Anger Management Counselling
Services in Calgary
In coming to this page, you are likely suspecting or aware that you are struggling with your relationship with anger, possibly to the point that life is quite unmanageable and feels out of control for you. At the very least, you are feeling frustrated, hopeless, and tired of the repetitive cycle. It takes strength and courage to get to this point, so congratulations on taking the step of starting to explore this aspect of your emotional health.
The short story
Treatment for challenges with anger at Sana Psychological involves an initial 1-2 sessions of background information gathering to get to know who you are at all levels, including the challenges and resources you have.
Typically, treatment will consist of process counselling as well as feedback, recommendations, and psychoeducation to help you learn to navigate a healthy relationship with feelings, including anger, in your life. Anger counselling is available for those struggling with anger as well as those who have been witness to it and/or impacted by it. Treatment can be short-term (3-6 months) or long-term (6+ months) depending on needs and preferences. Cost is $200/session and these appointments can be accessed in person or by phone or video.
The longer story
What is Anger?
There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the feeling of anger. The biggest myth is that anger is a ‘bad’ thing and, therefore, needs to be minimized, avoided, and eliminated altogether. This is a myth because anger is a feeling like many others, including happiness, sadness, loss, guilt, shame, and more. All of these feelings provide us with helpful information that, if we are missing it, can impact our health, relationships, and boundaries.
Anger, at its core, provides us information about when we have been violated, hurt, and/or our fundamental needs and boundaries are not being upheld. In reading this, hopefully, you can appreciate how essential anger is to our mental and relational health.
Anger is not the problem. The issue that results in people seeking counselling is typically that people do not know what to do with anger. Often, they have been stuffing, avoiding, and trying to eliminate anger for a long time and this back-up has resulted in outbursts and the unhealthy expression of anger. Feelings are never the problem; it is what we are doing (or not doing) with them that can lead to difficulties. That is where counselling can help as it can provide people with a safe space to start to release feelings, as well as to learn strategies and ways to do this in a healthy and productive way.
Would I or a Loved One Benefit from Anger Counselling?
It can sometimes be unclear whether or not anger is leading to challenges in your or your loved one’s life. Below is an informal checklist or self-test that you can use to determine whether now would be an appropriate time to seek out additional support.
Please read the statements below and answer whether these are true or false for you or your loved one within the past 3 months.
If you answered ‘True’ to two or more of these statements, then there is a strong possibility that you may lack healthy coping tools for feelings and would benefit from anger management counselling. Again, this self-test is informal and not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This self-test can be used to give you an idea of the problem areas and anger issues that you may want to seek anger management programs or further consultation with a mental health professional.
Approach to Anger Counselling at Sana Psychological
Anger in and of itself is not a serious mental health issue or disorder, but difficulties in the appropriate processing and release of anger may occur at the same time as other unhealthy behaviours, including substance abuse, or unhealthy relationships with alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, media, and/or sex as some common examples.
Anger can lead to low self-esteem and relational, professional, and even legal consequences that can create a lot of dysfunction and impact on people’s lives. Once again, the feelings themselves are not the problem, but not knowing how to cope and process them in a healthy way is.
Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist at Sana Psychological, approaches anger management therapy by supporting you in learning to connect with, process, and release all of your feelings in a healthy and proactive way, with anger being a core part of that.
Anger counselling at Sana Psychological includes an initial session to get to know you, your current life context, including strengths and resources, as well as information about the current challenges you are facing. At the initial appointment, a collaborative treatment plan will be established based on your needs and abilities.
Anger counselling may be short-term (3-6 months) if you are looking for some immediate tools and guidance, as well as to start to build a platform of health in your life that can support you moving forward. It can also involve long-term counselling (6+ months) which may involve monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly check-ins to ensure accountability and movement with your health and wellness plan. There are no set expectations when it comes to anger counselling, and Paige Abbott of Sana Psychological is happy to meet you where you are at. The door is always open, so even if you have engaged for counselling briefly, discontinued at Sana Psychological for a period of time, but are considering returning, we invite you to do so as there are no expectations or pressures when it comes to counselling.
Paige Abbott has been trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and also incorporates elements of solution-focused therapy and motivational interviewing into her sessions. Appointments generally involve a check-in to see presenting issues and immediate things that have come up that you may want to process, follow-up on any suggestions provided in past appointments to get an idea of progress as well as roadblocks that are coming up, followed by a more in-depth exploration of challenges, patterns, and coping. Counselling sessions are active and engaged as Paige likes to ask lots of questions and provide reflections, challenges, problem-solving techniques, and psychoeducation along the way. At any point, if the therapeutic approach or goals need to be changed, please speak up and this will be processed. Sessions come from a non-judgmental, compassionate, empathetic place. We are here to support you in doing different and being different.
For concerned loved ones
If you are in a relationship with someone who is struggling with anger and they are not open to doing anything different, it would be encouraged that you consider getting some support for yourself. Learning about your own self-care, appropriate boundaries, and having a safe place to process thought patterns and feelings can produce positive change with relationship issues or in the relationship dynamics even if the other is not actively doing anything different. Change in one member of a relational unit can lead to change in the whole unit.
The Face of Anger
– John's Story:
Here is an example of a man, John, and his story. John is not one real person but, rather, an amalgam of many people’s journey’s put together. We encourage you to take some time to get to know John and see if any of his story resonates for you.
John is a 58-year-old man who grew up in the rural prairies with his parents and three siblings. His parents owned and managed a farm that John actively participated in from a young age. He enjoyed the sense of purpose and task. This work put him in close contact with his father, who acted as his mentor on the farm. John’s father, Greg, was a very closed man. The only emotions John ever saw in his father were neutrality and anger. From John’s experience, it did not take much to make his father angry. John remembers making one small mistake when he was feeding the livestock one day and his father proceeded to yell at him for half an hour as well as whip him in response to this mistake. John’s mother was a quiet, timid woman who never acknowledged or participated in these angry moments. John tried to bring them up to her and she would shush John, saying that was between him and his father. This taught John not to express his feelings. He became determined from a young age that he would not be like his father when he grew up and worked hard to keep his emotions, especially anger, in check and under wraps.
John grew up and moved away from the family farm. He created his own life and was quite successful in his profession. He struggled in romantic relationships throughout his life. He dated a number of women over the years but most of his relationships did not last longer than a few years. Most of John’s partners cited his ‘emotional unavailability’ as part of the problem. Over the years, they also started to comment on John’s anger and asked him to ‘calm down’ and get himself ‘under control.’ John thought he was doing that as he had worked hard throughout his life to not be the angry man that he saw his father being. In his early 50’s, John was laid off from work and this created financial and emotional distress for him. He had difficulty securing gainful employment and started to spend more of his time at home isolating, eating junk food, drinking alcohol or pop, and watching lots of television. John finally decided enough was enough and started online dating, thinking that a new relationship would shake him out of his slump.
He met Sandy when he was 55 years old. Sandy had two children from a previous marriage and John struggled to get along with her adult children. Sandy and John moved in together quite quickly and noticed a quick escalation from mild annoyance to bickering to full-on conflict and fighting. The neighbours were frequently contacting the police as their arguments were loud, violent, and explosive. Eventually, John ended up being arrested and removed from the house, at which point he was mandated for anger counselling as a condition of his parole. Through this counselling process, John started to release the hurt and pain connected with his childhood as well as pain from his adult experiences. He learned healthy ways of identifying, processing, and communicating his feelings. He also ended up exiting the relationship with Sandy as he realized the combination of her and him was not healthy for either of them.
Through John’s experience, you will notice some common themes from anger counselling, including childhood messages around feelings processing (including anger), life transitions and life stress management, and experiences that have had an impact, and how relationships can play a part in fuelling dysfunction.
Another Face of Anger – Cassie’s Story:
Cassie is a 30-year-old single mother of two. Cassie was raised in what she would describe as loving, wonderful households. Her parents separated when she was four years old but she does not remember this event and does not believe that it had much impact on her. Both of her parents went on to remarry and she felt close to both of her step-parents. Cassie felt her life was pretty good until she started to experience irritability, frustration, and anger not long after the birth of her second child. At this time, Cassie was in a relationship with her children’s father and thought the relationship was okay, though acknowledged there were some things about her partner that annoyed her. Cassie thought this was a common part of relationships and that she would have to just suck it up and cope with her irritations. With the influx of hormones after childbirth and her partner continuing on with some of these behaviours, Cassie suddenly found it impossible to keep her anger under wraps. She would find herself yelling at her partner regularly which was abnormal behaviour for her. He quickly tired of this dynamic, moved out, and ended the relationship. Cassie thought this would be the end of her anger because her major annoyance (i.e., her partner) was out of her life.
Unfortunately, Cassie’s anger did not stop there. She found herself regularly frustrated by things that she intellectually knew were insignificant but that she could not stop from reacting to. Cassie was upset that often the trigger for her anger was her children. She realized they were young and not purposefully intending to frustrate her, but this did not help stop her from reacting. Cassie’s friends and family also started to pull away as she was irritable, jaded, and bitter at gatherings. Ventilating about politics and what was happening in the world became her comfort zone, which resulted in isolation.
Cassie’s turning point of change came after she found herself spanking her eldest child, something she told herself she would never do. Cassie was shocked by this and immediately sought out counselling. Through counselling, Cassie started to discover that her childhood was not as rosy as her mind had convinced her and that she was carrying a lot of feelings connected with it. She also started to unearth a pattern of unhealthy emotional coping, being that she avoided and minimized feelings, including joy, in her life.
In counselling and beyond, Cassie learned that taking time to connect with her feelings was an important part of dealing with anger. Cassie implemented a daily writing and meditation practice and got involved in yoga, which she found helped center and ground her. Cassie became quite passionate about this and started a part-time career that was focused on wellness and supporting people in connecting with themselves. Cassie learned that irritation and anger are anticipated parts of life but do not have to define you. She uses her journey and personal experience to support others in their mental and emotional health.
Cassie’s example shows how anger does not necessarily stem from a single experience or relationship but, rather, is a lifetime of triggers, programming, and experience. Initially how we learn to cope with anger can seem helpful, it is only over time that these tools will be shown to be effective or less so. There is no shame in wherever you are at.
The healing journey
For most, the journey of recovery with anger involves an initial period of exploration of history, messaging around emotional health and angry feelings, and learning how anger is currently playing a role in your life.
During and after this exploration, recovery action, healing, and change will be occurring. This can mean an exploration of underlying patterns and vulnerabilities, other mental health problems such as PTSD, getting to understand triggers of anger responses, identify other areas where unhealthy behaviours may be active, as well as starting to explore and spend time developing a relationship with self. The first 3-6 months of recovery will be a period of tremendous growth and feeling. It is often an uncomfortable and vulnerable time. After six months, changes are more established and have become routine, so things feel less effortful. The lifelong work involves continued awareness of triggers, vulnerabilities, boundaries, coping strategies, the ongoing development of a relationship with self, and incorporation of regular emotion-focused work, including things like feelings check-ins, journaling, and talking with supporters.
Wherever you are in this journey, it is an honour and a privilege for Sana Psychological to be a part of it.