Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Band-Aids Don't Stick: Why Anger Management Doesn't Work

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Last weekend I was approached by a survivor of Indian Residential School abuse - who wanted to know if the Anger Solutions and Getting Past Your Past programs would be useful in helping her to heal from her past trauma. We had a very interesting discussion about anger management (which she had participated in before), and why it was not helpful for her.

I believe anger management often does not work because it is viewed as a band-aid solution. I cannot tell you how many newspaper articles I have read from around the world, that indicate that a sports figure, actor, or politician was mandated to attend 6 hours of anger management classes. Why 6 hours? Why not 8, 10, 12, or 15? Why is 6 the magic number? When you think about it, it doesn't really make any sense. We all know what happens after you attend a one-day workshop or seminar - after approximately 72 hours, you will have forgotten over 80% of everything you were so excited about on the day of the workshop. This is why with our programs, we strongly encourage our participants to devise a plan of action that takes them beyond the first 72 hours after the workshop. We encourage them to write it down - and to share their plan with a partner so that they become accountable. If you want something to STICK - you need to apply the right kind of adhesive. (More on this later)

The second reason I believe anger management doesn't work is that people attach a faulty BELIEF to it. They go into the workshops expecting that anger management will fix them - they are not participating with the intention that they will create the change they desire. And even more often, they do not wish to create that change - they only want to satisfy the mandate of the courts.

I liken mandated anger management to giving a fat person a gym membership and expecting them to lose weight. Better still, imagine trying to sculpt your ab muscles into a perfect six pack in 6 hours! Everyone knows that physical fitness must be a LIFESTYLE in order for it to be effective. Body sculpting takes time, effort, and a proven system for success. It can be done, but no one in their right mind would expect that peak physical fitness or the perfectly sculpted body comes at such a low price as 6 hours. OK - back to anger management then... when you mandate someone who is habitually violent, or is a miserable drunk, or who has "anger management" problems to "take a class" - what you're really saying is - "it isn't a big deal and it's easy to fix. Just go take a class and you won't have anger issues anymore - and God knows, you shouldn't re-offend..."

What a way to set people up for failure! Is it any surprise that most of the people I see have attended at least one such "anger management" class, and they uncategorically say that it doesn't work! Now before all of you anger management counsellors pounce on me for voicing my opinions, I feel your pain. In fact, I have been working in Anger Solutions for 15 years or better, and only recently have I come to the new appreciation of this distinction. Anger Solutions is about making positive, radical, and lasting change - HOW? Through incorporating its principles into one's LIFESTYLE. Our several clients who are now living testimonials to the program's value all have this in common; and here is the big secret to why Anger Solutions will work - every time. Over time, these people acquired the skills, and then applied them until they were fully assimilated into the clients' lifestyles. Note that they did all the work - Anger Solutions does not FIX anybody. All we do as facilitators is provide the knowledge, the skill-base, and the tools with which to apply those skills, and we guide our clients along their learning path until they can navigate their journeys on their own. On average, this takes about 12 weeks - NOT 6 hours.

I have always (and will continue to do so) told my clients that my goal is to "coach myself out of a job". By the end of 15 weeks of coaching, I fully expect that if the client has followed through the program and has done the work required, that s/he will be able to function independent of a coach (outside of the requisite follow ups), and I will be out looking for new work. Anger Solutions is not - and never has been - a Band Aid fix. Band Aids cover up the wound. Anger Solutions teaches people how to treat their own wounds, and to prevent further injury as they travel the road of life.

Want to know more? Visit my website at http://www.angersolution.com or call 1-866-754-6169.