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.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tame the beast: Control yourself with anger-management lessons

Inside a small, windowless conference room on the second floor of an Indianapolis office complex, 10 men who have been court-ordered to attend anger-management classes talk about what brought them here in the first place.

A middle-age father of two had struck his 12-year-old son, and the boy's school reported the incident to authorities the next day.

Another client -- they don't use the word student here -- smacked a woman in the parking lot of a bar after closing time.

Lynne McCulloch, a self-described ex-hippie and certified addictions counselor, sits curled in one of the cheap banquet chairs that line the small room and slightly grimaces at what she's hearing. She then tries to steer the conversation back to introspection and alternative coping skills.

"Looking back, what would you have done different?" she asks a client.

Although no reliable figures appear to exist, experts say an increasing number of jurisdictions and businesses across the country are mandating anger-management classes. The courts do it as an alternative to incarceration or as part of probation, and businesses do it as a defense against sexual harassment and other liability claims.

June Shrieves, a family court project coordinator, believes a propensity for violence is a learned behavior that can be unlearned.

"They're born and raised with someone (who) if they get angry they just hit someone," Shrieves says. "They never thought of another way."

That was the story told by several of the men at the recent class.

Dad beat on them; they beat on others.

When they got into a disagreement with someone in high school, they settled the dispute the old-fashioned way _ they duked it out.

Larry Brown, a 43-year-old certified public accountant, completed a 12-week, court-ordered program in September. He says the problem was related to an ongoing dispute with his ex-wife over their children.

"I thought, 'I'm not the kind of guy who belongs in anger-management class,' " Brown says.‚ÄĚThat's probably the number one response of everyone who is sent. Whether that is true or not, there are still things you can learn from attending anger-management classes."

Specifically, Brown says he learned to think before acting, and to avoid situations that might lead to a confrontation in the first place.

The movement to anger-management counseling was started by the Veterans Administration after the Vietnam War as part of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, says George Anderson, a longtime provider of anger-management diagnostics and study materials based in California.

"We have determined that anger... is a normal human emotion," says Anderson. "It's only a problem when it's too intense, it occurs too frequently, or it leads to violence against someone else or to yourself."

Although anger-management counseling is widespread, there is little or no standardization of treatment.

Studies have found that people with "problem anger," as it's sometimes called, have anger reactions that are more frequent, intense and enduring than in other people, and they are more physically and verbally abusive because of their anger. Increased drug and alcohol abuse is highly correlated with increased outbursts of anger, too.

"Anger is . . . one of the most powerful and potentially one of the most destructive emotions we have, so it certainly is important to learn to manage it," clinical psychologist Carol Wright-Buckley says.

Because there is so little scientific research into anger and anger management, a situation decried by some experts, it is hard to tell what really works.

McCulloch looks for subtle messages from her clients to know if her therapy is working. Sometimes it's just a change of expression on their faces when she or another client says something interesting, or it's the first time a client admits that maybe_ just maybe_ he or she had a role in causing the incident that led to violence in the first place.

"They're blaming and reacting. At no point are they introspective," McCulloch says. " 'The system is against me.' 'My old lady knows how to push my buttons.' It takes a lot of courage to look within. A lot of these men have never done that."

By ABE AAMIDOR, The Indianapolis Star


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