Is it possible to overcome the typical oppositional response of a client with anger issues? When they yell, lash out, or blame you for their problems, it can put even the most capable of therapists in a tricky situation.
But according to Ron Potter-Efron, clinical psychologist and expert in working with the “angry brain,” therapists can create a brain-change plan with their angry clients, getting them out of the mode responsible for their outbursts.
The first step, Potter-Efron says, is defusing reactivity by "building a bridge" from the response of the "old brain" to the "new brain." In this video clip with Networker Editor Rich Simon, Potter-Efron explains how it’s done.
Angry clients, Potter-Efron writes in his Networker article, "arrive at your office with a shotgun at their backs, so to speak," pressured to attend therapy by spouses, friends, or bosses. "No wonder they feel powerless," he continues. "They're being coerced to lay down their anger, the only weapon they've ever had against feelings of powerlessness." Anger, he says, is the only emotion these clients can trust—one they've likely used since childhood to respond to danger, trauma, shaming, and pain.
Using Potter-Efron's approach, you can actually channel anger productively in order to repair and rebuild bonds between partners, understand the psychobiology of intense emotion, including tears, and help angry clients rewire their brains.