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Addressing Anger in Youth Counselling: Details for Those Taking Counsellor Courses

Professional counsellors work to promote the health and well-being of their clients, helping a broad range of individuals identify and overcome blocks to personal growth and wellness. That is also the case during youth counselling sessions, where counsellors work with adolescents to achieve a better state of mental and emotional wellness.

In these contexts, anger can present a challenge that directly influences a client’s health. It should be noted that uncontrolled anger can negatively impact a client’s personal life, interfering with their work or school and straining their relationships—potentially leading to harmful behaviours that affect the client themselves and those around them (Santos-Longhurst, 2019). For this reason, addressing anger in youth counselling is important. 

Here, we provide a general guide to understanding anger in adolescents while introducing anger management techniques that can be beneficial used in youth counselling.

Identifying the Signs and Symptoms of Anger in Youth Counselling Sessions

Anger can manifest in various ways, reflected in some physical symptoms and emotional signs. A 2011 study aimed at analyzing physical changes caused by anger notes that anger increases heart rate, blood pressure, and testosterone levels while decreasing cortisol—a hormone linked to stress and fight-or-flight responses (Herrero et al., 2010). Anger might also cause muscle tension, and can often be associated with some of the following emotions: irritability, frustration, anxiety, rage, stress, guilt, and feeling overwhelmed (Santos-Longhurst, 2019). Angry youths might feel these symptoms more frequently or at a deeper level (Santos-Longhurst, 2019).

Those in counsellor training can begin looking for patterns or other indicators by assessing behaviour. It might help counsellors to categorize anger noted in their clients into three groups: outward, inward, and passive (Santos-Longhurst, 2019). For instance, adolescents might express their anger by swearing or being physically violent (outward) or by self-isolating or self-harming (inward). Alternatively, adolescents might also express passive anger, typically ignoring others, refusing to speak, or being snide (Rozewicz, 2020).

Adolescents can express their anger in various ways, including by ignoring others and refusing to speak

Exploring the Skills and Benefits of Youth Anger Management for Those in Counsellor Training  

Counsellors can work together with their clients to develop more effective strategies that can be used to overcome anger issues (American Psychological Association, 2005). Repressing the feeling of anger has been shown to be unhelpful for those struggling with intense anger arousal (Short, 2016). Research has shown that suppressing emotions is linked to an “increase in negative emotions, greater stress, and increased problems with physical health” (Short, 2016). This is the reason that anger management programs also include “emotional process work,” which works towards stable emotional functioning (Short, 2016).

Students taking counsellor courses might be interested to learn about research on anger management. In a study that tested 75 high school students with high aggression, those who participated in ten 70-minute weekly sessions of anger management training showed significant reduction of anger compared to their counterparts who were in the control group. These results indicate that this training specifically impacted their aggressive thoughts and behaviours (Ozouni-Davaji and Nikamal, 2010).

Counsellors can help control emotional outbursts through anger management training

In order for anger management training to be effective, counsellors should focus on “emotional awareness” (Short, 2016). As Short explains, “The core principle behind this approach to anger management is that increases in emotional range not only down regulate anger but also lead to greater capacity for reasoned thought and responsible behavior” (2016). Doing so can help clients better monitor their own anger, gaining more control over their own reactions.

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Works cited: 

American Psychological Association. (2005). Controlling Anger Before It Controls You. Controlling Anger – Before It Controls You . https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control. 

Herrero, N., Gadea, M., Rodríguez-Alarcón, G., Espert, R., & Salvador, A. (2010). What happens when we get angry? Hormonal, cardiovascular and asymmetrical brain responses. Hormones and Behavior, 56(3), 276–283. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.12.008 

Ozouni-Davaji, Rahman Berdi & Nikamal, Mitra. (2010). The effectiveness of anger management skills training on reduction of aggression in adolescents. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 5. 1195-1199. 10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.07.260.

Rozewicz , L. (Ed.). (2020, August). Symptoms of Anger Management. Signs of Anger Management Problems. https://www.priorygroup.com/mental-health/anger-management/symptoms-of-anger-management. 

Santos-Longhurst, A. (2019, February 4). Do I Have Anger Issues? How to Identify and Treat an Angry Outlook. Anger Issues: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Management. https://www.healthline.com/health/anger-issues. 

Short, Dan. (2016). The Evolving Science of Anger Management.. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. 26. 10.1037/int0000059.