If there's one thing that psychotherapists love, it's models - models of psychological phenomenon. Many psychotherapists - and researchers - use models as a tool to help conceptualize a situation. Models also help us build a framework for how to intervene and address issues at different stages of its theory. In addiction counseling, DiClemente's stages of change model is very often utilized to help conceptualize cases and develop appropriate treatment plans.
Many clients that walk through our doors are often at different points in their process despite having similar problems. Models such as the stages of change model allow counselors to conceptualize cases and address each individual according to their respective stage. This allows the client and therapist to be on the same page and to collaborate with individuals and help them move from one stage to another.
One very effective model is the Kassiove & Tafrate (2002) Anger Episode Model. This model breaks up anger in to 5 components:
Trigger: Any event or experience that can elicit anger.
Appraisal: How the event is interpreted - likely to be unexpected, preventable or intentional in anger outbursts.
Experiences: The person's awareness of their anger.
Expressive Patterns: Broken up in some ways that describe ways in which the individual actually displays anger 1. outward expression; 2. inward expression, and indirect anger expression (similar to passive-aggression)
Outcomes: The results of anger i.e. positive results or negative results. This has a component of reinforcing the expression of anger.
The model itself appears relatively simple; almost as if it describes a process many of us inherently know about anger. This is exactly why I think this model is so useful. It strikes as a realistic play-by-play that allows intervention at various points. I've worked with some individuals that have expressed how once they reach the 4th stage, expressive patterns they feel as if they have lost control. "All I see is red" and it's difficult for them to stop. Others find that they "shut down" and become quiet or passive-aggressive and have difficulty expressing anger altogether. Ultimately, the question is ' what outcome would I like?' Often it's being able to express anger in a healthy manner; for others it's to prevent any collateral damage from being done. Understanding our process is the crux of many of these models, as it allows therapists and those seeking self-help guides to better understand not only what the most effective intervention would be, but at what point!
I highlight this model - as well as the stage of change model - in order to help my readers understand the power of self-awareness. In particular, understanding behavioral process allows us to deepen our awareness of not only our behaviors, but our thoughts as well. Rather than continuing to exhaust an unhelpful behavior, models such as these allow us to examine words like "change" and "anger" on a spectrum. This allows us to broaden our understanding of our thoughts and emotions in order to deepen our control over our lives.
Part of the difficulty with understanding process is that it can take two to tango. Therapy in itself can provide a safe space to examine and even express some level of these interpersonal processes, recognize them and reflect upon them. It allows the individual to engage with their emotions, behaviors and thoughts with the help of an objective 3rd-party. However even for those not in therapy, understanding how we do things and when can often provide some insight that can be helpful for change.