A new study from the Centre for Psychiatry Research at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows that four weeks of internet therapy can help anger management.
The ‘anger study’, as it has been called by the researchers, is the first of its kind to compare different internet-mediated emotion regulation strategies against anger management. The researchers believe their findings will be important in understanding emotional regulation and the dissemination of evidence-based methods.
The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers at Örebro University in Sweden. The results have been published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
Identifying participants was easy
“It is usually very difficult to recruit participants for treatment studies. For the anger management study, however, it was very easy, and we had to close the recruitment site after a few weeks due to the high number of applicants. This suggests that there is a pent-up need for the psychological treatment of anger,” said Johan Bjureberg, assistant professor at the Centre for Psychiatry Research at Karolinska Institutet and researcher responsible for the study.
“Many people who have problems with anger feel ashamed, and we think the internet format suits this group particularly well because they don’t have to wait in a reception room or sit face-to-face with a therapist and talk about their anger,” added Bjureberg.
The study assessed the effect of two emotion regulation strategies: mindful emotion awareness and cognitive reappraisal. Mindful emotion awareness concerns the patient’s ability to notice and accept their own feelings and thoughts without judging or acting on them. Cognitive reappraisal focuses on the patient’s ability to reinterpret their thoughts and situations and identify alternative thoughts that do not aggravate their feelings of anger.
A total of 234 participants, all of whom had significant anger management problems, were randomly assigned to four weeks of mindful emotion awareness, cognitive reappraisal, or a combination of the two. All treatments lasted approximately the same length of time and were all associated with decreased self-reported anger and aggressiveness at the end of the treatment.
Combinational therapy had positive effects on anger management
The combined online treatment led to significantly lower levels of outward anger expression, aggression, and anger rumination. However, anger suppression was not affected when compared to mindful emotion awareness or cognitive reappraisal alone.
The combination was most effective for participants who were experiencing very high levels of anger prior to the beginning of the study. The results strengthen previous theories that had suggested that difficulties in regulating emotions and interpreting events and situations can be a major contributing factor to people’s anger management issues.
“Our results suggest that a very short treatment of only four weeks administered over the internet with minimal therapist support is effective in reducing anger problems. Our hope is that follow-up studies support this finding and that the treatment can be offered broadly within regular care,” concluded Bjureberg.