Anger Management: A Cognitive Behavioral Approach > Chapter 4 - Anger Control Plans

Helping Group Members Develop a Plan for Controlling Anger

Outline of Session 3

  • Instructions to Group Leaders
  • Check-In Procedure
  • Suggested Remarks
  • – Anger Control Plans
    – Relaxation Through Breathing
  • Homework Assignment

Session 3

Instructions to Group Leaders

In this session, begin teaching group members cognitive behavioral strategies for controlling their anger. By now, participants have begun to learn how to monitor their anger and identify anger-provoking events and situations. At this point, it is important to help them develop a repertoire of anger management strategies. This repertoire of strategies is called an anger control plan. This plan should consist of immediate strategies, those that can be used in the heat of the moment when anger is rapidly escalating, and preventive strategies, those that can be used to avoid escalation of anger before it begins. It is important to encourage members to use strategies that work best for them. Some find cognitive restructuring (e.g., challenging hostile self-talk or irrational beliefs) very effective. Others might prefer using strategies such as a timeout or thought stopping. The main point is to help group members individualize their anger control plans and to help them develop strategies that they are comfortable with and that they will readily use. In the remaining sessions, you will continue to help group members develop effective strategies for controlling their anger and clarify and reinforce these strategies during the Check-In Procedure.

Check-In Procedure

Ask group members to report the highest level of anger they reached on the anger meter during the past week. Make sure they reserve the number 10 for situations where they lost control of their anger and experienced negative consequences. Ask them to describe the anger-provoking event that led to their highest level of anger. Help them identify the cues that occurred in response to the anger-provoking event, and help them classify these cues into the four cue categories.

Suggested Remarks

(Use the following blocked or put this in your own words.)

Anger Control Plans

Up to this point, you have been focusing on how to monitor your anger. In the first session, you learned how to use the anger meter to rate your anger. Last week, you learned how to identify the events that trigger anger, as well as the physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive cues associated with each event. Today, you will begin to discuss how to develop an anger control plan and how you can use specific strategies, such as timeouts and relaxation, to control your anger. In later sessions, you will cover other strategies, such as learning to change negative or hostile self-talk and using the Conflict Resolution Model (see page 39). These more advanced strategies can be used along with timeouts and relaxation.

The basic idea in developing an anger control plan is to try many different strategies and find the anger control techniques that work best for you. Once you identify these strategies, you can add them to your anger control plans and use them when you start to get angry. Some people refer to their anger control plans as their toolbox and the specific strategies they use to control their anger as their tools. This analogy may be very helpful. Again, it is important to identify the specific anger control strategies that work best for you. These strategies should be put down in a formal anger control plan for referral when you encounter an anger-provoking event.

An effective strategy that many people use, for example, is to talk about their feelings with a supportive friend who was not involved with the event that made them angry. By discussing anger, you can begin to identify the primary emotions that underlie it and determine whether your thinking and expectations in response to the anger-provoking event are rational. Often a friend whom you trust can provide a different perspective on what is going on in your life. Even if your friend just listens, expressing your feelings can often make you feel better.

The long-term objective of the anger management treatment is to develop a set of strategies that you can use appropriately for specific anger-provoking events. Later sessions will introduce a menu of strategies and techniques that are helpful in managing anger. Once you have selected the strategies that work best, you should refine them by applying them in real-life situations. To use the toolbox analogy, different tools may be needed for different situations. We will return to this concept in later sessions and highlight the importance of developing an anger control plan that helps you manage anger effectively in a variety of situations.

Timeout. As mentioned in session 1, the concept of a timeout is especially important to anger management. It is the basic anger management strategy recommended for inclusion in everyone’s anger control plan. Informally, a timeout is defined as leaving the situation that is causing the escalation of anger or simply stopping the discussion that is provoking it.

Formally, a timeout involves relationships with other people: it involves an agreement or a prearranged plan. These relationships may involve family members, friends, and coworkers. Any of the parties involved may call a timeout in accordance with rules that have been agreed on by everyone in advance. The person calling the timeout can leave the situation, if necessary. It is agreed, however, that he or she will return to either finish the discussion or postpone it, depending on whether all those involved feel they can successfully resolve the issue.

Timeouts are important because they can be effective in the heat of the moment. Even if your anger is escalating quickly on the anger meter, you can prevent reaching 10 by taking a timeout and leaving the situation.

[Question #15. Timeout is :]

Timeouts are also effective when they are used with other strategies. For example, you can take a timeout and go for a walk. You can also take a timeout and call a trusted friend or family member or write in your journal. These other strategies should help you calm down during the timeout period.

Can you think of specific strategies that you might use to control your anger? Should these strategies be included on your anger control plan?

Exhibit 4. Sample of an Anger Control Plan
Anger Control Plan
  1. Take a timeout (formal or informal)
  2. Talk to a friend (someone you trust)
  3. Use the Conflict Resolution Model to express anger
  4. Exercise (take a walk, go to the gym, etc.)
  5. Attend 12-Step meetings
  6. Explore primary feelings beneath the anger

Relaxation Through Breathing

We have discussed the physical cues to anger, such as an increased heartbeat, feeling hot or flushed, or muscle tension. These types of physical cues are examples of what is commonly called the stress response. In the stress response, the nervous system is energized, and in this agitated state, a person is likely to have trouble returning to lower levels on the anger meter. In this state, additional anger-provoking situations and events are likely to cause a further escalation of anger.

An interesting aspect of the nervous system is that everyone has a relaxation response that counteracts the stress response. It is physically impossible to be both agitated and relaxed at the same time. If you can relax successfully, you can counteract the stress or anger response.

We will end this session by practicing a deep-breathing exercise as a relaxation technique. In session 4, we will practice progressive muscle relaxation as a secondary type of relaxation technique.

[Question #16. Part of an anger control plan to immediately resolve physical cues is:]

Note to Group Leader: Lead a Breathing Exercise
(Use this blocked or put this in your own words.)

Get comfortable in your chair. If you like, close your eyes; or just gaze at the floor.

Take a few moments to settle yourself. Now make yourself aware of your body. Check your body for tension, beginning with your feet, and scan upward to your head. Notice any tension you might have in your legs, your stomach, your hands and arms, your shoulders, your neck, and your face. Try to let go of the tension you are feeling.

Now, make yourself aware of your breathing. Pay attention to your breath as it enters and leaves your body. This can be very relaxing.

Let’s all take a deep breath together. Notice your lungs and chest expanding. Now slowly exhale through your nose. Again, take a deep breath. Fill your lungs and chest. Notice how much air you can take in. Hold it for a second. Now release it and slowly exhale. One more time, inhale slowly and fully. Hold it for a second, and release.

Now on your own, continue breathing in this way for another couple of minutes. Continue to focus on your breathing. With each inhalation and exhalation, feel your body becoming more and more relaxed. Use your breathing to wash away any remaining tension.

(Allow group members to practice breathing for 1 to 2 minutes in silence.)

Now let’s take another deep breath. Inhale fully, hold it for a second, and release. Inhale again, hold, and release. Continue to be aware of your breath as it fills your lungs. Once more, inhale fully, hold it for a second, and release.

When you feel ready, open your eyes.

How was that? Did you notice any new sensations while you were breathing? How do you feel now?

This breathing exercise can be shortened to just three deep inhalations and exhalations. Even that much can be effective in helping you relax when your anger is escalating. You can practice this at home, at work, on the bus, while waiting for an appointment, or even while walking. The key to making deep-breathing an effective relaxation technique is to practice it frequently and to apply it in a variety of situations.

Homework Assignment

Have group members refer to the participant workbook. Ask them to monitor and record their highest level of anger on the anger meter during the upcoming week. Ask them to identify the event that made them angry, the cues that were associated with the anger-provoking event, and the strategies that they used to manage their anger in response to the event. Ask them to practice the deep-breathing exercise, preferably once a day during the upcoming week, and develop a preliminary version of their anger control plans. Inform group members that they should be prepared to report on these assignments during the Check-In Procedure at the next week’s session.

Anger Management: A Cognitive Behavioral Approach > Chapter 4 - Anger Control Plans
Page Last Modified On: April 18, 2015, 11:56 AM