As a licensed psychotherapist with a clinical practice in addition to my work in anger management I have made a few observations about grieving and its relationship to anger. Case example: A recent client of mine had lost her father of cancer about 5 years ago. When he died she was pregnant with her first child. As a result of being pregnant, she did not want to grieve too deeply for her father for fear that it might adversely effect the baby. She thought that all the sadness and hurt might cause complications to her unborn child and as a result, she did not properly grieve his death.
As the years went on, she found herself having an increasing worse temper and lowered frustration tolerance. Her once even keel, was easily thrown off course by even trial conflicts in life. She found herself not knowing why she had such a short fuse and why such small occurences in life could cause so much irritation. Rather than simply treating the symptoms of her anger, we actually started talking more about the loss of her father and how she lacked grieving his death. As the crying started, she went on to say that she had never actually cried and never really got a chance to talk about it. For several sessions of psychotherapy we have been working on the role of grieving in relationship to improving her anger response.
This brings up a very important point for all who seek help for anger management. Sometimes the anger has a historical or psychological cause and traditional anger management may not be the right course of action to take as a first line intervention. Anger management providers who are not trained or licensed as psychotherapists need to refer cases such as these to trained clinicians to evaluate the client and determine the etiology of the symptoms rather than simply teach anger management skills. While the anger management may be helpful, it may not resolve the underlying issue, as in the case example above, grieving. It is not to say that all underlying issues need to be resolved in order for anger management to be effective, but in some cases, they need or should be explored first. Anger management is an educational intervention aimed at teaching skills in a variety of areas to improve interpersonal relationships. It is NOT a catch all intervention to help every client who comes in to talk about why they are angry. Consumers to anger management need to also consider the causes of their anger and become educated between the differences between anger management and psychotherapy.
Ari Novick, Ph.D., LMFT
AJ Novick Group, Inc.- Anger Management
Anger Class Online - Online Anger Management Classes
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