A 2014 study published by Cambridge University Press reported that approximately 7.8% of American adults struggle with poorly controlled anger, inappropriate anger, or intense anger. This study showed that individuals who struggled with mental health concerns such as bipolar disorder, drug dependence, borderline personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorders may have a higher risk of anger concerns. Keep reading to learn about group therapy activities for individuals with anger issues.
There are several ways that struggling with anger can impact our lives. If someone with inward anger, they can struggle with negative self-talk and unhealthy thoughts about themselves. Someone who struggles with outward anger may act out verbally or physically toward others. This can include yelling and cursing. Another example of someone that may struggle with anger would be the presence of sarcastic or degrading comments toward others. While these individuals may not lash out as someone with outward anger would, their actions are an example of unhealthy behavior.
Some signs that someone may be struggling with managing their anger can include:
Feeling as though you cannot control your anger
Regretting what was said when you feel angry
Noticing that you are angry more often than not
Becoming angry at small details
Being verbally or physically abusive toward others
Experiencing mood swings
Feeling yourself tensing up when angry
Friends or family have voiced concern about your anger
How Does Group Therapy Help Individuals with Anger?
The American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) explains that research has found no significant difference in results when comparing the use of group and individual therapy with individuals who struggle with anger management. The specific treatments that are used in either setting are what will have an impact on the results a person can experience.
As an example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy interventions have been found to help individuals learn skills that can be used to help them control their anger responses. Stress inoculation training and relaxation skills have been found to be effective treatment interventions. DBT skills such as distress tolerance and mindfulness skills have also been supported within research.
List of Group Therapy Activities for Anger Management
As a Group Counselor, it is important to be mindful of the interventions that are used in this setting. This includes tailoring group activities to your group members and being aware of what struggles they have been managing. Because your clients are in your group for their difficulty with anger, it is imperative to keep the group conversation on a healthy and productive track to avoid encountering any confrontations within the group that could be damaging to the group’s cohesiveness.
Here are some examples of group therapy activities for individuals with anger concerns:
Providing education about mindfulness, and exploring ways that group members can apply mindfulness practices to their day. Ask each group member to identify 2 mindfulness skills that they will commit to trying before the next group session where you can process their experience.
Using a balloon, ask group members to share an example of something that made them angry this week. For the answers provided, blow the balloon up a little. Follow this by asking what skills were used throughout their week to manage their anger. For the answers provided, let a little air out of the balloon. Use this as an exercise to talk about the impact that using coping and emotion regulation skills can have on our emotions. Ask the group to share any physical consequences, such as tension and headaches, that they experience when they let their “balloon get full”.
Ask the group to identify changes that they notice within their physical being and thoughts as they go from calm->bothered->frustrated->angry-> furious. Encourage them to try and be more self-aware as they experience emotions.
Spend time talking about group members’ experiences with a variety of emotions. For many, anger can be a more comfortable emotion than other negative emotions such as sadness and loneliness. As a result, when these other negative emotions arise, they may unconsciously shift to anger. You can draw an iceberg and explain that the tip of the iceberg can often be anger, with a variety of other emotions that remain unseen.
Provide the group with a list of coping skills that can be used for a variety of emotions, including anger.
Provide education about meditation practices and allow time for practicing different examples of meditation. Spend time exploring their experiences, and thoughts about using meditation in their day-to-day life.
Spend time providing information about healthy relationship patterns and concerns such as codependency and enabling. Explore examples that the group can provide for unhealthy relationships, and examples of healthy relationships in their lives.
Spend a group focusing on the formation of thoughts. As an example; We experience a situation or event. From the Event, we then have thoughts that lead to our feelings, which impact our behaviors. Explore any situations that the group feels provoke unhealthy or unwanted behaviors and what they can do to avoid these situations.
Talk to the group about the use of self-soothing skills to cope with uncomfortable emotions. Ask the group to identify enjoyable experiences that are tied to their five senses that they can engage in when they begin to feel distressed.
Spend time talking about radical acceptance and the positive impact it can have on our well-being. Discuss that this skill can decrease resentments, and relieve some of the bitterness they are carrying.
Spend time discussing the role that our self-talk has on our emotions. Allow the group to identify negative comments that they think internally, and see how they can respond to them in a healthy manner when they arise. Is it possible to do a thought challenge to disprove the comment? Can they narrow down an event that contributed to the thought?
Introduce the group to the DEARMAN DBT skill and discuss the benefits that it can have on their ability to effectively communicate with others. Communication is an important life skill that impacts every relationship in a person’s life.
Spend time focusing on boundaries. Have the group identify boundaries they have, and practice communicating their boundaries with a role-play exercise. This can include physical boundaries and emotional boundaries.
Spend time discussing the use of grounding skills and examples of when they can be used. Allow time for the group to practice examples that were discussed. Ask group members to commit to trying to use two new grounding skills outside of the group before their next session.
Spend time talking about the importance of self-care practices. Discuss with the group healthy and effective self-care practices. A common misunderstanding is that self-care is associated with spending time or money doing something that we do occasionally compared to fitting a behavior into our daily routine.
Spend time talking about the role that our physical health has on our mental health. As an example, sleeping well, eating a balanced diet, and taking care of any physical concerns can have a direct impact on mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and anger. Ask the group to identify a change that they can try making to their routine that would improve their physical health. This could include drinking more water, going to sleep 30 minutes earlier, or going for a 15-minute walk outside each day.
Spend time talking about the benefits of “taking a break” when group members notice that they are beginning to feel angry. This can include physically leaving the space they are in to use emotion regulation skills, such as deep breathing, before returning to the conversation at hand. Another option would be to try changing what they are doing to a more enjoyable activity for the short term and then returning to the situation that was making them angry. Talk through examples of what this could look like for your group members.
Spend time talking to the group about triggers, such as HALT. Explore the ways that group members act when they feel hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Talk about the importance of being in tune with their body to notice when these triggers are becoming present.
Ask the group to keep a journal of when they feel angry. Ask them to identify the event or situation that led to their anger, and to rate the severity of the anger that they are feeling. Ask them to revisit their journal entry after they have worked through their anger to see if there is anything they could have done differently in that situation. Could they have used any coping skills or changed the way they communicated? Can they see a difference in the severity of the situation that contributed to their anger?
Develop a jeopardy game that goes into topics relevant to your group members. Divide the group into two groups for a friendly game. Topics can include coping skills, mindfulness practices, forms of meditation, effective communication skills, healthy boundaries, and self-care.
Final Thoughts on Selecting Group Therapy Activities for Your Clients with Anger Issues
When choosing group therapy activities for individuals with anger, you will want to consider the age of your group, and any themes that you have observed in their experiences. This information can help you tailor your group therapy activities to be appropriate and relevant for your group members.
If you prefer to use structured group activities that provide your group members with worksheets or handouts, resources such as these Anger Management Worksheets can provide you with helpful tools for your group.
Okuda, M., Picazo, J., Olfson, M., Hasin, D. S., Liu, S. M., Bernardi, S., & Blanco, C. (2015). Prevalence and correlates of anger in the community: results from a national survey. CNS spectrums, 20(2), 130–139. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1092852914000182
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