During an episode where a young person has lost control and acted on their anger, their capacity to be fully aware of what occurred is greatly inhibited (see Essential Information).
The priority during and immediately after an outburst on anger-fueled behaviour is for the young person to restore their equilibrium (to calm down). The length of time it takes each young person to calm down will differ. It is beneficial for each young person to develop an awareness of:
- Things that help them calm down
- Signs that they have calmed down and feel more in control
- How long it usually takes for them to calm down
Young people should be advised that seeking to make amends or fix problems after an angry episode should only be attempted once calm has been restored for all involved. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood that their anger or the anger of others involved will be retriggered.
In the recovery stage, the young person may be feeling ashamed, guilty or remorseful and require support to manage the difficult feelings associated with the angry outburst. This can be provided by a practitioner but young people should be encouraged to identify and enlist other support people that they can turn to for assistance at these times.
When a young person feels more calm, there is an opportunity to evaluate what happened and how it happened (how the dominos toppled). It is during this stage that a young person is most likely to notice repetitive and unhelpful patterns and to make decisions to avoid this reoccurring. It can be useful for the young person to identify missed opportunities to prevent the eventual anger outburst. The young person can be invited to search for signals and indicators that anger was building up and would be expressed in the way it was. By helping the young person become aware of missed trigger feelings, thoughts and physiological symptoms they increase their capacity to maintain control of their anger-related behaviour in the future.
Episodes where the young person fully of partially maintained control should also be reviewed.
The practitioner can explore the anger outburst by asking the following questions:
- When did you decide to act on your anger? When did you begin to feel out of control?
- How did you know you had lost control of your anger?
- What were you thinking and feeling during your anger outburst?
- What sensations did you notice in your body?
- If another person was involved, what did you notice about their reaction to your anger outburst?
Two useful elements that can be applied in this recovery stage are drawn form Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
H5. Introducing Acceptance
This approach from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy introduces the concept of accepting previous painful actions or feelings, but then returning ones attention to being motivated by values or personal goals.
C2ii. Other Awareness
This element may provide a framework for assisting the young person to explore the effects their anger may have had on people around them.
After an incident where a young person’s anger impacted on others they might want to repair any damage done. Particularly where relationships are highly valued and ongoing.
Some young people might require help to raise the issue and resolve it if they lack the necessary interpersonal and assertiveness skills. This is an opportunity to work with a young person who is motivated to improve their communication and problem solving skills. This can have the effect of repairing fractured relationships as well as ultimately preventing ongoing conflict.
The following two practice elements could be helpful:
C2iv. Articulate goal directed expressions in a clear & understandable way
This communication technique could provide assistance in improving the skills of the young person in stating their needs in an effective way.
G6iv. Asking for what you want in a way that protects the relationship
This DBT element is similar to the one above in that it provides instruction on assertive communication techniques.