Anger is an emotion that everyone experience at some point in time. However, social workers may work with clients who feel they are unable to control their feelings and expressions of anger as well as they would like, and/or because their anger is causing problems in their personal, social, or professional life that they would like to resolve. Additionally, managing anger well can promote health, as anger has been linked to risks for physical health problems such as heart disease, headaches, and stress-related illnesses.

A variety of anger management techniques can be employed to support clients in controlling their anger and improving their functioning in other arenas of life. The effectiveness of anger management techniques will vary based on the client, and sometimes, a combination of techniques may work best. Social workers should act as a resource to clients seeking to manage their anger by offering them various options for techniques they might employ, and respecting the client’s right to self-determination in choosing which techniques are right for them.

Building Communication Skills

In some cases, increased communication skills can support clients in managing anger, avoiding angry outbursts and preventing them from saying things that might cause harm to themselves or others. Focusing on listening to others and thinking carefully about what to say before saying it is potentially helpful practices. Clients can also make efforts to slow down their speech, making it more intentional, and avoiding taking a defensive position, when possible. In some cases, clients may find that using humor can lighten the mood and de-escalate the situation when feelings of anger arise.

Practicing Relaxation

Sometimes, people feel angry due to overwhelming stress or pent-up tension that cause them to lash out. These situations can be alleviated through the regular practice of relaxation techniques. Practicing relaxation techniques often, when not feeling stressed, tense, or angry, can help clients learn to use the techniques without even thinking about when those feelings do arise. Social workers can help clients learn relaxation through deep breathing and other breath exercises, practicing meditation or yoga, or using guided imagery to assist clients in reaching a place of calm.

Cognitive Approaches

Changing the way one thinks can often help in recognizing and managing emotions before they rise to the surface. Cognitive anger management techniques use logic to help clients gain a more balanced perspective on what has caused their anger. Helping clients to recognize and eventually replace destructive thoughts with healthy thoughts is one cognitive strategy that may be effective in controlling anger. A cognitive approach can also focus on problem-solving.

Additional Options

In addition to the options presented above, clients may find it helpful to simply walk away from a situation that causes anger. Leaving the room, taking a walk, and drinking a glass of water instead of reacting to the situation might be helpful. Clients can also learn to recognize the situations and/or people that provoke feelings of anger and avoid them in the future. Additionally, they can learn to recognize personal factors that make them more susceptible to anger, like feeling rushed, pressured, tired, or hungry, and choose not to enter into conversations when those conditions are present.