Both anger management and conflict resolution are appropriate interventions for interpersonal relationship problems. However, they are clearly different and these differences are essential in determining which to consider in addressing relationship issues.
Conflict resolution is a range of processes aimed at alleviating or eliminating sources of conflict. The term “conflict resolution” is sometimes used interchangeably with the term “dispute resolution” or “alternative dispute resolution”. Processes of conflict resolution generally include negotiation, mediation and diplomacy. The processes of arbitration, litigation, and formal complaint processes, such as ombudsman processes, are usually described with the term “dispute resolution”, although some refer to them as “conflict resolution”. Processes of meditation and arbitration are often referred to as “alternative dispute resolution”.
Anger management is a course designed to teach skills in the recognition and management of stress and anger, as well as skill enhancement in assertive communication and emotional intelligence. Anger management must always begin with an assessment designed to determine the clients level of functioning in the above four areas. Anger management can be offered in a small group format or in individual coaching.
In California, Judges routinely refer divorcing couples with minor children to Conciliation Courts for “conflict resolution”. Criminal Courts refer cases of road rage, simple battery and person-directed violence to Court Approved anger management classes for intervention.
A careful review of these two disciplines clearly indicates that Conflict Resolution requires far more training and experience than Anger Management. In fact, many, if not most, experts in this area are practicing Attorneys with special training in Mediation. In contrast, anger management is a much newer area of specialization without the rigorous training and experience requirements of Conflict Resolution.
Finally, Conflict Resolution requires all parties involved in the dispute to participate in the resolution. Anyone can opt to participate in an anger management course and gain from the experience.
George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF, CEAP
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers
Anderson & Anderson®, The Trusted Name in Anger Management