Mr. Marriage Counselor - "How Long Does Anger Management Take?"

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    There are many misconceptions about counseling in general, and for anger management counseling specifically. People often either assume they can attend one or two sessions and be done, or that they’ll get roped into years of therapy. The reality is that neither of these things are usually true. When people are asking how long anger management takes, the answer depends on many factors.

    How long it takes to acquire the skills for effective anger management is very personal. Nonetheless, there are some general guidelines when considering your options and time frames. Below you will see a question from Jenny, the wife of a man who needs help controlling his anger, and what I told her to expect. 

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    Reader Question:

    Hi - recently I asked my husband if he would be interested in anger management courses because he has been furious with the world since losing his job in October of 2008 and not finding a new job. He inquired today to ask how much time it would entail. Now that he has expressed interest, I would like to get him some information so that he would chose to seek help. I liked your website and so I thought I would contact you and see if you can help us." -Jenny C.

    The fact that her husband is interested in anger management counseling is a very good sign. A person’s willingness to change is a huge factor in determining how long change will take. It’s also not uncommon for there to be a traumatic event – like losing a job – that precipitates the need for anger management classes.

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    My Answer:

    How much time do anger management classes take is a good question. Unfortunately, successful anger management is not a one size fits all process. For your husband to successfully change his anger he'll need more than just some anger management techniques.

    A lot of anger management is ineffective,"

    says anger management expert W. Doyle Gentry, Ph.D., whose work was featured in the movie Anger Management.

    For success in anger management class treatment, Dr. Gentry recommends a program that focuses on addressing 3 areas: the biological, psychological, and social influences that are strong>the reasons why a man gets angry. The amount of work that your husband will need to do in these three areas will be different from other men and I can't tell you how long that may take until I've met with him.

    Be careful where your husband gets help. A lot of men look for a quick fix. And Dr. Gentry warns that,

    Anger management made easy" programs "don't work."

    He says that his research shows that basic approaches to anger like "just walk away" don't work for 88% of those with an anger management problem because most people simply can't walk away.

    To find out more about your options for anger management help, take a look this article: Anger Management Classes - Choices in Roseville, Folsom, Sacramento - even if you don't live in these cities.

    Factors That Influence Effective Anger Management

    Learning to effectively manage anger is a complicated process. When you’ve decided that you need help and are ready to receive it, you need to be prepared to do the necessary work without an associated time frame. Putting pressure on yourself to “fix things” in two weeks, two months, or even two years, will take the focus off the becoming successful in your efforts and place it on just meeting your timeline.

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    The truth is that if you stop worrying about how long it will take and instead concentrate on learning, you’ll likely be more successful more quickly than otherwise.

    That being said, there are some things that can influence the amount of time needed to learn to control your anger response. Many of these are things you have no control over, so their presence (or lack thereof) is merely a general indicator of the work you’re facing.

    • Length of time struggling. If you’ve struggled with anger issues since childhood, learning the best ways to handle your anger can take a while. Behaviors that have gone unchecked for years are deeply ingrained and require time to modify. If, however, you’re holding onto anger from a recent traumatic event, you may become effective at managing things once you’ve worked through the pain and anger associated with that event.
    • Motivation. A large part of the success and time it takes to become successful has to do with your own readiness and motivation. People who seek counseling because they’re told they need to, under duress, or as part of an ultimatum, won’t be successful quickly, or likely ever. Much like breaking an addiction, the person suffering must want to change in order for change to happen and last.
    • Heredity. Temperament and psychology do have a biological basis, although it’s not at all the only factor. But if your parent had an anger problem there’s a likelihood that you will struggle too. If this is the case, it may mean that you have to work a bit harder and longer to gain control, and stay on top of it ongoing.
    • Lifestyle and circumstances. We respond to our environment. Yes, our responses are ultimately our responsibility and within our control, but when you live with constant triggers it can certainly make managing anger much more difficult. This is one of the key areas Dr. Gentry cites must be addressed in order to have lasting success, as I described above.

    Again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anger management, and therefore there is no set time that achieving success will take. Giving some thought to the factors above and how they apply to you, however, can help mentally prepare you for the investment you’ll need to make to see change. But to really be successful you’ll need to stop worrying about how long anger management takes and focus instead on making the changes and putting in the work needed.

    Got a question you'd like to Ask a Marriage Counselor? Click here to submit it and I'll answer it in an up coming post. Be sure to Sign Up at the bottom of the page so you'll get my answer as soon as it's published.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published April 29, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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