A Beginning Psychotherapist’s Journey Into Anger and Aggression – A Heuristic Enquiry

Morgan, Brodie
Thomas-Anttila, Kerry
Item type
Degree name
Master of Psychotherapy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

This study asks the question: What is the experience of a beginning psychotherapist’s own relationship with anger and aggression? In connecting to and answering this, the study spans a range of subject areas and their link to anger and aggression, such as; self-hate and self-destruction, trauma, society, shame, therapist healing and development and the clinical setting.

Anger and aggression can cause destruction, fear and danger. They can also create empowerment, change, growth, freedom and deepen our intimacy and connection with one another. However, so often the fear of anger and aggression dampens the ability for these to be used as positive emotions and behaviours, encouraging them to either stay buried, hidden or used in self-destructive ways. Within the therapeutic process feelings that have been unbearable, such as anger and aggression, can become capable of being understood and felt (Russell, 1996). Accessing anger and aggression therapeutically can create points of connection with one another, psychological possibilities can emerge and clients can have the opportunity to experience themselves more fully. However, the potential for a client to fully engage in, understand and unlock their anger and aggression relies on the therapist’s ability to identify, tolerate and help the client make use of their anger and aggression. The therapist who has an inability to tolerate, understand or have a capacity for their own anger and aggression can create a barrier between themselves and their client, leading to unexplored aspects of the therapy.

My own experience of anger and aggression is one of fear and I have experienced this as creating a dilemma within my clinical work. Using a heuristic methodology, this dissertation engages in a parallel journey. It works towards an understanding and deconstruction of my fear of anger and aggression whilst at the same time discovering my experience of what happens within the therapeutic relationship and how clients are either hindered or developed.

[NOTE: Full text approved by Faculty for indefinite embargo]

Anger , Aggression , Psychotherapy , Therapy , Psychotherapist , Self-destruction , Self-hate , Shame , Therapist healing , Therapist development
Publisher's version
Rights statement