Catholic Charities helping men manage their anger for 31 years

By Cliff Gorski
Executive Editor
The Catholic Accent 

Editors note: Names in this story have been changed to preserve anonymity.

GREENSBURG – It’s just before 7 p.m., and Bob Brinker is organizing his presentation and preparing handouts. On a table nearby is a pot of coffee and cookies.

It’s a routine Brinker follows weekly as he prepares for the arrival of about a dozen men, some of them regulars, for his Men’s Anger Management Support Group meeting.
As the men start to trickle in, Brinker greets them by name with a warm smile. He invites them to get some coffee and cookies and have a seat. Formerly a therapist for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg, Brinker, now retired, has been leading these meetings for 31 years.

Catholic Charities’ men’s anger group began in 1993 when a Diocesan priest said men who were in couples counseling were just too angry for the counseling to be effective. The priest asked Brinker to start an anger management program for men. Initially, the program was funded through a six-month grant, and men were referred by therapists at Catholic Charities.
“After the six months, some of the guys asked, ‘Why do we have to stop’?” Brinker said.

Some of the men have been attending the meetings for more than 25 years. Brinker estimates the program has helped 3,000 men.
The group is focused on dealing with anger and other emotions with the goal of eliminating violence and controlling behavior when interacting with spouses, women, children and other men.

Some of the men attend because they have been referred or are court-ordered to do so as part of a child custody or criminal case. Those required to attend must be present for at least 16 sessions to get a letter of completion.
During a recent meeting, Leo, who is scheduled to soon receive his letter of completion, shared with other group members what he learned from the sessions. On probation for a domestic incident, he came to the program as part of a treatment program.
He told group members that what he learned in the group meetings enabled him to avoid a workplace altercation.
“We got into a screaming match and he put his hands on me. I almost punched him but I stopped. If I threw a punch, I would be the one getting into trouble,” he said.

Leo said he realized that his probation could be revoked and he would go a long time without seeing his four children if he reacted with violence.
“Everybody gets angry, but it’s about choices,” Brinker told the group. “They say that men get angry between 12 and 15 times a day. It doesn’t mean we’re going through the ceiling, but how we choose to handle it.”

Brinker said anger issues evolve from how men have been socialized. In many cases, it’s an issue of control. He educates and counsels men that is rare to be in control all of the time.

“One of the things men can learn is to go with the flow and accept things as they come,” Brinker said.
Jared is trying to learn to follow Brinker’s counsel and suggestions from others in the group. At this meeting, Jared had some good news to share: He recently learned that his estranged wife is returning home. He said she had seen an improvement in him.

Jared also learned that Children and Youth Services will soon be visiting his home to see if it may be possible for his child to return. His wife’s return is a positive step toward the child’s return.
“It’s all I ever wanted,” he said as he choked up.
Jared gets to visit his child in a supervised area for one hour a week. He told the group that he tries to make the most of that one hour.

“It’s hard to say goodbye,” he said tearfully.

Several other men in the group have been down the same path with CYS as Jared. Together, they offered him support and suggestions about the upcoming visit.
“Above all, be honest and truthful about your situation,” one advised.

It is through Brinker that these men come together in an atmosphere of trust and non-judgment. He’s the glue that holds them together, offering wise counsel and information that helps them “take it down a couple of notches” when life’s issues escalate anger.

As he wraps up the weekly meeting, some of the men stay behind in the meeting room or gather in the parking lot. It’s an additional opportunity to discuss what is happening in their lives and support each other.

“Conflict is life,” Brinker said. “The hardest moment to overcome your anger is in the moment. But the real courage in life is to walk away.”

If you or someone you know could benefit by attending the Men’s Anger Management Support Group, contact Catholic Charities at 724-837-1840.


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