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A Comparison Of The Emotion-Focused And Cognitive Behavioral Theories Of Anger And Its Treatment.

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Anger is often a difficult emotion to express and understand and it has come to be recognized as a significant social problem that our society facing today. This paper discusses the efficacy of the Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and the Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) for treating patient with anger problems and compared therapists’ view on emotion which how they see emotion as the prime mover in human experience in different ways respectively. Besides, the development, overview and the similarities of CBT & EFT has been critically compared and discussed in this essay. CBT and EFT conceptualize emotional problems differently and employ different techniques in each therapy. Although the CBT and EFT possess many distinct characteristics, it has been shown in this paper that many of their characteristic overlapped and the different aspects of the various approaches are compatible. Despite the lack of abundant research supporting the EFT where majority of published studies on anger have focused primarily on CBT, claims can be made to each type of therapy contributes something unique and may be more or less effective depending on the patients and their particular problem, yet there is no right or wrong answer as to which one is the right therapy for anger.


Anger is a basic human uncomfortable emotional that varies from mild irritation to rage as it is often a difficult emotion to express and understand that transcends cultural boundaries. Anger can be a healthy emotion when it is expressed appropriately (Greenberg & Paivio, 1997). Unfortunately many people have expressed their frustration of feelings and anger in an inappropriate way and end up hurting themselves or the people they love. That is why anger has always been seen as associated with many serious negative consequences, such as aggressive behavior, family violence, substance abuse, and physical health problems (Paivio, 1999). Despite a long history of interest in some other negative emotions such as depression and anxiety, the study of anger has been relatively neglected (Norcross & Kobayashi, 1999). Although in the last decade anger has been gradually identified and addressed by researchers, the scientific study of anger are only the one tenth of the professional journal articles of depression (DiGiuseppe, 1999). Fortunately, anger has come to be recognized as a significant social problem, more and more attention and research have been contributed to this issue. Anger treatments and interventions such as psychotherapy groups and classes are routinely found in community mental health centers, school settings and private mental health sectors (Norcross & Kobayashi, 1999). Treatment of anger in the 1960s focused mainly on helping patients to vent angry feelings, but these therapies have since lost their popularity because many therapists noticed that the expression of anger generally increased anger, which was counterproductive to the goals of therapy (Bushman, Baumeister & Phillips, 2001).

Currently, although there are many ranges of psychological treatment approaches available to manage anger, it remains no clear consensus among therapists and researchers on the best way to treat patients with anger emotion (Spielberger, Reheiser & Sydeman, 1995). However, unlike other treatment interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has received extensive research and it has an accumulation of research on the efficacy of treating anger problems since the last two decades (Silverman & DiGiuseppe, 2001). And in the other hand, Greenberg and Paivio (1997) have proposed that Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is also an effective route of therapy for anger, as problems with anger frequently involve its overcontrol and its overactivation with associated problem of under regulation, therefore emotion-focused therapy can be a very good intervention for anger. Despite CBT has currently emerged as the most common approach to anger management, EFT has also gradually becoming more common in the psychotherapy field and some researchers have suggested that patient who process their emotions successfully are better able to regulate their affective experience (Greenberg & Safran, 1987). Some studies have shown that techniques geared toward facilitating emotional changes at the affective level produce more powerful and beneficial changes than those focused at the cognitive level alone (Watson & Rennie, 1994). However, by exploring the various characteristic of CBT and EFT, it can lead us to a more integrative and eclectic approach to anger management.

Overview of Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)

Before starting the discussion of emotion-focused therapy, it is very important to have an understanding of what emotion is. Historically, emotions were seen as nonspecific and disruptive; however more recent analyses have emphasized the functions that emotions serve (Hebb, 1949). Although emotions address different adaptive problems, they generally facilitate decision making, prepare the individual for rapid motor responses and provide information regarding the ongoing match between organism and environment (Schwarz & Clore, 1983). In addition to this, emotion also serves as a social function for they inform us about others’ behavioral intentions, give us clues as to whether something is good or bad and control our social behavior (Greenberg & Safran, 1987). From an emotion-focused perspective, according to Greenberg (2004), emotion disorder is seen as a result of more failures in the dyadic regulation of affect, avoidance of affect, traumatic learning, and lack of the ability to process emotion than from logical error, irrationality or lack of insight. Although emotions organize our action tendencies and build up new adaptive structures for us, emotions could also play an opposite role as it breaks down the old static structures of us (Greenberg & Paivio, 1997). Thus it is also very important that we need to evoke traumatic emotional memories in order to reprocess and restructure them. Take a patient with anger for example, the old emotional habits such as rage following anger, and fear following intimacy, have to be activated in therapy in order to be recognized. And when old emotional habits has been activated, symbolization of emotion helps transform these emotions and so provides a safe distance that prevents the patients from feeling overwhelmed or acting out and able to learn how to regulate the emotion of anger (Greenberg & Paivio, 1997). This kind of emotion coaching method has grown out the use of an empirically validated experiential therapy called Emotion-Focused Therapy.

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is the



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