Hawai'i Psychologist Book Review

Book Review by Vincent G. Tsushima, Ph.D., J.D.

From the Hawai’i Psychologist (Winter 2001; Vol. XXIV, No. 1)

I highly recommend Thomas J. Harbin’s “Beyond Anger: A Guide For Men” as a reading reference for the angry male patient. Harbin, a clinical psychologist in private practice specializing in the treatment of angry men, has written a clear and direct self-help book aimed at the treatment of male anger. With simple, straight talk, Harbin discusses the signs and symptoms of clinically significant anger, explains the various factors contributing to male anger, and provides multiple approaches, strategies and suggestions to reduce anger problems.

Part I of the book helps the reader to examine whether he is suffering from a problem with anger. It describes “red flags” for anger problems and encourages the reader to complete an enclosed copy of the “Novaco Provocation Inventory,” providing an interpretation of the reader’s score. Harbin describes different types of angry men and directly confronts the reader with the relationship between anger and physical violence. Though presenting a hard reality regarding the consequences of anger and physical violence, the author provides hope that these problems are controllable. The author offers a sociological perspective of male anger, providing a particularly stirring social critique and analysis.

Action plans

In Part II, Harbin proceeds with “Anger Action Plans” for the reader. He begins the section with an important discussion of behavioral change and commitment to change. Harbin is skilled at communicating important psychological concepts without relying on psychobabble. He selectively uses psychological terms, e.g., “denial,” in his book. He clearly illustrates, in a short and concise manner, cognitive-behavioral theory and interventions. This is a nice departure from some other cognitive-behaviorally-based self-help books that are too structured and direct the reader to complete complex and seemingly onerous homework assignments. The basic and simple exercises Harbin suggests are more likely to be utilized by the reader than other more obsessively and overly regimentalized homework assignments. He also provides a wide-variety of behavioral exercises to ameliorate anger and increase assertiveness.

Part III focuses on the critical and sensitive issue of obtaining professional help for one’s anger problems. Harbin discusses how the reader may determine that his problems are beyond self-help literature and may require professional clinical assistance. He describes how to find appropriate professional help and develop reasonable expectations regarding personal growth and change. Harbin also examines the relationship between anger, physical violence and substance abuse. Further, he describes the interrelationship between depression and anger.

Family ties

Finally, Part IV explores the relationship between anger problems and family relationships. Harbin provides simple and practical methods to reduce anger provoking, familial situations. He also discusses social-sexual problems related to anger and how these may be approached. Discussion includes confronting the repeated pattern of anger in families over generations. In particular, Harbin teaches the reader how to avoid raising an angry boy, who will probably become an angry man. Harbin then writes a chapter for the woman in the angry man’s life, informing her how she cannot “fix” her angry man, how she may do a few things to help decrease her partner’s anger, and when she may have to consider leaving a relationship if it involves physical violence upon her.

Harbin’s book gives the reader a comprehensive explanation of the contributing factors to anger problems, the consequences of his anger problems and, most importantly, a wide variety and range of strategies, methods and suggestions to modify his anger. This book is extremely will-suited for patient recommended reading. In particular, it is intuitively written with the angry patient in mind as Harbin provides material in a direct, genuine, “no holds barred” fashion. At the same time, he discusses anger problems with compassion, understanding and sensitivity for the angry male’s struggle. Interestingly, whether consciously done or not, Harbin models the type of interpersonal interaction he proposes for the angry male. This book may be an important contribution to the treatment of male anger.

Reference

Harbin, T.J. (2000). Beyond Anger: A guide for men. Marlowe Books.

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