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Seeking Research Citations for Column on Anger

June 16, 2008
by root
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The article “When Anger Complicates Recovery” by Nicholas Roes, PhD (November 2007 issue) was not helpful. He states, “Research shows conclusively that venting often makes things worse.” What research, and on what populations? No citation is present.

Similarly, he espouses several approaches as “more likely to be helpful,” including counting to 10, distraction, and petting one's dog. He calls some of these techniques “time-tested,” but again there is no indication they are research-tested. Addiction professionals need evidence-based interventions, not seat-of-the-pants vagueness.

Mike Bradley, MA, LADC, LCMHC, Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, Manchester, N.H.

Nicholas Roes replies:

Mike, thanks for reading and writing. I take my responsibility to the readers very seriously, and welcome this opportunity to provide some of the research upon which the column was based.

In the “Pseudopsychology of Venting in the Treatment of Anger” chapter in Anger, Aggression, and Interventions for Interpersonal Violence (Cavell and Malcolm, eds.; Routledge, 2007), the authors write, “If venting really does get anger ‘out of your system,’ then venting should result in a reduction of both anger and aggression. Almost as soon as psychology researchers began conducting scientific tests of catharsis theory, this theory ran into trouble.” The authors go on to cite many studies that support this statement.

As for the efficacy of the interventions recommended, Richard Beck and Ephrem Fernandez in the article “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in the Treatment of Anger: A Meta-Analysis” (Cognitive Therapy and Research 1998; Vol. 22) write: “Based on 50 studies incorporating 1,640 subjects, it was found that CBT produced a grand mean weighted effect size of .70, indicating that the average CBT recipient was better off than 76% of untreated subjects in terms of anger reduction. This effect was statistically significant, robust, and relatively homogeneous across studies. These findings represent a quantitative integration of 20 years of research into a coherent picture of the efficacy of CBT for anger management.”

It's not hard to find literature that says venting is a good idea, probably because you feel better—temporarily—immediately afterwards. But there's a big difference between literature and research.