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Checklist: How to Run an Anger Management Group

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An anger management group, often mandated by the court or by Child and Protective Services, is a widely used abuse-reduction modality. An anger management program can run from a few weeks to a full year. Many facilitators believe the ideal size is 12-15 persons. Although these courses address the standard set of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, there is no nationally-recognized anger management curriculum.

This checklist can assist in running an anger management group:

___  At the initial session, establish clear ground rules, such as silencing cell phones, no food, arriving on time, confidentiality within the group, treating others in the group with respect, no cross-talk, etc.

___  Establish a general format to follow at each session, such as the check-in (“What trials and triumphs have you had in the last week?”), instruction and discussion, skill development/role playing, homework assignment, and wrap-up.

___ Avoid assumptions why the person was ordered to attend the group. It’s possible the person was involved in mutual abuse, or even was falsely accused.

___ Treat clients with respect and compassion. Do not make the persons feel judged.

___ Overcome clients’ initial reluctance to participate: “We’re all in this together. If you have to be here, for whatever reason, let’s make the most of it. My goal is to help you know how to handle yourself, regardless of what others may do.”

___ Encourage and validate as much as possible, but confront failure to meet commitments as necessary. Use humor when appropriate.

___ With a more “hard-core” group, firmly establish yourself as the leader and exert more control over the group. When necessary, be prepared to intervene and stop a long-winded or off-the-subject monologue.

___ Use handouts, such as SAVE’s “Ten Steps to Anger Control”.

___ Be flexible in your approach and use events in clients’ personal lives as a teaching moment for the rest of the group.

___ At the final session, do an exit interview: “How do you feel about it being your last day? What have you learned from the group? What words of advice do you have for someone who is just starting in this group?”

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