Anger Management (4 Hours)

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for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Clients

This online course is designed to be used by participants in an anger management group treat­ment curriculum for substance abuse and mental health clients.  It provides individuals partici­pating in the 12-week anger management group treatment with a summary of core concepts, worksheets to complete homework assignments, and space to take notes for each of the ses­sions.  The concepts and skills presented in the anger management treatment are best learned by practice and review and by completing the homework assignments given in this course.  Using this online course as an adjunct to your participation in the 12-week anger management group treatment will help you develop the skills that are necessary to successfully manage anger.


Overview of Anger Management Treatment

In this first session, you will get a general overview of the anger management treatment.  This includes the purpose of the group, group rules, definitions of anger and aggression, myths about anger, anger as a habitual response, and the introduction of the anger meter used to monitor anger.

Purpose of the Group

  1. Learn to manage anger effectively.
  2. Stop violence or the threat of violence.
  3. Develop self-control over thoughts and actions.
  4. Receive support from others.

Group Rules

  1. Group Safety:  No violence or threats of violence toward staff or other group members are permitted.  It is very important that you view the group as a safe place to share your experi­ences and feelings without threats or fear of physical harm.
  2. Confidentiality:  Group members should not discuss outside of the group what other mem­bers say.  (The group leader should determine the limits of the laws or rules pertaining to confidentiality in his or her State.)
  3. Homework Assignments:  Brief homework assignments will be given each week.  Doing the homework assignments will improve your anger management skills and allow you to get the most from the group experience.
  4. Absences and Cancellations:  You should call or notify the group leader in advance if you cannot attend a group session. Because of the amount of material presented in each ses­sion, you may not miss more than 3 of the 12 sessions.
  5. If you miss more than three sessions, you may continue attending the weekly sessions, but you will not receive a certificate of completion.
  6. Timeouts:  The group leader reserves the right to call a timeout at any time.  Eventually, you will learn to call a timeout yourself if you feel that you may be losing control because your anger is escalating.


In the most general sense, anger is a feeling or emotion that ranges from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.  Many people often confuse anger with aggression.  Aggression is behavior that is intended to cause harm or injury to another person or damage to property.  Hostility, on the other hand, refers to a set of attitudes and judgments that motivate aggressive behaviors.

Anger Management – Definitions

When Does Anger Become a Problem?

Anger becomes a problem when it is felt too intensely, is felt too frequently, or is expressed inappropriately.  Feeling anger too intensely or frequently places extreme physical strain on the body.

Payoffs and Consequences

The inappropriate expression of anger initially has apparent payoffs (e.g., releasing tension, controlling people). In the long-term, however, these payoffs lead to negative consequences.  That is why they are called “apparent” payoffs; the long-term negative consequences far outweigh the short-term gains.

Myths About Anger

Myth #1:  Anger Is Inherited.  One misconception or myth about anger is that the way people express anger is inherited and cannot be changed.  Evidence from research studies, however, indicates that people are not born with set and specific ways of expressing anger.  Rather, these studies show that the expression of anger is learned behavior and that more appropriate ways of expressing anger can also be learned.

Myth #2:  Anger Automatically Leads to Aggression.  A related myth involves the misconception that the only effective way to express anger is through aggression.  There are other more constructive and assertive ways, however, to express anger.  Effective anger management involves controlling the escalation of anger by learning assertiveness skills, changing negative and hostile “self-talk,” challenging irrational beliefs, and employing a variety of behavioral strategies.  These skills, techniques, and strategies will be discussed in later sessions.

Myth #3:  You Must Be Aggressive To Get What You Want.  Many people confuse assertiveness with aggression.  The goal of aggression is to dominate, intimidate, harm, or injure another person—to win at any cost.  Conversely, the goal of assertiveness is to express feelings of anger in a way that is respectful of other people.  Expressing yourself in an assertive manner does not blame or threaten other people and minimizes the chance of emotional harm.  You will learn about the topic of assertiveness skills in more detail in sessions 7 and 8.

Myth #4:  Venting Anger Is Always Desirable.  For many years, there was a popular belief that the aggressive expression of anger, such as screaming or beating on pillows, was therapeutic and healthy.  Research studies have found, however, that people who vent their anger aggressively simply get better at being angry.  In other words, venting anger in an aggressive manner reinforces aggressive behavior.

Anger Is a Habit

Anger can become a routine, familiar, and predictable response to a variety of situations.  When anger is displayed frequently and aggressively, it can become a maladaptive habit.  A habit, by definition, means performing behaviors automatically, over and over again, without think­ing.  The frequent and aggressive expression of anger can be viewed as a maladaptive habit because it results in negative consequences.

Breaking the Anger Habit

You can break the anger habit by becoming aware of the events and circumstances that trigger your anger and the negative consequences that result from it.  In addition, you need to develop a set of strategies to effectively manage your anger.  You will learn more about strategies to manage anger in session 3.

Anger Meter

A simple way to monitor your anger is to use a 1 to 10 scale called the anger meter.  A score of 1 on the anger meter represents a complete lack of anger or a total state of calm, whereas 10 represents an angry and explosive loss of control that leads to negative consequences.