6. APA: At what point should a person seek professional help for anger?
Dr. Kassinove: Some degree of anger will be with us for all of our lives. So, this is the question to ask: “Is my anger working for me?” When anger is mild, infrequent, dissipates quickly and is expressed assertively (directly to the problem person, in a non-accusatory manner) and without aggression, then professional help is not needed. In such circumstances, anger may serve the role of simply highlighting your annoyance and it can lead to problem resolution.
However, if your anger is moderate to intense, experienced frequently, endures to the point where you are holding a grudge and are planning to get even, and is expressed in aggressive verbal and physical actions, then there is cause for alarm. You are likely at risk for the negative relationship, health and sometimes legal repercussions related to inappropriate anger expression.
7. APA: What are the most effective treatments for people who have a serious anger problem and wish to gain control over the emotion?
Dr. Kassinove: Anger management works. There have been six large-scale analyses of adult anger management programs. The latest one reviewed 96 different studies and concluded that psychological treatments are moderately effective for treating anger in various groups. This includes work to reduce anger in college and university settings, community treatment facilities, correctional facilities and hospitals. In some cases, significant effects were found in as little as eight treatment sessions and the results were maintained in follow-ups of a month to a year. The strongest effects are found with multicomponent treatment programs. Interventions based on cognitive or cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and skill training work best. Relaxation programs, stress inoculation programs and exposure-based interventions are also helpful.
It is wise for individuals seeking anger management services to begin at their local universities or hospitals and to ask how long they have offered anger management services. Personnel with up-to-date research knowledge and specific training and more experience working in the area of anger management are likely to provide the best service.
About Dr. Kassinove: A former director of Hofstra’s PhD program and chair of the Psychology Department, Dr. Kassinove has more than 40 years’ experience as a scientist and professional psychologist and is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He is board certified in clinical psychology and is the current president of the American Board of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology. He has co-authored two books about anger: Anger Management: The Complete Treatment Guidebook for Practitioners (2002, Impact Publishers) and Anger Management for Everyone: Seven Proven Ways to Control Anger and Live a Happier Life (2009, Impact Publishers).
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