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Why Does “Anger Management” Not Work?

Sometimes men who are abusive take “Anger Management” courses. Women have reported to us that these programs do not seem to improve the dynamics in the relationship. This is because anger is not the problem with men who are abusive; their desire for power and control is the problem.

An Anger Management course will try to address an abusive man’s behaviour. If in the past, when he was angry he yelled, threw something or hit his partner, he will be asked to stop this behaviour and to do something else when he is angry like take a “time out”.

The problem with this methodology is that it approaches the problem at the level of the man’s behaviour when the real problem has to do with the man’s belief system. The man believes that he is entitled to control his partner’s actions. He believes he is entitled to be superior to his partner and he believes he deserves to have all his needs met when he wants them met and how he wants them met. When he does not get everything he wants (and thinks he deserves) he gets angry. Anger is not the core problem; the core problem is his belief system that fuels his anger.

What women have taught us is that if a man takes “Anger Management” he may stop some of the more overt abusive actions like hitting his partner but he is very likely to become more controlling in other ways. For example, he may become more controlling about the money or more critical about how the woman chooses to use her time. This can be confusing because on the surface it may look like he is “less abusive” – he is maybe no longer hitting her – but in fact he is just as abusive as he ever was, he is simply using different tactics to abuse.

There is counseling that is appropriate for men who are abusive. It is counseling that looks at the belief system of abusive men. If any real, lasting change is going to happen with an abusive man, he is going to need to be challenged about his beliefs and he will need to learn to look at himself and his relationship with his partner in a very different way. (This entry is also posted on the Articles Page.)

When Love Hurts