Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

A Partial Component Analysis of Beck's Cognitive Therapy for the Treatment of General Anger

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

A Partial Component Analysis of Beck's Cognitive Therapy for the Treatment of General Anger

Article excerpt

Eighty-six high-anger undergraduates were assigned to eight group sessions of Beck's full cognitive therapy (FCT) focusing on both cognitive and behavioral change, cognitive restructuring only (CRO) focusing only on cognitive change, or a no-treatment control. Analyses suggested treatments were delivered in an equivalent, high-quality manner and that therapists adhered to treatment protocols. By 5-week follow-up, treatment groups, while not differing from each other, showed reductions in trait anger, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components of anger, the individual's greatest ongoing source of anger, and anger-related physiological arousal. Treatments lowered anger suppression and outward negative expression and enhanced controlled expression. Compared to controls, CRO also reduced trait anxiety and depression. Treatment effect sizes were medium (η^sup 2^= .06 to .13) to large (η^sup 2^> .13), and more treatment participants met a clinically reliable change index on trait anger. Findings support FCT and CRO for general anger reduction.

Anger is a common concern of clients which significantly impac ts their physical, psychological, interpersonal, and vocational lives (Deffenbacher, 1992). Despite the prevalence and importance of problematic anger, research on anger reduction has lagged behind that of other common clinical problems, such as anxiety or depression. This is beginning to change as recent meta-analyses support the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral interventions (Beck & Fernandez, 1998; Trafate, 1995). For example, with an occasional exception (e.g., Novaco, 1975), relaxation interventions are effective (Deffenbacher, Demm, & Brandon, 1986; Deffenbacher & Stark, 1992; Hazaleus & Deffenbacher, 1986; Schlichter & Koran, 1981). Interventions based on the cognitive component of stress inoculation are also effective (Achmon, Granek, Golomb, & Hart, 1989; Deffenbacher, Story, Brandon, Hogg, & Hazaleus, 1988; Hazaleus & Deffenbacher, 1986; Moon & Eisler, 1983; Novaco, 1975), as well as the combination of relaxation and cognitive restructuring (Deffenbacher et al., 1988; Deffenbacher, Getting, Huff, Cornell, & Dallager, 1996; Deffenbacher & Stark, 1992; Deffenbacher, Story, Stark, Hogg, & Brandon, 1987; Deffenbacher, Thwaites, Wallace, & Getting, 1994; Novaco, 1975; Schlichter & Horan, 1981). Social skills interventions directed toward improving interpersonal communication and conflict management strategies also appear promising (Deffenbacher etal., 1987,1994; Deffenbacher, Getting, Huffetal., 1996).

Although cognitive-behavioral interventions appear effective in treating problematic anger, a notable absence from this list is Aaron Beck's cognitive therapy. This is surprising since the importance of cognitive processes in the experience of anger is well established (Feshbach, 1986; Mizes, Morgan, & Buder, 1990) and since cognitive therapy has received'substantial empirical support for the treatment of depression (Butler & Beck, 1995; Dobson, 1989; Task Force on Promotion and Dissemination of Psychological Procedures, 1995), anxiety (Beck & Emery, 1985; Chambless & Gillis, 1993), eating disorders (Wilson & Fairburn, 1993), and the like.

Like Beck's cognitive therapy, the cognitive interventions that have been successfully applied to anger are active, time-limited, stress cognitive change, and are problem focused. However, they tend to be more directive, structured, and prescriptive than Beck's cognitive therapy which uses a more inductive style and is distinguished by its reliance on the idiosyncratic meaning clients ascribe to their cognitions, a focus on collaborative empiricism, use of Socratic dialogue, and jointly developed behavioral experiments (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979; Beck & Emery, 1985).

We found only three anger reduction studies where interventions shared the characteristics of Beck's cognitive therapy. …

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