An analysis of Schools of Psychotherapy as they relate to Anger Management
Anger is a basic human emotion that transcends cultural boundaries. However, despite its universality, an exact definition agreed upon by all people is lacking (Norcross & Kobayashi, 1999). Physiologically, brain centers in the amygdala are connected to anger processing. Because the information processing that takes place in this brain structure is primitive, anger can be triggered inappropriately and without the individual's knowledge of the cause. In psychodynamic terms, past events and experiences suppressed in the unconscious can be the source of generated anger. In cognitive-behavioral terms, anger is described as an interaction of behavior, cognition, and physiological arousal (Ambrose & Mayne, 1999). According to Deffenbacher (1999), anger may be aroused by specific external events, a mix of these external events with the anger-related memories they elicit, and internal stimuli such as emotions or thoughts. It results when "events are judged to involve a trespass upon the personal domain, an insult to or an assault upon ego identity, a violation of values and expectations, and/or unwarranted interference with goal-directed behavior" (p.297).
Two main ways to treat anger involve helping patients to prevent anger activation or helping them to regulate anger manifestation. The former is generally a longer and more difficult approach due to the fact that early emotional behavior patterns are hard to change or eliminate. Therefore, the moderation of anger may prove to be a more effective route of therapy (Ambrose & Mayne, 1999). Many different schools of psychotherapy have addressed the problem of anger. Because of the lack of a universally identical definition for anger, there is debate regarding the best way to treat it. According to Kobayashi and Norcross (1999), "without a consensus on the identified phenomenon, we will continue to disagree on the proper psychotherapy of anger disorders" (p.277). However, by exploring the various characteristics of the different schools of psychotherapy, similarities and compatibilities become apparent, which can lead to a more integrative and eclectic approach to anger management.
The Psychodynamic Approach
The psychodynamic approach can be traced to Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. He first concentrated on a cathartic method to release repressed emotions associated with past experiences and then began to focus on a free association method and the development of transference (Messer, 2001). Underlying the psychoanalytic perspective is the idea of the unconscious. The unconscious is where past experiences and true emotions are hidden. Manifestation of an undesirable trait, such as anger, along with excessive use of defense mechanisms lead to the assumption of a deeper conflict hidden within the unconscious. Psychodynamic techniques try to gain access to the unconscious and...