When your patient gets angry

By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.
July 10th, 2021

If you’ve grown up on Marvel Comics, you know the Incredible Hulk’s line: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Some of our patients are like that. Underneath their seemingly calm presentation, they are angry. They are angry at the world. They are angry at life. They are angry at everyone they think wronged them. They even get angry at us! When such patients are triggered, they can be as intimidating as the Hulk.

If we are to deal with significantly depressed patients or individuals who have been terribly wronged or people with borderline personality disorder or those in the throes of a schizophrenic episode, or couples who are at war, we need to be able to ride out the storms of patient anger unafraid.

Those of us in private practice who work alone need to have confidence that we can keep ourselves and our patients safe if they get enraged during a session. Here’s a brief overview of what to consider for your protection and theirs and for managing treatment:

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