“Anger is like a flame blazing up and consuming our self-control, making us think, say and do things that we will probably regret later.”Nhat Hanh
Do you want to know what role Occupational Therapy plays in addressing anger management? This blog post is everything you need to know about Occupational Therapy and anger management.
Understanding and controlling anger is entirely doable and can have a life-changing effect on mood and health. As an Occupational Therapist, I empower and advocate for more O.T.s to address anger management in all practice settings.
You will learn why O.T. is one of the best therapies for anger management, how anger can impact everyday life, the benefits of addressing anger head-on, and the physical, emotional, and behavioral components.
After learning more about O.T. and anger management, you will better understand and feel empowered to apply these concepts in interventions.
This Post Is All About the Role of Occupational Therapy in Addressing Anger Management Issues.
Occupational Therapy (O.T.) is an underutilized treatment for anger management in children and adults. The entire basis of O.T. is to address the underlying deficits that cause dysfunction in their daily lives, a.k.a. Occupations. Some examples of occupations include self-care, school or work, leisure, and interacting with others.
Since emotions drive behavior, untreated anger can negatively impact their life based on their reaction. Here are the potential undesirable consequences of unaddressed anger in valued occupations:
Occupational Therapy is a “top-down” approach meaning the end goal of treatment is being able to engage in meaningful occupations. Occupations are the “top,” and the skills are the “down.”
Once the client has identified which aspect of their lives anger has wreaked the most devastation on, then it’s time to create a task analysis to address skill deficits such as:
O.T. also utilizes a “holistic” approach that addresses all aspects of the person. A holistic approach encompasses the eight dimensions of wellness:
Anger is a condition that affects the brain and body. If left untreated, anger can negatively impact mental and physical health, especially long-term.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heart disease, specifically heart attack, and stroke, is the number one cause of death in the United States, costing billions of dollars on the health care system and causing lost productivity. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm#:~:text=Heart%20Disease%20and%20Stroke&text=These%20diseases%20take%20an%20economic,lost%20productivity%20on%20the%20job.&text=See%20the%20health%20and%20economic%20benefits%20of%20high%20blood%20pressure%20interventions.
A recent study has shown that individuals with poor anger management skills are 5x more likely to suffer from heart disease before age 55 than those with self-regulation skills.
This information is not surprising, considering that anger elevates:
The human body cannot remain in a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn (i.e., activated sympathetic nervous system) mode for extended periods. Knowing how to return the nervous system to rest and digest (i.e., activated parasympathetic nervous system) is critical to heart health.
Anger is notorious for being a “negative” emotion; however, there is a time and place where anger is healthy, appropriate, and necessary for survival. All emotions serve a purpose, so it’s essential to acknowledge and address or regulate the feeling depending on the setting.
There is still a misconception that there are five sensory systems; however, there are eight, with interoception being the “newest” and least understood.
Occupational Therapists are considered the experts in the medical field for sensory processing, so understanding how emotions impact physical health falls within our scope of practice.
Interoception helps us understand and feel what is going on within our bodies. This aspect of the sensory system is responsible for the following internal body mechanisms:
Everyone processes emotions differently in the body, so there are no right or wrong answers. The idea is to know where anger is stored within the body.
The A-B-C model is a simple concept to describe what happens before, during, and after a behavior has occurred and helps determine the function or the why.
Antecedent: The antecedent occurs before the behavior, such as actions, activities, events, stimuli, or triggers. An example of an antecedent is a teacher telling teenagers to stop looking at their cell phones and pay attention in class.
Behavior: The behavior is an action or response to internal and external stimuli that is outwardly visible to others. It’s anything you can do.
You can use the Deadman’s Test, which asks, “Can a deadman do it?” If the answer is yes, it’s not a behavior, but if the answer is no, it is a behavior.
Examples of Maladaptive Angry Behavior:
Consequence: The consequence is what occurs after the behavior. The consequences of behavior are where the concepts of reinforcement or punishment will impact the behavior and future responses.
You can implement socially appropriate behavior strategies once you understand the cause and reaction.
Emotional intelligence is an aspect of self-regulation. Being in touch with our emotions is a sign of strength, a skill set, and maturity.
Emotional intelligence is identifying, reflecting, validating, controlling, and expressing emotions appropriately, especially in social situations.
With all that in mind, anger can be the “tip of the iceberg,” but underneath is deeper or unexplored emotions such as:
Since our emotions influence our thoughts, it’s essential to identify what exact emotions are felt and where within the body and how it impacts our mental state or mood.
When anger clouds our cognition, it can lead to hostile thoughts, negative self-talk, and disturbing fantasies. Teach your clients to notice or write down what is happening in their heads without judgment. Since our emotions and thoughts drive our behavior, this is a great starting point for developing appropriate coping strategies.
These are the theories I’d use to guide treatment:
These are the curriculums I’d adapt and use to teach a client how to manage their anger:
You can ask your clients these questions in an informal interview to better understand how anger affects them and those around them.
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