As the title implies, this site will continually update changes and trends in anger management services, research,referrals and provider training. In addition, books,CDs,videos and DVDs used in anger management programs will be introduced.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Air Line Industry Endorses Coaching for Pilots

Major Airlines have joined hospitals and other major business industries in making use of executive coaching for key persons such as pilots. Pilots, like physicians, are constantly under stress. Such stress is natural; however, it is also an occupational hazard. Consequently, it is not surprising that, over time, many pilots will experience the negative symptoms of stress.

Prevention is by far the most effective and least costly intervention for angry and stressed employees and members of administrative staff. The Anderson & Anderson executive coaching model is available in many locations on an accelerated schedule.

For a list of Anderson & Anderson providers nationwide, please visit our website at

George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers

Jackson State University Training Exceeds Expectations

George Anderson, BCD, LCSW was the Key Note speaker at the 31st annual Substance Abuse Conference in Choctaw, Ms. on June 20, 2007. In addition, he trained 38 individuals to become certified anger management facilitators.

Among those in attendance were the directors of student counseling at Togaloo, Alcorn and East Alabama Universities.

Most of the participants who attended this one-day training in Adult Anger Management facilitator certification purchased the remaining training in adolescent, executive coaching and motivational interviewing. The title of Mr. Anderson’s keynote address was “Why Anger Management”. This presentation focused on the advantages of anger management for businesses, hospitals, schools, individuals, and substance abuse programs.

George Anderson, BCD, LCSW, CAMF
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why Control Anger?

George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF

Rather than speak for an hour as requested, I have opted to speak for 40 minutes and allow 20 minutes for questions and answers.

Since anger management has been my area of specialization for the last 25 years, I am in daily contact with Certified Anger Management Providers from all over the world. These providers are the real experts on this topic.

Therefore, in order to make my presentation more relevant to real world concerns, I decided to tap into my extensive network of providers.

I sent emails to a select number of providers in Canada, Australia, England, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, the Philippines and the United States. In my email, I made a very simple request: Please send me ten reasons why anyone should consider completing an anger management course. I will share some of these responses with you, but, first, I would like to make certain that we define what anger management is and is not.

In passing, I would like to suggest that anger management became an international issue following the tragedy of 9/11. Prior to 9/11, anger management was becoming popular in the United States; however, it was almost unheard of in other non-English speaking nations.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anger is a normal human emotion. It is not a pathological condition. Anger is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Nervous and Mental Disorders.

Anger is considered by the American Psychiatric Association as a lifestyle issue which is a problem when it is too intense, occurs too frequently, lasts too long, impacts health, destroys interpersonal relationships or leads to person or property directed aggression.

Given this definition of unhealthy anger, it is immediately apparent that controlling anger is not the issue. Rather, it is unproductive anger which needs to be controlled.

In Birmingham Alabama, a fragile quiet African American woman refused to give up her seat on a local bus to a white man. Her anger was the impetus to change the way our nation treated people of color. In this case, her anger was used in a positive way and did not need to be controlled.

Mahatma Gandhi was angry over the domination of India by England. He used his anger in a non-aggressive manner to gain independence for India from England. Gandhi taught the world the importance of non violent protest.

There is general agreement among most knowledgeable experts that the way one responds to anger is learned and, therefore, can be unlearned. Alternative approaches to dealing with anger can be taught.

Since anger is not a mental disorder, it is not responsive to counseling, psychotherapy or psychotropic medication.

Therefore, psychiatrists, psychologists, or clinical social workers are not necessarily trained to provide anger management classes unless they have completed specific post graduate training and certification in anger management. If you take a survey of all the residency programs in psychiatry in the United States, you will find that none of them offer training in anger management. If you survey Ph.D. programs in psychology or clinical social work, you will find that there is no training in anger management whatsoever.

Unfortunately, there is a natural societal tendency to assume that Doctors (MDs, PhDs) can provide the answer to any behavior which is considered unacceptable. In the case of anger management, this is simply not true. Anger management is a course which includes an assessment, workbook, videos, DVDs, posters and other ancillary training materials, teaching enhancement skills in recognizing and managing stress, anger, improving assertive communication and enhancing emotional intelligence.

Anger is a normal and secondary human emotion which is always preceded by some other emotion such as stress, anxiety, depression, shame, disrespect or humiliation. Therefore, anger management classes must deal with the associated issues of stress, communication and emotional intelligence, which are keys to success in managing anger.

All participants in anger management classes should first complete an assessment, which is designed to determine the participant’s level of functioning in recognizing and managing stress, anger, assertive communication and empathy or emotional intelligence.

A fifth category, motivation to change, is also assessed. Candidates who are not motivated to change are not likely to benefit from participating in an anger management class.

Following the completion of an anger management class, each participant should complete a post test to determine the success or lack of success in the course. Success is determined by the results on the Post Test and feedback from significant others.

Controlling anger is important and necessary when the anger is a problem to the person experiencing it, or to others.

Many, if not most of the news reports of persons attending anger management courses are inaccurate. Ron Attest is a major league basketball player currently with the Sacramento Kings. He was previously with the Indiana Pacers. Ron is reported to have completed an anger management class while with the Pacers.
This is incorrect. What really happened was quite different. Ron was ordered to see a Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist informed him that he was suffering from depression and gave him a prescription for anti-depressant medication. Ron’s response was, “bullshit, I ain’t crazy and I ain't taking nothing”. So, in this case, anger management was not a failure. Rather, it was never attempted nor completed.

Milton Bradley, who is now with the Oakland Athletics, was ordered by the Dodgers to attend an anger management class. He found a Christian Counselor from his mother’s church who provided anger management counseling. Unfortunately, the counselor had no training or experience in anger management. This religious based counseling was not in anyway related to teaching skills to recognize and manage anger or stress.

Many celebrities, who are ordered to attend anger management classes through no fault of their own, receive either counseling for non-existing mental disorders or no help at all.
But most of all, in nearly every county, there are classes for people ordered to attend anger management by the court -- including such celebrities as Sean Combs, Courtney Love, Mike Tyson, Tommy Lee, Omar Sharif, Alec Baldwin, and Shannen Doherty. In spite of this, there is no state in the nation with standards that regulate the practice of anger management. Anyone can claim to provide anger management with or without training, experience or a specific curriculum.
Throughout the nation, such classes have become a fixture of modern life, run by thousands of criminal justice systems, private therapists and community mental health centers. The lack of a specific, tested curriculum is common nationwide.
The most credible research on the effectiveness of anger management comes from the Canadian Bureau of Prisons. The Canadian Bureau of Prisons has conducted a fifteen year study which demonstrated that anger management classes are effective under the following conditions:

1. When there is a curriculum with client workbooks which include all of the material to be presented in the course.

2. All providers are trained in the most effective techniques for teaching the course content.

3. Pre and Post tests are conducted on each participant.

4. Only motivated defendants are accepted into these classes.

5. There must be integrity in the teaching of these courses which means that no ancillary handouts or shortcuts are taken.

I have many case examples of successes in anger management which I would like to share with you.

I will now share with you now, a summary of the responses which I received rewarding the question: Why Control Anger?

The most important reason to consider controlling unhealthy anger is the fact that legitimate anger management programs actually work.

Anger management works

According to the Canadian study, 87 per cent of motivated participants who complete a structured anger management class teach the anger management skills offered in these classes.

Seven years ago, I conducted a pilot program for the U.S. Postal Service for 16,000 employees in one postal district in Los Angeles.

In twelve months, the postal service experienced saving of 1.5 million dollars.

There was a reduction of accidents, sick day usage, absenteeism and workplace violence. There was an increase in morale and productivity.

It has been a long time since you heard of anyone going postal. The Postal Service is proactive. Rather than waiting until a problem develops, the postal service has moved to prevent workplace aggression.

Any Postal Employee can attend an anger management class on the clock for ten sessions without cost. A manager or supervisor can recommend anger management for an employee whose work performance indicates stress or anger. Any manager or supervisor can order anger management for an employee for behavior which suggests the need for help in managing anger as a condition of continued employment.

When Anger management is done properly, it is cost saving intervention

Anger management reduces costly litigation

Currently, the largest numbers of referrals to anger management Classes come from businesses including fortune 500 companies.

When employees are the victim or perpetrator of verbal of physical threats or a hostile workplace environment, it poses a tremendous liability for the parent company. The average cost of a liability lawsuit by employees in this type of situation is $700,000 per episode.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of the company to mandate anger management for employees who threaten or create a hostile work environment.

My main office is located in Brentwood. Because of this, I receive a large number of referrals from the movie industry. Many of these referrals are from film production companies and Artist Agencies. Both film production and agencies representing artists are historically high pressured places to work. I recently provided services for an agency executive who had lost an out of court settlement for creating an unsafe environment. He and his company had paid the settlement as well as the attorney fees and the court costs. To their surprise, three years later, they were forced by the litigants to follow through with anger management, which had been a part of the original settlement but was ignored.

Anger management improves the bottom line

The Malibu realty association contracted with me to provide emotional intelligence coaching for most of its members. While this is not anger management, it is one of the four topics which are the anchors of most anger management classes.

Anger management enhances communication skills

Assertive communication is one of the most powerful skills for anyone to acquire. I have many examples of this from clients who have taken the time to master assertive communication skills. For many anger management clients, anger management turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Anger management teaches stress management skills

Anger management leads to a reduction of sick day usage

Anger management reduces accidents and absenteeism

Anger management provides a framework to develop an early warning system to detect potently explosive employees

Anger management Improves employee retention by improving your work environments using emotional intelligence and assertive communication.

Anger management Reduces malingering

Here are some of the benefits of controlling anger for individuals

Anger management improves self-esteem

Anger management increases empathy

Anger management improves morale

Anger management improves leadership skills

Anger management improves interpersonal relationships

Some benefits of controlling anger for physicians

As an indication of the importance of anger management, in the medical field, the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation has recently determined that all hospitals in the nation must have a written policy on “disruptive physicians”

Disruptive physicians are defined as physicians whose aggressive behavior impacts patient care.

Anderson & Anderson has a contract to provide executive coaching for a hospital chain with 63 hospitals throughout the nation.

Anger management improves doctors’ bedside manner

Anger management improves patient care in medical settings

Anger management reduces staff burnout

Anger management improves interdisciplinary communication

Reduces financial and/or legal problems

Anger management reduces staff turnover among nurses and ancillary staff in medical settings.

The advantages of controlling anger for substance abuse programs

Anger management reduces relapse in substance abuse

Anger management can be apart of the program's Aftercare.
Anger management can be used in Relapse Prevention
Anger management can be used in Activities of Daily Living groups.

Anger management can be used in Family Groups

Anger management can be used for Staff Training "Teamwork Building"

Anger Management can prevent a small relapse from turning into binging.
Often, substance abusers find themselves binging after a small relapse because the pain, shame and anger of relapse are uncomfortable in themselves.
Anger Management is a deterrent to initial drug use as many drug users begin their drug career in an effort to escape pain and anger.

Anger Management is essential in relapse prevention as drug users learn how to manage their emotions and reactions to daily life stressors.

Some results of anger management in graduate schools

A University of Florida study found that anger management lessons improved the behavior of all pupils, not just the troublemakers.

Professor Stephen Smith and his team designed a 20-lesson anger management curriculum and tested it on 200 Florida pupils aged 10 and 11. They found that classroom 'harmony' improved when the children were taught how to control their temper and avoid trouble.

In summary, if anger management is defined as a class which is designed to teach skills in recognizing anger, stress, communication and enhancing emotional intelligence, anger management actually works. If anger management is defined as counseling or psychotherapy, it does not work.

Regardless of the intervention offered, without motivation to change, nothing at all can be expected to work.

The most effective anger management is provided by trained facilitators with a curriculum and an assessment component.

George Anderson, BCD, MSW, CAMF

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Uniqueness of the Anderson & Anderson Anger Management Curriculum

An anger management model which works

Person-directed violence, road rage, office rage, air port rage, and child abuse are only a few of the many problems that keep our society suffering in unhealthy anger. Person-directed aggression resulting from stress and anxiety often triggers an individual’s inability to control his or her anger.

The increase in anger/violent related crime has now moved into our communities, sports, schools and workplaces. While there may not be a general agreement on the causes of our increase in violence, it is clear that it is a new epidemic. The Anderson & Anderson Anger Management Curriculum offers a practical model which consists of training in anger management, stress management, communication and emotional intelligence.

The Conover Assessment Component

It is necessary to manage stress first in order to learn to control anger. Stress is usually a precursor and trigger for anger. Empathy/emotional intelligence, the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, is a key component in controlling one’s anger. Assertion is a powerful emotional skill that helps a person to communicate more effectively, honestly, and appropriately. It is the opposite of aggression (anger control/management) or deference (fear control/ management). Finally, change orientation is the magnitude of change perceived as desirable for developing personal and life effectiveness. Change orientation includes developing the degree to which a person is motivated and ready for change. This scale is a reliable predictor of an individual’s potential for success through training.

Skill Enhancement Component

The Anderson & Anderson skill enhancement consists of the following four units:

• Anger Management
• Stress Management
• Communication
• Emotional Intelligence

Each skill enhancement module consists of approximately 4 - 5 hours of interactive learning activities, DVDs, listening activities, and post assessments. The Client Workbooks, “Controlling Ourselves” and “Gaining Control of Ourselves” contain all of the exercises, logs and assignments.

The curriculum is made more interesting by the use of companion DVDs, CDs, Videos and experiential exercises and quizzes.

For more information or to enroll, contact our office at 310-207-3591 or visit our website at

George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Day Away from Stress


In order to achieve a deep state of relaxation, employees and patients need to focus on relaxation without getting uptight about it.

A Day Away From Stress helps them do just that. It guides them through the relaxation process, step-by-step, breath-by-breath and muscle-by-muscle. All they have to do is follow along!

What makes this relaxation different from all the others is the skillful blend of the following four elements: film footage, new age music, environmental sounds and the gentle voice of the narrator. Scenes of waterfalls, meadows and babbling brooks leave the viewer in a comfortable state of deep relaxation.

The video is narrated by Dr. Stuart McCally, Assistant Clinical Professor, Yale Univerisity School of Medicine.

An 11 minute abbreviated version is available for meetings and seminars where you want to change the pace by creating a relaxation break.


• Self guided 30 minute video is plug and play
• Not a theoretical program… This tape helps viewers actually relax.
• Can be used in short five-minute segments… Great for a meeting break
• Good for in-house closed circuit television
• Perfect for waiting rooms
• Great for facilitating biofeedback sessions
• Ideal for people who have difficulty meditating
• Structured Exercises include diaphragmatic breathing, scanning and
progressive relaxation.

Customer Quotes

"I had a migraine headache when I sat down to listen to A DAY AWAY FROM STRESS. Your tape chased the pain away."
--Mary Anne Simcoe, Training Manager for Dow Jones, Inc.

"This tape has had the best response of any we have used on this topic. The staff wants their own copies to take home."
--Bernie Burden, RN, Colchester Regional Hospital
Nova Scotia, Canada

"A Day Away From Stress is a major hit with our patients and I find I often have several inpatient units clamoring for it at the same time."
--Beth Harris, Patient Ed. Coordinator.
Cornell Medical Center, White Plains, NY

"A day away from stress is excellent." Well scripted, well paced and well produced."
--Daniel Goleman, science writer for the NY Times
and author of the book Emotional Intelligence.

"Beneficial for anyone seeking respite from daily stress."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Emotions: Thermometer or Thremostat?

In a previous article, George Anderson discussed emotional intelligence as a critical factor in anger management interventions. I want to suggest that true anger management cannot take place without emotional intelligence. Anger is a secondary emotion and is therefore driven by other emotions. Understanding the emotions that drive our anger is critical in their management.


True anger management demands that we recognize our emotions and consciously decide our actions. Emotions are fascinating because they are a way of communicating with the world. They give us clues about what we love, cherish and the things that we have less regard for. Wrapped up in literally thousands of emotions is an emotional language that connects with the world in meaningful ways. Who wants to be like the character Data on Star Trek–an emotionless being who lives only in the realm of logic? I certainly don’t.


It is emotions that bring the world to life. Like the thermometer gauge, they give us information in the form of an emotion about how we feel about events or occurrences. Emotions have their own intelligence and are fascinating at perceiving the world around us. However, it would be unwise to make decisions on perceptions alone. These perceptions need to be analyzed first before making our decisions. In the same way that one may feel warm and may check the thermometer to confirm the temperature, it is important to note that our emotions are informational. We are in charge and responsible for our actions, no matter how we may feel.


This brings me to the thermostat. In the indoor environment, if an individual perceives that the temperate is too hot or too cold, the thermostat is a wonderful device that can be used to regulate the temperature to the appropriate level. This device gives us the control to determine if what we perceive physically is comfortable or uncomfortable for us. It is the same in the management of our anger. When we perceive the primary emotions like disappointment, embarrassment, jealousy or frustration, it is everyone’s responsibility to first be aware of those emotions…then take steps to manage them in a way that does not violate the rights of others or cause us self harm. Strategies may include: learning stress management techniques, communication skills and building emotional intelligence.


In the same way that being able to make the decision to change the position of the thermostat demands full awareness of the temperature, I encourage my clients to become more aware of their own emotions by developing emotional literacy so that they can know specifically how they feel and be in full control of their actions. This literacy is a first step to emotional intelligence and true anger management. The opposite of this is an individual who acts on their feelings without any considerations that these emotions are signals and not commands. In future blog entries, I will continue to build on the concept of emotional literacy as it relates to anger management. Visit my blog frequently at Finally, I ask the question again: in the management of your emotions, are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF

President of the American Association of Anger Management Providers

Carlos Todd is the owner of Todd’s Anger Management Solutions in Charlotte, NC

Build Your Emotional Vocabulary Words

One can say I feel-tuned-out, transported, traquil, ugly, unclear, unaccomplished, undressed, uneducated, unfocused , underpaid, unknown, whipped, weighed down, protected or pulled apart.

Use these words to help you describe your emotions. The idea is being able to differentiate and discriminate among emotions to improve our self-awareness and, ultimately, our ability to manage our anger.

Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF

President of the American Association of Anger Management Providers

Carlos Todd is the owner of Todd’s Anger Management Solutions in Charlotte, NC

Monday, June 04, 2007

Anger Management, a Neglected Topic in Substance Abuse Intervention

A long standing issue

Problems managing anger have always been a concern for patients suffering from addictive disorders. Pioneering research by my mentor, Dr. Sidney Cohen, at the UCLA Neuro-psychiatric Institute demonstrated the relationship between, anger, violence and the use of alcohol and/or cocaine. One of the most popular articles written by Dr. Cohen was entitled, Alcohol, the most dangerous drug known to man. In this and other publications, Dr. Cohen systematically demonstrated the causal relationship between cocaine and alcohol abuse and aggression. Much of this research was done in the 70s and 80s.

Anger has always been a factor in substance abuse intervention. Unfortunately, until recently, it has been overlooked or treated as an after thought by substance abuse programs nationwide. Substance use and abuse often coexist with anger, aggressive behavior and person-directed violence. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicated that 40 % of frequent cocaine users reported engaging in some form of violence or aggressive behavior. Anger and aggression often can have a causal role in the initiation of drug and alcohol use and can also be a consequence associated with substance abuse. Persons who experience traumatic events, for example, often experience anger and act violently, as well as abuse drugs or alcohol. This is currently occurring with recently returned combat veterans from Iraq.


Substance abuse and dependence has grown beyond even the bleakest predictions of the past. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 23 million people who are struggling (on a daily basis) with some form of substance abuse or dependence. The toll it is having on our society is dramatically increased when we factor in the number of families who suffer the consequences of living with a person with an addiction, such as:

• Job loss
• Incarceration
• Loss of child Custody
• DUI's
• Domestic Violence/Aggression
• Marital problems/divorce
• Accidents/injuries
• Financial problems
• Depression/anxiety/chronic anger

Unfortunately, most substance abusers may not even be aware that they have an underlying anger problem and do not "connect" their anger problem to their alcoholism, drug addiction and substance abuse. Therefore, they do not seek (or get) help for their anger problem. But more often than not, their anger is the underlying source of their disorder.

Anger precedes the use of cocaine and alcohol for many alcohol and cocaine dependent individuals. Anger is an emotional and mental form of "suffering" that occurs whenever our desires and expectations of life, others or self are thwarted or unfulfilled. Addictive behavior and substance abuse is an addict's way of relieving themselves of the agony of their anger by "numbing" themselves with drugs, alcohol and so on. This is not "managing their anger", but self medication.

When we do not know how to manage our anger appropriately, we try to keep the anger inside ourselves. Over time, it festers and often gives rise to even more painful emotions, such as depression and anxiety. Thus, the individual has now created an additional problem for themselves besides their substance abuse, and must be treated with an additional disorder. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that anger management intervention for individuals with substance abuse problems is very effective in reducing, or altogether, eliminating a relapse.

Medical research has found that alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine dependence are medical diseases associated with biochemical changes in the brain. Traditional treatment approaches for drug and alcohol dependency focus mainly on group therapy and cognitive behavior modification, which very often does not deal with either the anger or the "physiological" components underlying the addictive behavior.

Anger precedes the use of cocaine for many cocaine-dependent individuals; thus, cocaine-dependent individuals who experience frequent and intense episodes of anger may be more likely to relapse to cocaine use than individuals who can control their anger effectively. Several clinical trials have demonstrated that cognitive-behavioral interventions for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders can be used to help individuals with anger control problems reduce the frequency and intensity with which they experience anger. Although studies have indirectly examined anger management group treatments in populations with a high prevalence of substance abuse, few studies have directly examined the efficacy of an anger management treatment for cocaine-dependent individuals. A number of studies demonstrating the effectiveness of an anger management treatment in a sample of participants who had a primary diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder have been conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Although many participants in these studies had a history of drug or alcohol dependence, the sample was not selected based on inclusion criteria for a substance dependence disorder, such as cocaine dependence. Considering the possible mediating role of anger for substance abuse, a study examining the efficacy of anger management treatment in a sample of cocaine-dependent patients would be informative.

Anger management as an after thought

In spite of the information available to all professional substance abuse treatment providers, anger management has not received the attention which is deserved and needed for successful substance abuse treatment. Many, if not most, substance abuse programs claim to offer anger management as one of the topics in its treatment, yet few substance abuse counseling programs include anger certification for these counselors.

Typically, new substance abuse counselors are simply told that they will need to teach a certain number of hours or sessions on anger management, and then they are left to find their own anger management information and teaching material. These counselors tend to piece together whatever they can find and present it as anger management.

Despite the connection of anger and violence to substance abuse, few substance abuse providers have attempted to either connect the two or provide intervention for both. In the Los Angeles area, a number of primarily upscale residential rehab programs for drug and alcohol treatment have contracted with Certified Anger Management Providers to offer anger management either in groups on an individual basis for inpatient substance abuse clients. Malibu based Promises (which caters to the stars) has contracted with Certified Providers to offer anger management on an individual coaching basis.

It may also be of interest to note that SAMSHA has published an excellent client workbook along with teacher’s manual entitled, Anger Management for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Clients: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Manual [and] Participant Workbook.

This publication is free and any program can order as many copies as needed without cost. There is simply no excuse for shortchanging substance abuse clients by not providing real anger management classes.

Limited anger management research

What has been offered as anger management in substance abuse programs has lacked integrity. The Canadian Bureau of Prisons has conducted a 15 year longitudinal study on the effectiveness of anger management classes for incarcerated defendants whose original crime included substance abuse, aggression and violence. One of the first findings was that in order to be useful, the anger management model used must have integrity. Integrity is defined as using a client workbook containing all of the material needed for an anger management class, consistency among trainers in terms of how the material is taught, and a pre and post testto document change made by clients who complete the class.
It is not possible to determine the effectiveness of anger management, which is fragmented and not based on any particular structure of theoretical base.

Anger management training is rarely integrated into substance abuse treatment

At the present time, anger management is rarely integrated into any model of substance abuse intervention. Rather, it is simply filler tacked on to a standard twelve step program.

Trends in anger management and substance abuse treatment.

Several years ago, the California state legislature established statewide guidelines for all state and locally supported substance abuse programs. This legislation is included in what is commonly referred to as proposition 36. As a result of this legislation, all substance abuse counselors must have documented training in anger management facilitator certification. This training requires 40 hours of core training plus 16 hours of continuing anger management education on a yearly basis.

What is Anger Management?

Anger management is rapidly becoming the most requested intervention in human services. It may be worthwhile to define what anger management is and is not. According to the American Psychiatric Association, anger is a normal human emotion. It is not a pathological condition; therefore, it is not listed as a defined illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Nervous and Mental Disorders. Rather, anger is considered a lifestyle issue. This means that psychotherapy or psychotropic medication is not an appropriate intervention for teaching skills for managing anger.

The American Association of Anger Management Providers defines anger management as a skill enhancement course which teaches skills in recognizing and managing anger, stress, assertive communication and emotional intelligence. Anger is seen as a normal human emotion, which is a problem when it occurs too frequently, lasts too long, is too intense, is harmful to self or others, or leads to person or property directed aggression.

The Anderson & Anderson anger management curriculum is currently the most widely used model of anger management in the world. This model includes an assessment at intake which is designed to determine the client’s level of functioning in the following four areas: anger, stress, communication and emotional intelligence. The intervention/classes, which are provided, teach skills in these four areas. Post tests are administered after course completion to determine the success or lack thereof of the program.

In Summary

All anger management programs should conduct an assessment at intake for substance abuse and psychopathology and all substance abuse programs should assess all participants for the current level of functioning in recognizing anger, stress, assertive communication and emotional intelligence.
All substance abuse programs should have their intervention staff certified in anger management facilitation.
Guidelines should be established to determine the number of hours/sessions that each client will receive in teaching skill enhancement in anger management, stress management, communication and emotional intelligence.

George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF

Friday, June 01, 2007

Change Your Language and Reduce Your Anger- Part 2

In part, the last article entitled Change Your Language and Reduce Your Anger, I introduce the idea of how a poor emotional vocabulary was linked to anger management. I suggested that anger is a secondary emotion driven by many primary emotions. This concept is not new; however what I have been developing that is fascinating is how building an emotional vocabulary can be linked to reducing our tendency to be explosive.


In reality, what I am encouraging is that we become more self aware. I am also encouraging that we have a new internal conversation that allows us to be in tune with our needs, expectations and desires. To do this effectively we need a stronger emotional vocabulary. Often we have unmet needs and expectations which are unfilled. These represent sensitive areas in our thinking and feeling that, if threatened, we will fight back emotionally, physically or even retreat. This is an automatic response to the pain and anxiety associated with a need to defend the things in our thinking that we hold dear.

Language as power

The tendency to fight back is very evident in animals. I often tell my clients to consider a cat that is backed into a corner. The cat instinctively “feels” vulnerable and fights back. The cat cannot converse or negotiate- it can only display overt aggression. You see, neither the cat nor any other animal has the benefit of something that humans may take for granted-language. We have the capacity to put into words our feelings to let others know what is really bothering us or what has the potential to anger us. This ability to use language has been perfected over many millions of years, but sadly many take little advantage of this opportunity to access and share their emotional concerns-choosing rather to engage in physical and verbal aggression.

Emotional Vocabulary

This brings me back to the emotional vocabulary. In my mind this revolution in thinking holds the key to assisting us in quickly being aware of how we feel and taking action to avert an unnecessary outburst. While there maybe more than 2000 feeling words in our vocabulary, the average person would be lucky to know 50. This is troubling because we need that emotional vocabulary to gauge how we feel and how those feelings can potentially lead to anger outbursts. Let me illustrate by providing a scenario and then describing a list of feelings that could have lead to the aggression.

Tom’s story

Take a chain of events occurring in the life of a man we will call Tom. Tom is a successful banker having trouble in his life. On the day in question, Tom berated one of his employees by calling him offensive names. This led to his suspension from his job. The background story is that Tom is going through a divorce, and that morning, before the incident with the employee, he had received a letter form his wife’s attorney detailing an extensive alimony payment. On the way to work, Tom was driving aggressively. He refused to greet others when he entered his office building; and, just before the incident, Tom found out that the employee he berated had made a serious error with a contract bid. Tom displayed anger and aggression towards this employee; but if we dig deeper, one may realize that he had many other emotions which include feeling abandoned by his wife, on edge, betrayed, regretful, hopeless, vulnerable, broken, burnt out, cheated-the list can go on. The point is that Tom was driven by his emotions, but had no idea that he was. Instead, he displayed rage. Inappropriate anger is an extremely ineffective way of dealing with these complex emotions because, in reality, Tom needed to resolve issues related to himself and his wife. The employee unsuspectingly came into the line of fire and was hit by a “stray bullet.” Anger is often a stray bullet that is not fired at the source, but at another, often unsuspecting, target.

What next

What could have Tom done? Tom essentially will need anger management, but with a difference. I follow the Anderson and Anderson model which teaches anger management, emotional intelligence, communication skills and stress management. Although all four of these components are important, emotional intelligence holds important keys to long term anger management. I teach what I describe as the ADA system, which is awareness-dialogue-action. With the ADA system, Tom could learn a language to increase his self-awareness, engage in a dialogue with himself and others about his emotions, and take action to resolve his internal and external struggles without an anger blowout. The key is emotional vocabulary. This is where Tom develops the language to define how he feels. Without this vocabulary, Tom will experience an emotional noise which will again lead to confusion and possible anger outbursts. In the next article, I will detail more about ADA , introduce new emotional vocabulary words and discuss what I mean by emotional noise.

Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF

President of the American Association of Anger Management Providers

Carlos Todd is the owner of Todd’s Anger Management Solutions in Charlotte, NC