and reduce the anger in their lives.

Keep in mind that anger is a normal emotion. Anger only becomes an issue when it is expressed in unhealthy ways. Consequently, good anger management classes are geared toward managing anger not learning how to hold it in.

In short, anger management teaches people how to identify their anger and respond in healthier ways. For this reason, it's important to view anger management as an opportunity optimize your well-being and improve your relationships and not as something punitive—even if it's court ordered.

Sometimes, people who are attending an anger management group also may require individual therapy. An individual who has experienced past trauma, for example, may benefit from having a therapist help them process their trauma while simultaneously learning anger management skills through a class setting.

Anger management also can be taught in individual therapy. Individual therapy offers more flexibility in terms of scheduling. Plus, the participant can receive more individual attention, as well as privacy. But, therapy typically costs more than a class and does not contain the added benefit of learning from other people in the class.

Hearing what works for another individual or watching a fellow classmate role play a situation may lead to new understanding.

Curriculum

There are different types of curriculum used in anger management classes. But, most of them are based on cognitive behavioral therapy strategies. The cognitive behavioral approach to anger management involves teaching participants how to recognize the warning signs that their anger is rising.

Participants also are taught relaxation strategies and calming techniques or how to make behavioral changes. They’re also taught how to change the thoughts that fuel their angry feelings, which are the cognitive changes they will make. Overall, these strategies can be adapted for various groups including adolescents, individuals with substance abuse issues, and even parents.

Depending on the type of curriculum and the needs of the group, anger management classes may range from eight sessions to 28 sessions. Classes usually take place on a weekly basis and they are usually one to two hours in length.

Classes are usually fairly small. For instance, some groups may include only 10 people at a time. And, completion of the class may result in a “diploma” or certificate of completion. Usually, members are given a workbook with weekly homework assignments. These assignments give participants an opportunity to practice the skills they’ve learned.

Benefits

Improving your ability to respond to stressful or frustrating situations in a healthy and productive way is one of the primary benefits of anger management. You will learn how to be assertive without being aggressive or intimidating. And, in the end, your relationships and your well-being will improve.

Not only does anger management teach you how to communicate your needs in a healthy way, but it also will help you maintain better health. It may even help you curb the side effects of unhealthy anger like headaches, sleeplessness, and stomach issues.

Additionally, learning to manage anger effectively reduces the likelihood that you will turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with stress, frustration, and anger. Instead, you will know how reduce these feelings in healthy and productive ways.

Getting Help

If you struggle to control your anger or find that you lash out at others and later regret your words or actions, attending an anger management class could be beneficial. It could help you gain better control over your anger and learn how to interact with others in a more productive way.

Finding an appropriate class can feel a bit overwhelming when you aren’t sure where to look. But if you think you could benefit from an anger management class, start by talking to your physician.

Your doctor may be able to help you locate a class or refer you to a mental health agency who can assist you in locating resources. You also can contact your local community center or hospital. They may offer classes or may be able to direct you to another resource in your community.

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  1. Bradbury KE, Clarke I. Cognitive behavioural therapy for anger management: effectiveness in adult mental health services. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 2007 Mar;35(2):201-8. doi:10.1017/S135246580600333X

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