What Is An Anger Management Therapist?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anger is a normal human emotion that can be healthy. Often, anger can be a secondary emotion to feelings like sadness, fear, or disgust. In some cases, people may find that their anger feels like rage or hostility or drives unwanted behaviors. However, utilizing anger management tips can help them manage their emotions and respond in a more constructive manner. When anger becomes unhealthy, finding an anger management therapist for your problematic anger can be beneficial. Anyone of any age, gender, or background can take advantage of anger management services from a trained mental health professional.

Anger is both an emotional and physiological response. As a natural emotion, it can cause changes in body chemistry, leading to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline. If you experience an anger problem or behaviors that are challenging to control, consider seeking professional help from a qualified anger management therapist. They can help you identify triggers and teach you anger management skills, such as relaxation techniques, communication skills, and expressing anger in constructive ways, to ensure healthy responses to angry feelings.

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Causes of anger

Anger is an emotion akin to sadness, fear, and love. It can serve a purpose, such as assisting people in managing threats by providing the physiological and emotional responses necessary to confront dangerous situations, ensuring overall health and safety. Moreover, feeling angry may signal to someone that another person's behavior is unhealthy, helping them recognize when to end a relationship. When managed correctly, anger can be an important aspect of self-esteem and emotional well being.

The intensity of the anger response can vary depending on the individual and the event that triggered it. Thoughts, memories, and past adverse experiences can be emotional causes or triggers for chronic angry outbursts. involving conscious and unconscious processes. For many, reflecting on people, places, and events that elicited anger in the past might evoke the emotion in the present. Additionally, stressful stimuli such as a new job, difficulties at work, or your car breaking down might cause anger and other negative feelings, potentially increasing the risk of mental health conditions if not properly addressed. 

Anger might become a problem when an aggressive response does not serve the situation or urges you to express an unhealthy behavior. If you experience rage on a daily basis or due to minor stress, finding anger management therapy can help you learn about yourself and even manage your medication for anger

Therapists are non-judgmental and can provide a balance of wisdom, compassion, and listening skills to help you make sense of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Anger management therapy can offer a safe space to address your anxiety, depression, or other feelings, and can offer practical skills and self control tips to manage anger. Utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and relaxation techniques, therapists can help you identify unhelpful thought patterns and practice skills to manage anger effectively, enabling you to feel in control of your actions and foster healthy relationships with others. 

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Anger management therapy

Anger management therapists are licensed providers with experience treating various symptoms of mental health issues, mental health conditions, and emotional concerns. Although many people believe that attending therapy is only allowed for those with a mental health condition, over 41.7 million adults saw a therapist in 2021, and not all were diagnosed with a mental health condition. Therapists are trained to support various concerns, including anger management interventions. You do not necessarily have a mental health condition if you struggle to manage your anger. 

If your uncontrollable anger affects your marriage or family, a professional marriage and family therapist (LMFT) specializing in anger management therapy works effectively to support everyone in the family as they understand how anger functions within the family unit. Whether your family opts to join you in anger management therapy or you prefer to go alone, cognitive anger management therapy can help you find the tools to improve your relationships, treat anger, and mitigate the increased risk of a mental health condition. Here are a few other ways anger management therapy might be able to assist you.

Understanding what causes your anger 

An anger management therapist can do more than provide you with techniques for managing your anger. A qualified mental health specialist can help you understand the sources or psychological roots of your anger, common triggers, and other important information about being an angry person or a person who experiences anger frequently. For instance, if you commonly find yourself angry at work, you and your mental healthcare provider can discuss why work triggers distress and develop a unique treatment plan, informed by peer reviewed studies, to help you avoid outbursts, negative thought patterns, violent behavior, or unwanted actions towards yourself, coworkers, customers, or management. When you focus on understanding anger and how it affects you, you can learn to develop coping skills and control anger before it controls you.

Understanding your past experiences 

A professional mental health therapist can also help you examine your life experiences and how they might contribute to your anger issues. Perhaps you grew up in a household where uncontrolled anger was the only way family members expressed emotions, or you may have grown up around caretakers who never found a healthy way to express anger, which may have encouraged you to repress your own anger until it becomes explosive, resulting in anger problems. If you experience explosive anger toward other people or external events, you might experience feelings of regret or shame afterward. Working through memories, relationships, negative events, or thought patterns can allow you a greater self-awareness to understand the root of anger that may have influenced your patterns of behavior or thinking.

Understanding impulse control

Your therapist can also address impulse control. If you struggle to not follow through on angry behavioral urges, your therapist can teach you new skills and techniques to calm yourself down or remove yourself from a situation or problem before reacting. Practicing and implementing impulse control with the support of a therapist can allow you to understand the differences between an urge, an emotion, and behavior when you're feeling anger arise. 

Types of anger management therapy

Various forms of therapy may be effective in treating anger concerns. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to address chronic anger issues due to its approach to changing thoughts and beliefs to change behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help with any co-occurring mental health conditions you may experience alongside anger issues, such as anxiety or depression.

Another method that may be used is psychodynamic therapy. This type of anger management therapy uses self-reflection to help clients discover the potential root causes of anger and other symptoms or emotions. In addition, family therapy can be used for those experiencing arguments, conflict, or anger concerns with their family or with their romantic partner. Additionally, the American Psychological Association states that psychodynamic therapy can provide long-term benefits for a range of mental health concerns.

Home anger management

While you're in the process of seeking and obtaining professional help, you may also consider at-home anger management therapy techniques, including the following. 

Box breathing

Breathing techniques can help you control your nervous system by allowing oxygen to circulate properly. You might find your breathing getting shallow or heavy when you feel angry. Focusing on an exercise like box breathing could help you feel more in control of your body while you're upset. You can try it through the following steps: 

  • Take a breath in for six seconds

  • Hold your breath for five seconds

  • Breathe out for six seconds

  • Hold your breath for six seconds

  • Repeat the exercise until you start to feel more relaxed

Taking space

As a short-term strategy, leaving a situation when you feel angry may help you control your emotions and avoid negative consequences. If you feel angry with friends or family, let them know you're going to step outside for a moment and try to wait until you feel less angry to come back to have the conversation. In addition, give yourself a 24 to 48-hour rule for responding to distressing messages or emails.

Physical activity 

Some people may find that partaking in healthy physical activity like running, stretching, or swimming can relieve feelings of anger. When exercising, your brain releases endorphins, often referred to as "happy chemicals," that can improve mood, physical health, and well-being. In addition, anger often involves action urges, so putting your energy into a positive form of action may be beneficial.

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Counseling options for mental health: anger management classes and more

Like a trainer at a gym may coach you through using exercise machines safely, a professional therapist can coach you on how to deal with anger safely. In anger management therapy, you can learn ways to feel mentally and physically healthier over time. Therapists may utilize CBT techniques, stress inoculation training, or another type of anger management technique. The American Psychological Association has noted that excessive anger can lead to numerous adverse health outcomes over time, including decreased neurological functioning, high blood pressure, heart disease, memory loss, immune concerns, and digestive problems. Anger therapy can allow those struggling with anger management issues to care for their body and mind simultaneously.

Many people may experience feelings of shame or guilt when they express anger, which can make receiving therapy in person challenging. However, there are multiple options when it comes to finding a mental healthcare provider or therapist, including anger management classes and support for other mental health issues and conditions. For example, online therapy can be a more discreet option.

Online anger management therapy can be arranged around your life. With no need for transportation to an appointment, you can save time and fit your sessions around your schedule. Online anger management counseling is truly a lifesaver. In addition, you can use a nickname through some platforms, allowing you to receive treatment discreetly. One study on internet-based interventions for anger and aggression found it as effective as in-person therapy. If you're interested in trying online anger management therapy, consider signing up through a platform like BetterHelp, which allows you to match with a counselor within 48 hours.

Takeaway

Anger can be a challenging emotion to manage alone. If you’re someone who experiences anger issues, you may first want to rule out potential underlying health problems that may be contributing to your anger, and then consider working with a therapist to address your concerns. Therapist can help you manage your anger by offering constructive criticism, helping you understand the roots of your anger, helping you improve communication, and teach you problem-solving techniques for angry outbursts. Support is available through many forms of anger management therapy, including online therapy. If you're looking for a provider in your area, you can also consider asking your primary care doctor for a referral. Regardless, reaching out to a licensed therapist can get you started on reducing anger's impact on your life.


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