Date of Award

Fall 2021

Publication Type


Degree Name



Anger, Brief intervention, Emotion, Forgiveness, Psychotherapy, Rumination


A. Pascual-Leone




Many clients present to psychotherapy with lingering feelings of anger, bitterness, or resentment in response to interpersonal grievances. The current project sought to compare the effects of cognitive reappraisal and needs identification interventions on lingering anger while determining whether intervention effects occur through shared or distinct mechanisms of change. Using an experimental, therapy-analogue design, 197 undergraduate participants (Study 1) completed a brief, self-guided online intervention involving either anger rumination (comparison condition), cognitive reappraisal, or needs identification. This design was replicated in a clinical sample of 31 participants (Study 2) who were recruited from local mental health clinics using the same interventions completed in-person with a clinician. In both subclinical and clinical samples, cognitive reappraisal was found to facilitate improvements in self-reported anger arousal, resolution, and forgiveness of interpersonal grievances. Needs identification was associated with improvements in forgiveness in the subclinical sample, but not in the clinical sample. The comparison condition of anger rumination produced little change in outcomes in a subclinical sample, while in the clinical sample it appeared to exacerbate anger-related difficulties. Text analyses and observer ratings of cognitive and affective processes in participants’ written responses to intervention prompts (Study 1 only) provided limited support for hypothesized intervention-specific mechanisms of change. The current project replicates and extends previous research by suggesting that cognitive reappraisal is more than just an emotion-regulation strategy—it is also an effective meaning-making strategy that helps people reduce lingering feelings of anger toward resolution or forgiveness of interpersonal grievances. The findings also suggest that the clarification of existential needs related to one's anger is a process that may offer a unique benefit depending on clinical severity.