Management of stress-related anger in vocational rehabilitation clients: comparison of cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation coping techniques

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

A large body of empirical research has accumulated, suggesting that stress plays a direct and indirect role in both somatic and psychological disorder. Impaired job performances have also been attributed to the deleterious effects of stress. Most of the occupational stress management literature, however, has been focused on non-handicapped populations. Negative reactions to anger and stress have been identified as factors contributing to the poor transition from school to work for handicapped youth. The present study was one of the first efforts to evaluate and compare the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation coping techniques for the management of stress-related anger in handicapped work adjustment youth using a controlled group design.

Forty work adjustment students identified as emotionally handicapped or mentally retarded were randomly assigned to a stress inoculation condition, progressive relaxation condition, or a waiting-list control condition. Subjects ranged in age from 16 to 22. Subjects in the two treatment conditions met with a male therapist for 10 one-hour group sessions. Physiological, psychological, and behavioral measures were administered at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 4-week follow-up intervals to all subjects. Results of a 3x2x3 multivariate analysis of variance with repeated measures indicated no significant main or interaction effects. It was concluded that the interaction of treatment with time, and treatment with time accounting for disability did not significantly affect the work adjustment students' stress and anger scores for the selected dependent measures. Possible explanations for the absence of significant differences on these measures were presented, and the utility of the study as a whole was discussed.