Ten years ago I started working with clients with severe anger. As a professional counselor, I didn’t intend to specialize in anger management, but early in my career for some reason angry clients kept showing up in my office. Many therapists don’t like working with angry clients, so they were happy to refer them to someone else. I was looking for clients, so I was happy to accept them.
And I found that I loved working with these clients. I felt like I understood them. Their anger made sense to me. Other therapists saw these clients as “defiant,” “unmotivated” or “difficult.” But the more I heard their stories, the more I understood why these clients acted the way they did. It clicked.
I enjoyed working with these clients, and I saw that I was able to help them. So I told my supervisor to send me the angriest clients he could find. I told my friends and colleagues in the business the same. And that’s exactly what happened—I got the angriest group of clients you can imagine. It was like an Anger All-Star team.
One former client was on death row for murdering someone in a fit of rage. Many were in gangs. Some had drug problems. Several were repeat offenders with long prison records. There were felons convicted of child abuse, domestic violence, assault, harassment… the list goes on and on. Think of the angriest person you know. He or she would probably look like a cupcake compared to my caseload at that time. It was a rough bunch.
Before long I had loads of angry clients. I had so many clients that my schedule was booked for weeks out and I had to turn clients away. Even after I increased my rates I couldn’t fit them all in. I didn’t have enough time in the day to see all the angry people calling me (and yes, that made them angry).
I liked these clients, and I wanted to help them. So I studied anger. I read every book I could find on anger. I read academic journals. I talked with supervisors and mentors. I scoured the internet for anything I could find to help people deal with anger. And I discovered something.
Most Anger Management Programs Don’t Work
Most anger management treatment programs are not very good. A lot of courses offer shallow solutions like “count to 10” and “take a deep breath.” Most programs say about the same thing that your mother told you as a kid. They tell you to “think before you act.” Really? That’s the best you can do?
Obviously that is just not enough for someone struggling with severe anger. Most of the anger management courses out there are obsolete or incomplete at best. And they just don’t work. They don’t produce results.
Clients tell me all the time that they have been in anger management before and that it didn’t work. Sometimes they have been in multiple programs. That’s because most approaches to anger management don’t take into account the full picture of anger. These approaches don’t really understand anger. They don’t grasp the science of anger. They don’t get what is happening in your brain when you get angry. These approaches don’t understand why people get angry, and don’t get the roots of what causes anger. They just don’t get it. And since they don’t get it, they don’t know how to fix it.
Most counselors and therapists were trained in these old approaches, if they were trained at all. Even though the American Psychological Association says that anger is the number one issue clients have, most therapists receive very little training in how to help clients with anger. There were zero classes offered in treating anger in either my Master’s program or my Doctoral program. Zero.
So most therapists don’t know what to do. They don’t get it either. They want to help, but they don’t know how. They don’t understand anger, and since they don’t understand they give shallow, incomplete guidance. They give simple advice like “count to 10.” Or they want to talk for months (or even years) about your feelings and your early childhood experiences without giving you any help for your problems today.
This Program Does
If I was going to help these truly troubled clients—the angriest group in town— I had to do better than “count to 10.”
I wasn’t interested in doping my clients up on pills and psychiatric medications so that they were zombies and didn’t feel anything at all. I didn’t want to just drug people to get them through their problems.
So I set out to make my own method. I created this method based on everything I had read—all of the books, journal articles, publications, everything that was out there on how to treat anger. I called it The ASCEND Method®. Then I added in the neuroscience of anger, looking at what happens in your brain when you get angry. Amazingly, this is something that almost every existing anger management program skips completely.
And then I took this new method and I tested it to see if it would work with my clients. I tested it and re-tested it. If something worked ,I kept it in. If it didn’t, I cut it out. I edited the method and tweaked it, revised it and refined it. I kept working on it until it got to the point where it is now.
And let me tell you. The program works.
The ASCEND Method® is simple and easy to understand. It is logical. It is based on science. I have now used this method with more than 500 clients. I have taught the method to other therapists and they have used it with their clients. It works. It has an amazing success rate. Through working this method people’s lives are literally turned upside down. This method has helped me fulfill my professional goal: Stop anger from ruining people’s lives.
And it is simple. You don’t need a PhD in Psychology to understand it. The method is a logical, step-by-step process that anyone can do. It doesn’t matter how severe your anger is. No matter how bad your anger problem is, I promise you that I have seen worse.
If this method works on the angriest people in town, on my Anger All-Star team, it will work for you too. I have used this method with tattooed gang members and stay-at-home suburban moms. Men and women, adults, teens, and children. I have used it with people of every race and culture. Wealthy high-powered business executives and unemployed homeless people. I have used it with senior citizens and preschoolers. I have used it with academics with PhDs and high school dropouts. Blue collar, white collar, and no collar. It does not matter who you are. The method works.
And it can work for you. If you follow the steps, it will work for you.
At a staff meeting the other day I asked my associates if any of them could think of a single client ever who had completed our program that did not improve their anger. We sat in silence for a few moments while they thought. Everyone wracked their brains. No one in the room could think of a single case. Not even one. Every single person who has finished the program has improved their anger. Every one.
If you do The ASCEND Method®, it will work for you too.