Anger management is a course of treatment that seeks to help people whose tempers sometimes get the better of them and who---either verbally or physically---lash out against family members, friends, acquaintances or coworkers. In some cases, anger management is court-ordered; this is usually the case when a defendant is brought up on charges of domestic violence. In other cases it is an outcropping of psychotherapy during which a person seeks to learn not only about the causes of his anger, but also how to deal with the actual expression of the emotion.
It is a common misconception that anger is a direct emotional response to an immediate adverse situation. Instead, anger may be a symptom of a mental illness, a response to severe stress, the result of previously not expressed negative emotions or simply a sudden flashback to a traumatic event in one's past. To this end, anger management is a highly personalized form of treatment. Granted, in most cases a class will cover the same kind of materials, but in most anger management groups there is also ample room for individual exploration of the trigger events, the physical presentation of the building rage, and finally a search for alternative ways of blowing off steam.
The primary functions of anger management are to help class participants recognize whether they are more likely to experience aggressive anger outbursts or passive anger, how to notice that an anger episode is coming on and how to appropriately express anger to family members and others. Anger management does not seek to help those in need of counseling find ways of avoiding their anger altogether, since this branches off into psychotherapy and therefore goes beyond the scope of anger management classes.
Anger management treatment identifies passive anger as the kind of emotion that does not result in an overt lashing out at another person, but instead manifests itself by giving someone the silent treatment, manipulating the emotions of others, evidencing emotional distance from the object of the anger, engaging in obsessive compulsive behavior traits or avoiding conflicts at all costs. On the flip side, those engaged in anger management counseling also work hard to help participants in the various programs recognize the diverse facets of aggressive anger. Some of these are intentionally threatening behavior, the use of foul language, the deliberate injuring of animals or people and also drug use.
The effects of anger management are far reaching. The techniques allow the individual to learn how to recognize the onset of anger, and seek to diffuse the emotion before it takes over the thought processes. Moreover, he learns how to focus the anger on the issue at hand, rather than transferring it onto another person or on situations that have been resolved in the past. By far the most important effects are the changes that take place in family dynamics, fighting within a family unit and also how those in the anger management program---and their loved ones---interact with one another in the long term. By working together and judiciously applying anger management techniques, a permanent change in anger expression may be affected.
It is tempting---as a family member of someone undergoing anger management---to expect the person with the anger problem to do all the changing and growing. Granted, if the individual employs aggressive anger, he should be expected to stop the destructive patterns that have harmed family relationships thus far; however, those around him are also required to change the ways they interact with him. This may involve the avoidance of certain trigger words or gestures, cooperation when the anger management graduate works on employing various techniques learned to control the bodily manifestations of anger and also a willingness to control their own anger and its expression.