Therapists and Anger – Emotional Pro

May 27th, 2006

We did a survey not long ago that shocked me, but (sadly) did not surprise me. We called 37 of the nearly 60 colleges and graduate schools in California that train psychotherapists to do their craft. We called very large California universities, and the smaller, specialized schools as well. We asked this question: “Do you now, or have you ever, taught a “stand alone” course on anger as part of your training for Marriage and Family Therapists or Clinical Social Workers?” The answer was “No” on all counts!
To me, that is astounding! This says that THE PEOPLE to whom others turn to learn how to manage and direct their lives, which often include a tremendous amount of anger, are given almost NO TRAINING about anger! Therapists must find out, on their own, answers to questions like these: What causes it? What IS it? Can we do anything besides “manage” it (like it is an out-of-control monster]? It seems a normal part of life, but yet, we don’t relate to it as “normal”. Can’t we just “get rid of” anger? Why do people hold onto it, even after years of psychotherapy? Are we doomed to be “an angry person” for our whole lives if we’ve grown up in abusive households or are “Irish” or “have a bad temper like my Dad”? How can we work effectively with anger, put it in its proper place without unduly hurting ourselves, and go on to something else? If you find a therapist in California who can articulate and teach you the answers to most of these questions, you’re just lucky!
MFTs and LCSWs in California have never taken a course on Anger and how to work with it as part of their original education to be a psychotherapist, even though they are among the people to whom we turn for help with our own anger!
To my unofficial observation, California is not alone in this predicament.
Here’s the real question: “Can it be that ONE of the BIG REASONS we are seeing a proliferation of anger in our world is that even the people who are charged with helping us understand and deal with anger don’t have a comprehensive idea about anger and what to do with it?
Don’t get me wrong. Therapists are highly motivated to learn about anger. Some know a tremendous amount about anger. Many have gone to various “Anger Management” classes, which can be part of their Continuing Education requirements (though still not required, and there are precious few offered), to learn about anger. Except for the slant of “and this is how you apply it when working with clients,” these therapists are taking the same classes anyone can take! Furthermore, there is no “standardized” or “agreed-upon” understanding or body of information about anger. Take five courses and you’ll have five different “takes” on anger. Few of these classes, in the informal surveys I have conducted, tell attendees much more than your grandmother taught you: “Count to 10.”
I’m a “Recovering [ed] Angry Person”! From the many challenges of my childhood, I was infused with anger, depressed, riddled with guilt and worked hard to please others so they wouldn’t get angry with me. I spent years in psychotherapy. I was helped by my psychotherapy, yet none of the six therapists who so ably helped me actually addressed the anger inside of me. I learned most of what I know about anger on my own, by looking into what has been written, research, spiritual literature, and experimenting with myself. My progress could have been much faster had anyone had specific information about how I could deal with anger as it came up inside of me. Now that we’ve done the survey, I realize I didn’t get that information because none of them knew it!
What I learned over the years about anger has worked so well that I seldom get angry (you can never “get rid of” anger, because it is part of us as human animals!). In fact, I have taught what I have learned about anger to thousands of people over the past 30 years and have gotten many, many great reports on how it has helped people change the course of their lives. I’m now compiling it into a course and book on Anger, which I’m aiming to distribute to California therapists! Unlike most courses for psychotherapists, this one has precious little “research” in it to support what I offer. The approach has worked for thousands, but there is no “research”.
I have a problem with “research” in this area. Research in the social sciences is a thing fraught with difficulties. Ethically, we can’t experiment on people the way we can on a kidney or a bladder or a widget. So research in human behavior is “soft.” Also, we research on what people already believe and do, not on what is possible. Therefore, if people don’t know how to deal with anger, and that it is possible to overcome past angers, release old patterns easily, and process new anger in a very short time, once they are taught the system, none of this will be “verified” by the research!
Voila! This morning I am quite frustrated. I want to share information with psychotherapists that they need, even though it is not in the form they usually accept. I want to put my material out to the world in the form in which I now have it, so it can evolve. I’m working to find the best way.

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