Anger & Assertiveness Courses

Courses offered by Lawrence Way Community Counselling Service are free at the point of use and available to anyone living in Cambridge. See below for full details.

Anger and Assertiveness Course

The Anger and Assertiveness group is currently held twice a year, NHS funded and free to attend. The group meets for 8 weekly evening sessions, which are held in Cambridge.

Requirements of group members:

  • Be willing to commit to the eight meetings
  • Be willing to be open and honest, and to participate in all group work
  • Be willing to put learning into practice between sessions
  • To keep confidentiality and give respect to all group members

What to expect from the course:

It is normal to feel angry, irritated or frustrated at times. The emotion of anger can be particularly strong and some of us can be over expressive or under expressive in getting our anger across. If you find it challenging to manage your anger in a way that gets your feelings or wants acknowledged without alienating those around you then this group may be able to help you. Similarly if you find it a challenge to express anger directly and instead let it build up, so that it may come out later in a way that causes further difficulties the group may be able to help. It is important to look at how anger operates in our lives; when we know more about it we can take steps towards dealing with it productively and assertively. The group will work on expressing anger appropriately and assertively and will also consider what other emotions may go along with anger.

The group has some informal teaching as well as pairs and small group work, the focus is largely on examining beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The aim is to help participants achieve their goals in expressing strong emotions in a way that is heard and supported. The objective is to help people develop skills and styles of communication that help in expressing anger in appropriate and responsible ways, this will include a focus on communication and assertiveness skills.

To ask about the group:

You can contact us by leaving your contact details on our confidential answer phone 01223 425419 or see our Contact us section. You can also be referred via your GP or by another IAPT service. We will let you know when the next group is likely to take place. The group leaders will contact you a few weeks before the group begins in order to arrange a discussion about what the course offers and whether it is likely to meet your needs. If not, other possibilities - for example having one to one counselling first - will be discussed with you.

Useful information to read before the course:

Angry feelings and Aggressive behavior

Most of us are aware of feeling angry at times. Anger is a normal emotion and not in itself a problem. It is the way in which we express that anger that cam become problematic. Learning what anger signifies can help to empower us – to challenge injustice or make necessary changes in our lives.

People can feel angry for any number of reasons: perceived attacks on their wellbeing, status, rights or apparent unfairness.

So when can anger become a problem?

For some people anger is not a problem – they get angry, sort it out relatively quickly and then return to their normal state of viewing the world. Anger becomes problematic when it is too easily triggered or prolonged and then it impacts on concentration, mood, relationships, self-esteem, work and social life and can result in aggression or violence to self or others.

For some people, dealing with angry feelings and their possible consequences is more of a problem than the situation that caused them – they try to suppress anger but inevitably allow it out in covert ways. Because of this they may feel stressed and struggle to cope.

For a few people, anger is present most of the time, constantly reinforced by the negative interpretation of the things that happen to them and always just beneath the surface ready to explode - they feel highly stressed and very easily get themselves into conflict situations, thus continuing to reinforce their negative interpretations.

Anger and change

Another common situation that can cause angry feelings to become a problem is failure to adapt to a change in our situation or in someone’s attitude towards us. Change can feel unsettling until we have found a way to adapt to it.

In our changed environment, it may not always be easy or possible to match how we see our selves with the new situation. We may fing that ways of attitudes and ways or presenting ourselves that worked well previously don’t work in our new setting and we have to find other ways of presenting ourselves and relating to people.

When we encounter a situation that we perceive as threatening, the primitive centres of the brain that control the release of hormones involved in aggressive responses become aroused. These ancient bits of our brains don’t question the accuracy of our perception – when we are angry we accept the validity of our feelings. Yet most of us have had the experience of discovering that what motivated our angry feelings was in fact based on a distorted interpretation. However, when we are angry it can be difficult to keep a sense of perspective.

Chronic anger can keep us in a state of heightened physical arousal which puts a great strain on our bodies and our minds.

How you can help yourself

If you think that you may have a problem recognizing, expressing or controlling you anger there are some things you can do to help yourself.

· Try to deal with angry feelings by confronting the source, to effect a change that will reduce your angry feelings without resulting in destructive consequences for others and yourself

· This means developing control over your angry responses and not letting them develop into a destructive force

· Suppressing and refusing to acknowledging angry feelings does not make them go away

· If you are worried about your anger or some of the things that have happened because of it you could consider speaking to a counsellor about it.


This is the term used to describe the placing of a new frame of reference around your thoughts. Instead of developing negative thoughts and scenarios that fuel your anger, try looking for valid alternative explanations. For example:

“My friend is usually late, if she really liked and respected me she wouldn’t keep me hanging around” might become “This is part of her easy going nature that I like so much – she is like that with everyone”

Use the L .I.F.E model

L Listen to the other person attentively and allow them the space to either confirm or modify your frame of reference by feeding back to them what you understand the situation to be

I Use ‘I’ statements and tell the other person just what it is that is making you angry, without blaming them and escalating the conflict. For example: “I feel angry when you make arrangements without telling me and expect me to go along or get left behind. I feel as if you have no respect for me”. Rather than: “You have no respect for me – it’s no wonder that I get angry”.

F Allow people the freedom to deal with their problems as they see fit. It’s no good getting cross because they can’t see the wisdom of your approach, it just makes things worse.

E Everyone’s a winner! Continue to negotiate until both sides feel they have been heard and have got something out of the situation. Going for one-up-manship or making someone feel like a loser is only storing up future trouble.

The L.I.F.E. model can give you a framework to help you address things that make you angry quickly without escalating the situation into a conflict. ‘Stewing’ in your angry feelings or ‘swallowing’ them in order to pretend that it doesn’t matter is unlikely to help in the long run.

Anger and depression

Angry outbursts irritability and developing a short temper can also be symptoms that mask depression. Sometimes when we feel depressed, we feel angry that things are going so wrong for us, angry that we are in so much emotional pain and angry at the seeming hopelessness of the situation. We may struggle to show the helpless, vulnerable side of ourselves. Anger can often feel a more acceptable way to express emotional pain.

The problem is that angry expressions sometimes drive people away and put them off wanting to understand the problems we may be facing. We are then left feeling isolated which may, in turn, increase our angry feelings and loneliness.

Effective communication – managing conflict

Being able to communicate effectively can help develop more positive relationships. Sometimes, we have interactions with others that don’t go as well as we would like. We might feel misunderstood but are able to move on with relative ease while, at other times, we can feel personally attacked causing us to feel angry, maybe wanting to lash out or withdraw in fear. The strength of feeling we experience may make it difficult to hear what someone is trying to say to us and in extreme situations such confrontation can feel threatening to our overall wellbeing and functioning.

Conflict can be an opportunity not just a threat

It is possible to look at our personal interactions in a different way so that we can turn conflict into an opportunity to achieve clearer communication and bring about change. There are two common reasons why people get into conflict:

· Not communicating clearly or listening respectfully

· Having different needs or interests which, without negotiation, don’t easily co-exist

Guidelines for good communication – a three step process

1. Send:

  • Clear messages
  • Verbal communication and body language both count
  • Think about what you want to say and how it may be perceived

2. Receive:

  • What is heard is part fact and part feeling, so try to be clear on both levels
  • When you are listening, pay attention to both facts and feelings

3. Acknowledge

  • Check that you have communicated what you intended by summarizing what you have perceived
  • Ask questions to seek clarification if parts of the message seem unclear

Respect the other person’s needs as well as your own

You have valid concerns which need to be addressed as does the person with whom you are in conflict, even if these are not immediately apparent.

Tackle the problem directly with the other person

It can be clearer if you can communicate directly with the other person involved in the conflict. Going via others can escalate the conflict or make further misunderstandings more likely.

Try to avoid involving peers, friends and family in ‘taking sides’ and as far as possible keep the conflict out of the public eye. While it can be useful to check others’ perceptions of the situation or seek others’ views, if you are merely seeking confirmation of your own views, this is only likely to lead to a more entrenched position.

Separate the problem from the person

Pointing out the distinction between the problem and the person and confirming that you wish to treat the other person respectfully may help them to do the same. Your issues are more likely to be resolved if you avoid making personal attacks which embarrass or ridicule the other person

Speak without interrupting one another

Make sure that you let the other person have the opportunity to finish what they have to say. This will help to avoid further misunderstanding. It is also helpful to ensure that there is agreement about everything said so far, before going on to the next point at issue.

Win-win solutions

Look for mutually satisfying agreements – one sided offers tend not to work. Though it is common to think that there must be a winner and a loser in a conflict, this is not necessarily true. Participating in negotiations where the goal is a win-win solution – ie where both parties are satisfied that their needs and interests are met – is both possible and helpful.

Four steps to resolving conflict

These suggested steps incorporate the guidelines above and can help resolve conflict:

· If you are in public and find yourself in a conflict, stop and ask to meet the other person in a safe, neutral setting at a mutually convenient time so that you can speak confidentially without being interrupted. This might help you to cool down, take stock of the situation and review your position.

· Look at and listen to each other so that each person feels heard and understood and has their views acknowledged. It is worth taking time to hear the other person’s viewpoint. Take turns to list the issues that you would like to resolve as practical matters to be addressed. Take turns listening to each other until each person has fully stated their views and you both agree that you have been heard and understood.

· Offer options with an open mind, thinking of as many ways as possible of meeting the concerns, needs and interests of both people. Combine and refine the options you have both thought of, remembering that it may very well be possible to work out a win-win solution together that you may not have thought of alone.

· Conclude negotiations agreements that are specific and satisfy you both. This minimizes the risk of future conflict.

· Finally, if you don’t reach an agreement, don’t be afraid to try again another time. It can sometimes be better to try to resolve a conflict bit by bit, allowing time to think and rest.