Welcome to my blog. The articles here are intended to help my colleagues in the counseling profession - and also give my clients information about my clinical perspective and practice.
A Place For Anger
Recently I started thinking about anger, both within our society and within the therapy room. For many reasons, anger can be a problematic emotion - and I'd like to take a few minutes to share about it here. This short article is solely my professional opinion, which is always deepening and sometimes changing as I grow and learn (both as a therapist and as a person).
Anger, like all emotions, serves the purpose of information and a call to action - and yet we can get stuck there.... but where do we most want to be? In feelings of joy, peace and excitement. Yet, anger is a needed feeling which gives us information - showing up often as the "fight" response. Fortunately, as humans we have the choice to learn to use our higher thinking to temper that fight response - and hit the PAUSE button, instead of acting on impulse. Anger tells us "I don't like this - person, place or thing, or what has been said or done toward me or someone I love." Then we get to ask ourselves - "What action do I now want to take?" Perhaps I can leave the situation, or I can say or do something to defend myself or get my message heard. Anger doesn't have to be a toxic emotion, and it is likely that we are going to feel some degree of anger regularly as a part of being a human in relationship to others.
So what happens when anger shows up in therapy?
As a therapist it’s important to again remember that anger is a normal human emotion, and we are teaching our clients to feel, temper and process through the full range of feeling states within their minds, hearts and bodies. Sometimes our clients get angry with us, the therapist. They may get angry for a variety of reasons, such as when we hold a boundary, or when we don’t offer the response they were hoping for. This can be a natural part of the therapeutic process, and it’s one reason that therapists need to maintain a good sense of ego strength within the therapy room. Therapists need to mindfully tolerate client’s intensity and make therapeutic choices in the moment about the most helpful response, instead of reacting without self-awareness. Sometimes our clients experience anger through the transference process and use the therapeutic relationship to work through things (often subconsciously). Real healing occurs when the therapist responds differently to the client’s anger, in comparison to the way other people in their lives may have responded in the past. As therapists we can work with client’s anger by asking ourselves - “What response will be most helpful now? How do I hold healthy boundaries even when my client is angry with me? How do I help my client become aware of the pattern that is being enacted with me?” - And if a client becomes angry because we have made a mistake or been less empathetic than we could have been, it is important to own that. As it’s been said before, there are really no mistakes in therapy, except when the therapist doesn’t recognize or acknowledge a mistake they’ve made.
Thank you for reading this article. I welcome your comments regarding how I’ve reviewed these exciting and enlivening moments in therapy.