Anger Management and The Stages of Change

The journey from where you are to where you want to be may not be linear. It may follow an eventful or uneventful path. Whatever the approach, there will likely be an opportunity for steady or highly accelerated growth. Your change is likely to be a by-product of your purpose and desire for self-improvement.


Thought Experiment: Do we change, or do we just adopt new behaviors into our already existing repertoire of behaviors?


Anger Management


Imagine having a tendency to use anger to get what you want from others. Initially, the strategy worked to perfection, or so you thought. Consequently, there is no desire to change your behaviors because the people around you tend to capitulate when you get angry.


Unfortunately, you begin to interpret the behavior of your family members, friends, and colleagues as a mark of respect for you. Little do you realize you are using anger destructively. The people around you are starting to resent you for your behaviors, but you see nothing inappropriate about your actions.


Sometimes, you are not outwardly aggressive but express your anger through passive-aggressive means to maintain control or your perceived dominance over others. For example, you plan to get even with people you claim to be uncooperative. Another example, you may intentionally stonewall to manipulate when you don’t get your way or ignore people who don’t see the world through your lens.


You are a straight shooter for all you care, and you pull no punches.

Your relationships are beginning to deteriorate and are filled with hostility. People are starting to get frustrated and push back or entirely cut ties with you. Still, you are in denial about your behaviors; you react to the people asserting themselves as having a bad attitude, juxtaposed to examining your own behaviors.


As a result, you are having trouble separating aggressive from assertive behaviors. One approach to reigning in your behaviors is applying the transtheoretical change model.


The Transtheoretical Model of Change.


Drs. Prochaska and DiClemente, in the 1980s, developed the transtheoretical model of change. The model was initially designed to address addictive behaviors. However, the model is a multidisciplinary intervention tool. For example, the model can be used as an intervention for anger management to assess a person’s stage of change and evaluate a person’s readiness to change.


The model is subdivided into six stages.

  1. Precontemplation – the angry person does not intend to change behavior in the foreseeable future. Further, the person does not fully understand or appreciate the severity of the anger and sees no need to change.

  2. Contemplation – the person is thinking about change after wrestling with the idea of whether it is worth the effort to effectuate meaningful modification of the unhealthy expression of anger. The person deliberates the pros and cons of changing with the recognition that things need to be different.

  3. In preparation – for change, the person accepts that the unhealthy expression of anger starts to disrupt their relationships. Consequently, the person intends to take actionable steps to redirect their behaviors to being healthful.

  4. Action – the person is no longer preparing to change; the person has decided to change. Hence, the person attends anger management groups or does individual therapy to learn anger management skills.

  5. Maintenance – the person is invested in maintaining and utilizing the anger management skills learned in anger management groups and individual therapy. The maintenance stage is purpose-driven to prevent returning to old unhealthy behaviors. The new anger management skills are practiced to use anger constructively.

  6. Termination – is the final of the six stages. The person continues the work to maintain the new healthy behaviors. No matter how difficult things become, the person’s intent is not to return to behaviors they endeavored to change. Therefore, the person is invested in relying on healthy coping skills, recognizing the thought patterns that previously supported the unhealthy behaviors, and now seeking alternatives that maintain the changes. For example, should the person relapse into the old behaviors, take responsibility for the conduct, and return to practicing the new behaviors.

The process of change is further enhanced by: Consciousness-raising (awareness), dramatic relief (emotional arousal), self-reevaluation (personal responsibility), environmental reevaluation (impact of your behaviors on others), social liberation, self-liberation (belief you can maintain change made), counter-conditioning (use healthy and not unhealthy behaviors), stimulus control (operate in environments that support your behavior change), helping relationships (continue group and individual therapy), and reinforcement management (reward positive behaviors).


Change is not linear; you are likely ready to act or do not see a problem with your conduct. Instead, the person can flip-flop between the stages. The model assists with recognizing a person’s stage of change and/or readiness to change. Of importance, change is a process.


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