Incidents involving Ron Attest, Jose Guillen and Milton Bradley as well as college athletes have thrust anger management into the news on an almost daily basis. Many questions are being asked about the effectiveness of anger management. Questions are also being asked about the training, experience and legitimacy of anger management providers.

The American Psychiatric Association does not consider anger as a medical problem or illness. In fact, anger is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Nervous and Mental Disorders. Consequently, anger as an area of research has been neglected by all mental health disciplines. There is little evidenced based research on the effectiveness of any type of anger management intervention.

It stands to reason that if anger is not a mental or nervous disorder; neither medication nor psychotherapy is indicated. Anger is seen a problem when it is too intense, last too long, occurs too frequently, or leads to aggression. If this explanation is accepted, the most reasonable intervention should be designed to address these issues.

The majority of Certified Anger Management Providers in United States consider an individuals’ response to anger as a learned behavior. Children are very much the product of their environment. They learn to respond to others as well as intense feelings from their families of origin.

Anger management is a psycho-educational intervention designed to teach skills in managing stress, recognizing and managing anger, developing the capacity to be empathic to others, and assertive communication skills. Anger management can be used in conjunction with psychotherapy or psychotropic medication but is not designed to treat psychopathology.

All referrals to anger management programs should be assessed at intake using an instrument to determining the client’s level of functioning in stress management, anger management, communication and empathy or emotional intelligence. This assessment should determine the client’s motivation to change. It is highly unlikely that any intervention can succeed if the client lacks the motivation to change.

George Anderson, MSW, LCSW, BCD
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers
Fellow, American Orthopsychiatric Association

Author's Bio: 

George Anderson is a Harvard Trained Psychotherapist with a specialization in anger management. He is the author of many anger mangement books, articles, CDs, videos and Posters.He has Post Graduate training in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy.