This week's Chicagoan: Aaron Karmin, anger-management therapist | Chicagoans | Chicago Reader

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This week's Chicagoan: Aaron Karmin, anger-management therapist

"If you have a rush of emotional energy, write."



A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"A lot of people think that in an anger-management session, we're gonna pass the drum around and have a men's retreat thing. Or that it'll be like driver's ed, where they can sit there watching videos. That's not what I'm about. I get people to take some ownership over the consequences of their choices. To understand that there is a basic thing called 'It's not fair.'

"Respect is the foundation of my approach. If somebody's being disrespectful toward me, I can still maintain my composure. It's impossible to argue with somebody when you agree with them. That's my Jedi mind trick.

"I work with people who are homeless, people who are coming out of the Department of Corrections. I have judges, I have attorneys, people who are living very high-profile lifestyles. I've worked with people who are elderly. "Oh, he's a nice old man." No, he's bitter and angry.

Depression, you can kind of hide. Anger—you hear it, you see it. Everybody knows when somebody's angry. 'Oh God, this guy hit his wife, or he was throwing things at his kids.' You can't help but say, 'You need to do something about that.'

"I'm in an office downtown, and the doorman knows I do anger management. One time a client's coming up, and I get a call from the doorman, which is unusual, and he's like, 'Aaron, there's a client coming up.' I say, 'You never call me—is there something I should know?' And he says, 'He's coming up with a baseball bat.'

"So my client walks in. He's swinging the bat over his shoulder. I say, 'What's up with the bat?' He says, 'Oh, there was a Ron Santos signing at Borders, and look! Ron Santos signed my baseball bat.'

"If you have a rush of emotional energy, write. I wouldn't pound a pillow. I had one client who was literally a Hells Angel. He was like, 'I'm not going to write. I don't have a pad or a pen.' I said, 'Fine, here's a pad, here's a pen.'

"He came in next week, and on every single page of the pad, both sides of the paper, he had written, 'You stupid motherfucker shithead. You stupid motherfucker shithead.' I said, 'How did you feel?' He said, 'Well, I didn't want to punch anybody this week.' I said, 'Here's another pad. Here's another pen.'"

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