Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Anger Control in Men: Barb Exposure with Rational, Irrational, and Irrelevant Self-Statements

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Anger Control in Men: Barb Exposure with Rational, Irrational, and Irrelevant Self-Statements

Article excerpt

Anger can be frequent, intense and enduring, and is associated with intrapersonal and interpersonal distress as well as medical disorders. It is, therefore, important that effective treatments be developed. Based on the rational-emotive behavior therapy hypothesis that situational anger experiences are related to irrational thinking, we evaluated the therapeutic effects of practice with rational self-statements. Angry adult men (n = 45) from the community received 12 individual treatment sessions which consisted of repeated exposure to anger-provoking verbal barbs while they rehearsed rational, irrational or irrelevant self-statements. Results were generally supportive of the rational-emotive based intervention. In response to imaginal and face-to-face provocations, men who practiced rational self-statements were less angry on measures of state anger, anger-out, dynamometer intensity, and dynamometer frequency. Reactions to the barb technique were good, as indicated by a positive therapeutic alliance. Further exploration of this technique as part of a full spectrum treatment strategy for anger is recommended.

Anger is a common and multifaceted reaction to perceived aversive events. When anger episodes are frequent, intense, or enduring they may lead to serious negative consequences such as aggression, family violence, damage to interpersonal relations, health problems, and subjective distress (Kassinove & Sukhodolsky, 1995). Nevertheless, despite significant advances in understanding and treating other emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, relatively little is known about anger.

A number of researchers have commented on the neglect of anger by noting the paucity of valid assessment instruments (Barefoot & Lipkus, 1994; Biaggio, 1980; Biaggio, Suplee, & Curtis, 1981; Deffenbacher et al., 1996), the lack of an official diagnostic category for people whose primary emotional problem is anger (Deffenbacher 1993; Eckhardt & Deffenbacher, 1995; Novaco, 1985), a dearth of controlled treatment outcome studies (Tafrate, 1995), a large gap in the number of citations for anger as compared with depression and anxiety (Kassinove & Sukhodolsky, 1995), the low number of panels devoted to anger at professional meetings (Tafrate & Kassinove, 1995), and the low level of funding for anger-related investigations (Eckhardt & Deffenbacher, 1995). This lack of scientific attention stands in sharp contrast to the central role given to anger by lay persons, novelists, the media, etc. A 75-year history of surveys of natural episodes of anger in nonclinical samples supports the idea that anger is a commonly experienced emotion. It is estimated that most people become mildly to moderately angry anywhere from several times a day to several times a week (Anastasi, Cohen, & Spatz, 1948; Averill, 1979, 1982, 1983; Gates, 1926; Meltzer, 1933; Richardson, 1918), and that most anger episodes occur during social interactions, are characterized by primarily verbal behaviors such as arguing and sarcasm, and lead to negative consequences approximately half of the time (Kassinove, Sukhodolsky, Tsytsarev, & Solovyova, 1997). The frequency, intensity, and persistence of anger episodes, along with associated negative consequences, are likely to be even greater in clinical samples. When Deffenbacher and Thwaites (1991) asked high- and low-trait anger university students to describe their worst anger incidents, the high-anger participants reported significantly greater physical damage to self and others, greater physical damage to objects, and more damage to relationships. In addition, high-anger participants scored lower on measures of self-esteem, higher on measures of anxiety, and were more likely to misuse alcohol. Given that anger is a frequent experience with the potential to become a distressing problem, especially among clinical groups, there is sufficient reason to develop effective interventions. …

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