Monday, June 6, 2011

Anger work in psychotherapy

Preliminary notes

It is necessary to use anger work in a context in counselling. In some areas such as the bodywork approaches this is not done and anger work can be used just as an exercise in itself. It must be relevant to the contract at hand and have a clear role in assisting the client to achieve that contract.

For example a client could say, “I want to shout at my father because of the way he treated me the other day”. In order for a therapist to go along with such a contract he needs to be aware of what happened between the two people as the anger work could be just a part in the game. What is the client’s script messages about anger and its expression. The client may be chronically angry and to go ahead and do the anger work would be contraindicated.

Anger work is a regressive technique. That is it encourages the client to ‘regress’ into the Child ego state and out of the Adult and Parent ego states. This has obvious uses for the individual who is stuck in his Parent and Adult and excludes the Child ego state, which many people are who attend psychotherapy. On the other hand there are people who are too much in their Child ego state and exclude the Parent and Adult, clearly one would need to be careful in doing such anger work with these individuals. For example the chronically angry person, and the hysteric personality type.


Anger work also destabilises the personality. This is one of its great therapeutic advantages. A client’s script becomes set and solid over time after many, many rehearsals and reinforcements day after day. Anger work can be used to shake it up and loosen the concrete holding it together. Once loosened one can then restructure the script into another form that allows the individual to live a more emotionally liberated life. That is, less script bound and more autonomous.

The down side of this destabilisation is that what if the client is already destabilised such as can be the case with schizophrenia, dependent personality, borderline personality and the obsessive/compulsive personality. One would need to be cautious using anger work in such situations.

Another difficulty with anger work is that anger always has the potential to turn into physical violence. So if the client is impulsive and has a tendency to be explosive then one needs to be very careful with anger work particularly if the client is bigger than you.

3 competing women
These women need to do some anger work, for sure!

In all my years of counselling I have never had a client express their anger in a way which hurt me or any of my property. One can use “Stop” techniques if necessary. Another advantage of this is with the client who comes from a physically violent back ground. By doing anger work they get first hand experience that there can be anger without physical violence.

Anger expression can be self validating. If one feels they have been wronged, then the act of saying so , especially to the face of the other party says to the individual - “I am worthwhile”. So to say such things with the expression of anger can assist with the self esteem.



  1. You said, “In order for a therapist to go along with such a contract he needs to be aware of what happened between the two people as the anger work could be just a part in the game.” What is the game? Are you saying the game depends on the person’s script?

  2. Hello KYLady,

    A game is how a person reinforces their life script over an over. Some people will use therapy to play a game and reinforce thier life script. Obviously something that one does not want to happen. The therapist needs to make sure that is not happeneing or at least reduce the impact of it