August 30, 2003 Professional edition  Got Grief? Get Help! Click Here Text Version
Helping Your Clients or Patients Control
Anger Before it Controls Them
An interview with George F. Rhoades, Jr., PhD
Every person has experienced anger at some time in their lives. Your clients or patients may get angry at the person in line at the supermarket, the driver who cuts them off in traffic, or it may be a loved one who has triggered their anger. For most people anger is not long-lived or harmful. We’ve asked Dr. Rhoades to answer some common questions about anger and the way it affects people’s lives. The issue will give you many practical suggestions for those you help.
Karen Russell, MA, Executive Director
National Grief Support Services

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Featured Expert
Our featured expert today is DR. GEORGE F RHOADES, Jr., PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the Director of Ola Hou Clinic in Pearl City, HI. Dr. Rhoades is an international speaker conducting psychotherapeutic workshops and seminars in Hawaii, Asia, Continental USA, and Europe. He is the author of several publications in the area of Anger Control Training, Sadistic Ritual Abuse, and Christian Therapy. For more information or to contact Dr. Rhodes, visit
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Can anger be harmful for your client?
Anger that is chronic or that adversely affects lives; is harmful to your clients. It becomes an issue when it affects relationships or our work. Anger is a normal part of life, but when it lasts too long, occurs too frequently or is too intense it becomes a problem.
Does long-lasting anger stem from an unresolved situation or is it a sign of a serious psychological problem?
Long-lasting anger can be from both. Unresolved anger often leads to a lack of closure, and to bitterness. Psychological problems can also manifest in anger; a deep depression can have anger at its foundation. Anger can be expressed in a psychotic episode, either with schizophrenia or in a manic state. It is important to realize that anger that is not addressed tends to cause us a number of physical, psychological, and relationship problems such as stomach ulcers, bitterness, depression, loss of self-esteem or relationships due to trust issues.
So, how do I know my client’s anger is out of control?
One clear sign is when your client tosses and turns at night, but the person that has triggered the anger sleeps soundly. Anger often manifests itself in the ways expressed above, lasting too long, etc. This tells us that anger is extracting a heavy price in their lives.

A person who holds his anger in may develop stomach ulcers. Not expressing his anger would literally eat him up alive. Anger is a problem when its functions are mainly negative, not positive. The negative aspects of anger include it disrupted thinking, leading to aggression, defensive behavior and the negative impact of appearing as an angry person. The positive aspects of anger are the energy that they have with the release of adrenalin, the ability to communicate of how they feel, and the ability to use that energy to both problem solve and to take control of the situation.
What are some ways that I can help clients cope with chronic anger?
Techniques for effective anger management involve areas of their thinking, their emotions and behaviors. The cognitive (or thinking coping skills) include helping your client understand their anger, through an anger assessment and journaling. It is also important to look at understanding the anger of others, through empathy. The third way to deal cognitively with anger is to look at our client’s thinking or self-talk. The emotional area requires that they learn how to relax and to use time-out procedures effectively. They also have to learn how to have humor in their lives. The behavioral area requires that we teach them how to communicate their feelings, be assertive, and to problem-solve. The most powerful technique to control or manage anger is that of closure, closing doors on the past and/or forgiveness.
What about when a person represses anger a long time and it emerges in unhealthy ways?
It is very common to not address issues directly, but it comes back to haunt them eventually. The issue is that if they hold on to anger, they suffer as the energy of the anger affects their health and emotions. Anger that is held in can often lead to health problems in the weak and vulnerable areas of their lives. You may wish to suggest journaling feelings rather than holding them in or allowing things to continue. If your client is unable to address the issue directly, they may wish to talk it out with a trusted friend or address it further with you. It’s important to direct them to watch how their body reacts to anger situations, and when they notice that they are getting angry, try to address the issues sooner.
How do I help my client release anger in healthy ways?
We used to think expressing anger was the best way to get it out. The expression of anger was perhaps yelling in a group format, hitting pillows, or even using a rubber bat to “beat out one’s anger.” In reality, this only leads people to link anger with the aggressive behavior instead of promoting actual anger management. We want to encourage individuals to get to the root of the anger. The healthy expression of anger involves using the energy of anger to do constructive things, to problem solve, and take charge of a situation and to communicate their feelings. Hitting a pillow has its place, but redirecting anger is much more effective. It is important to look at anger as a signal that something is wrong. The first step is to look at what is wrong and then to develop alternative ways of addressing the problem, other than anger.
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National Grief Support Services Inc. strives to present numerous resources to assist people dealing with grief from any cause. Opinions, philosophical approaches and suggestions of authors presented in Grief Matters are their own and do not represent or imply an endorsement by National Grief Support Services or We recognize that there are numerous perspectives on grief topics, and throughout our services we attempt to help people access a wide range of them. All information is presented in summary form only. It should not be considered complete or used in place of professional consultation.
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National Grief Support Services Inc. was founded as a nonprofit, charitable organization in 1994, for anyone dealing with grief from any cause. The organization’s dual purpose focuses not only on those who are experiencing loss, but the professionals who help. Serving as an umbrella organization for the grief community, our comprehensive web-based service,, delivers a wide range of Grief Support Services, Resources & Publications; Online Memorials, Tributes & Life Stories; Telephone/Online Support Groups & Classes; Healing Music; Legacy of the Heart, A Service to Comfort Those Who Are Someday Left Behind; a free book, Grief Passages, a free e-magazine, Grief Matters; and comfort and hope – all in one place, accessible at any time from any location.
This newsletter is published by National Grief Support Services, Inc.
Karen Russell, MA, President and Founder, Grief Matters Executive Editor
Bob Datz, Grief Matters Managing Editor Brenda Penepent, Contributing Editor