Many people have likely seen the 1999 American comedy Office Space. In one of the film’s now famous scenes, a group of disgruntled co-workers take out their frustrations on a piece of office equipment: a frequently malfunctioning printer. Armed with a baseball bat, the trio assault the machine, leveling it to pieces with a series of hits and kicks.
Nearly two decades later, Canada seems to be taking a page out of Office Space’s book. In Toronto, patrons can now release their anger in a “rage room,” where for 45 minutes they can smash, bash and otherwise destroy bottles and old electronics.
The facility, which opened last year isn’t the first in the world. A similar facility opened in Hong Kong, China last month, Tokyo, Japan saw its first “rage room” in 2008, another opened in the United States in 2009 and according to Reuters the practice known as destruction therapy was created in Spain.
But how effective is the practice for dealing with anger management? According to the British Association of Anger Management, a practice that manages anger through violence makes sense on a psychological level.
“I’ve seen it be very effective,” says Mike Fisher, a psychotherapist and director of The British Association of Anger Management. “Working in my private practice or with a group, there’s usually a ‘batting stain’, somewhere with punching bags and baseball bats, to help with emotional release work.”
But others in the field are more skeptical. Joyce Chao Puihan of the Division of Clinical Psychology at the Hong Kong Psychological Society says she doesn’t believe destruction therapy would have “significant mental health benefits.”
“People can see this as an interesting thing to try out, but if they expect some emotional benefits, then I doubt they will find any,” she says. “In psychological research, we find that the more anger you express, the more anger you will feel. If you go to the [rage room] in order to manage your anger, then I would not advocate that. Exhibiting aggression is more likely to increase the possibility of developing more anger and angry behaviour.”
But beyond simply being ineffective, registered psychotherapist Dawn Binkowski says “rage rooms” can be dangerous.
“Rage is uncontrolled, uncontained anger that is often violent,” she told CBC News in an interview. “With a rage room, there’s a normalization of rage that I think is dangerous. It’s irresponsible because they are providing the experience without providing the support.”
So for now, as with many relatively new practices in the psychological field, it appears discovering whether destruction therapy is truly effective in addressing anger management will require several more years of study.