A businessman sits in front of a keyboard, making a fist with one hand and squeezing a stress ball in the other.Anger management refers to a process. It can help people identify stressors. People learn steps to help them stay calm in anger management. They may then handle tense situations in a constructive, positive way.

The purpose of anger management is to help a person decrease anger. It reduces the emotional and physical arousal that anger can cause. It is generally impossible to avoid all people and settings that incite anger. But a person may learn to control reactions and respond in a socially appropriate manner. The support of a mental health professional may be helpful in this process.

Exploring the Roots of Anger

Many different events can make someone angry. These may include:

  • Internal events such as perceived failures, injustices, or frustrations
  • External events such as loss of property or privileges, teasing, or humiliation

Find a Therapist

Advanced Search
Anger may result in externalizing behaviors. These can include verbal arguments and tantrums. Anger can also cause internalizing behaviors. Internalizing behaviors can include sulking or increased symptoms of depression. People may show anger through aggression. Aggression is the biological function of anger. It is an evolutionary response that helps prepare people to fight off threats.

Inappropriate displays of anger may mean a more serious mental health or emotional issue exists. People who receive anger management therapy learn skills to slow their reaction to anger. This can help them identify the reason for their feelings. The roots of anger may be buried in emotional trauma, addiction, grief, or other issues. But a natural inclination may be to find temporary relief in lashing out. This can obscure the true cause of the anger. If this is the case for you, working with a therapist might be helpful.

History of Anger Management

Anger management dates back thousands of years in human history. Prominent figures in the history of anger management include:

  • Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C.-65 A.D.)
  • Greek physician and philosopher Aelius Galenus (129-216)
  • Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

These figures highlighted the importance of adjusting one’s perspective of events. They also supported avoiding situations which could incite rage.

In modern times, trained psychologists have developed programs for people with anger issues. These programs help people better control their emotions. Some of anger management’s major modern-day contributors include: 

  • Peter Stearns
  • Raymond Novaco
  • Howard Kassinove
  • Raymond Chip Tafrate
  • Louis Dundin
  • Brad Bushman
  • Michael Hoyt

How Anger Management Works

Anger management therapy provides a clear set of recovery guidelines. It gives the person in treatment a controlled platform for the release of their emotions. At the same time, it aims to achieve constructive responses, rather than destructive ones. People in therapy are encouraged to examine what triggers their anger. They try to become aware of their emotions at each level of arousal. People learn how to use those signs as a map to control their anger. 

In therapy, people gain insight into how their body responds to past and future events. They do this by identifying the emotional reaction to a certain circumstance. Therapists also help people notice anger responses that may be defense mechanisms for other concerns. These concerns might be depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Anger management therapy often helps people with anger issues. It may also help the people who make up their social network. Uncontrollable anger may lead to harmful psychological and physical conditions. Anger management helps to reduce and control anger. This allows people to reduce stress. It can also lower the risk for serious health problems. These can include heart disease and high blood pressure. 

The goal of anger management therapy is to teach people how to examine their triggers. It also helps people adjust how they look at situations. Successful anger management therapy develops healthy ways for people to express anger and frustration. Some techniques used in anger management therapy include:

Anger management therapy may take place in one-on-one or group settings. Classes address specific types of anger issues. These can include relationship issues, parenting, teens, and work-related anger or rage. Sometimes people are court-ordered to attend an anger management class. This can be a result of a domestic or legal issue. 

Therapy is available on a continuing basis. People interested in anger management may also take a retreat or online course. Most anger management classes include homework assignments and exercises. These strengthen the techniques learned in therapy. They also allow the person in therapy to practice their new skills in real-life situations.

Court-Ordered Anger Management

The judicial system may mandate some people to complete an anger management course. These people are typically convicted of criminal offenses. Offenses may include, but are not limited to:

Many court-approved agencies offer anger management programs. People convicted may also take court-approved anger management classes online.

Who Offers Anger Management?

The National Anger Management Association (NAMA) provides anger management certification. Specialists in the United States may receive this certification. NAMA trains psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, religious leaders, social workers, life coaches, and educators. They seek to address the growing need for anger management services in organizations, hospitals, schools, and communities. NAMA offers five distinct certifications.

University students may earn a student certification from NAMA. They can then offer teach in their community. This is done with an authorized NAMA supervisor. Students can get a recommendation from their NAMA supervisor. Doing so allows them to have their certification upgraded once they graduate.

Who Can Benefit From Anger Management?

Anger management courses are beneficial for people in the fields of business or health care. They also benefit people who are court-referred. Anger management may benefit anyone seeking to improve their relationships with others. But this treatment may be particularly helpful for certain social groups. These include:

Limitations of Anger Management

Anger management therapy may not be effective with people who do not recognize they have anger issues. People with severe learning disabilities may have some difficulty responding to anger treatments. These treatments are sometimes based on principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). People with other mental health issues may need to address these underlying problems first. Doing so may make future anger management more effective.


  1. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Controlling anger before it controls you. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx
  2. Awalt, A. M., Reilly, P. M., & Shopshire, M. S. (1997). The angry patient: an intervention for managing anger in substance abuse treatment. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs [Abstract], 29(4), 353-358. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9460029
  3. Baguley, I.  J., Doyle, M., McCarthy, K., Nott, M. T., Onus, M., & Walker, A. J. (2010). Effectiveness of a group anger management programme after severe traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 24(3), 517-524.  
  4. Borsay, C. (2012). Anger management interventions for adults with learning disabilities living in the community: a review of recent (2000-2010) evidence. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41, 38-44.
  5. Creech, S. K., Kachadourian, L., & Taft, C. T. (2012). Assessment and treatment of posttraumatic anger and aggression: A review. JRRD, 49(5), 777-788.
  6. Davis, R., King, N., Lancaster, N., Nettleton, N., & Wynne, G. (1999). Cognitive-behavioral anger management training for adults with mild intellectual disability. Scandinavian Journal of Behaviour Therapy, 28(1), 19-22.
  7. Dudley, A., Gandolfi, S., Moore, E., Tapp, J., Thomas, B., & Wilson, C. (2013). Evaluation of anger management groups in a high-security hospital. Criminal Behavior and Mental Health, 23, 356-371.
  8. Hall, K. R., Owens, R. B., & Rushing, J. L. (2009). Anger in middle school: The solving problems together model. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ886155.pdf
  9. Lay, J., Lishman, E., & Steward, J. (2008). Evaluation of anger management groups in learning disability populations. Learning Disability Practice, 11(10), 18-23. Retrieved from http://journals.rcni.com/doi/pdfplus/10.7748/ldp2008.
  10. Learnet. (2006). Anger and anger management. Retrieved from http://www.projectlearnet.org/tutorials/anger_management.html
  11. Mayo Clinic. (2014). Anger management. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/anger-management/basics/definition/prc-20014603
  12. National Anger Management Association. (n.d.). Anger management certification. Retrieved from http://namass.org/CertifcationTrainings.htm