One common approach to helping clients manage anger more effectively is cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy
(hyperlink) is based on the idea that our perception of a situation determines how we react more than the situation itself. When we perceive things in a negative light, our actions are often negative. CBT’s primary focus is to examine the way we think about things and determine whether that thinking can be altered in a way that leads us to a better emotional state and better behavior.
Imagine, for example, a friend who doesn’t return a phone call. We jump to the conclusion that our friend doesn’t care about us. We think, “I can’t believe he didn’t call me back. What a jerk.” We feel hurt and angry and get snappy with those around us. In reality, our friend had a family emergency and his life has gotten turned upside down. The unreturned phone call has nothing to do with our friend’s feelings toward us.
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches us to notice how unhelpful our conclusions are and asks us what we could say to ourselves instead. Until we catch up with our friend, we have no way of knowing why he hasn’t returned the call, so might it be more helpful to think, “Wow. It’s been awhile since I talked with my friend. I hope everything is okay.” We still don’t know why he hasn’t called, but we feel better and, therefore, act better.
There are many techniques that CBT employs to get to this kind of change: