GRIP: Guiding Rage into Power

The GRIP approach has been developed over 17 years of working with thousands of prisoners, mostly in San Quentin State Prison This program offers an in-depth journey into the participants’ ability to understand and transform violent behavior and replaces it with an attitude of emotional intelligence. The 1-year long program helps participants to comprehend the origins of their violence and develop the skills to track and manage strong impulses before they are acted out in destructive ways. Students become “emotionally literate” by fully understanding feelings of anger and rage, learning to recognize the body signals that accompany those emotions, and engage in a process to stop and discharge the buildup of tension in a safe manner. The course helps participants to identify and communicate the feelings underneath anger and process ‘the feelings within the feelings’ such as sadness, fear and shame. Students also develop the skills to understand and express the unmet needs that are covered up by the experience of rage.

The GRIP (Guiding Rage into Power) Program has a distinct focus. Most rehabilitation programs singularly zero in on either academic or vocational purposes or addiction recovery. These are important efforts, yet they would be optimized if the root causes of what leads someone to offend were addressed directly. Our methodology consists of a transformational re-education modality that commits the participants to a process of deep self-inquiry and healing. The program examines the origins of criminogenic conduct and undoes the characteristic destructive behavioral patterns (including addiction) that lead to transgressions. Participants learn to:

1. Stop their violence
2. Develop Emotional Intelligence
3. Cultivate Mindfulness
4. Understand Victim Impact

The program is a trauma treatment based model that integrates the latest brain research. One of the goals of the program is to heal the unprocessed pain from which people lash out. Participants partake in a process of creating an inventory of ‘unfinished business’ that relate to traumatic experiences that have become formative defense mechanisms which generate triggered reactions. The also make a personal history of ‘violence suffered’ and ‘violence perpetrated’ to gain insight into origins and patterns of behavior. Students sign a pledge to become a non-violent person and a peacemaker.

A major component of the program is that it functions as a peer education model where experienced students co-facilitate the classes and mentor newer students. All participants are to become fully engaged as integral stakeholders of the program. The program employs a methodology that is called ‘normative culture’ wherein the students cultivate intrinsic motivation by being actively involved in both setting and enforcing the standards and norms that are integral to the course. This central value of the program ensures maximum ownership of the participants for their own learning process.

Through its status as a service provider through Marin Probation Department, the program is able to meet the needs of parolees that must take a 52 week court ordered domestic violence program BEFORE release to the community. It also is able to certify prisoners as facilitators of domestic violence as a job skill. The program actively interacts with the community by inviting in guest teachers, victims, CDCR officials and other community members.

The program integrates three principal modalities: Instruction functions as a means to teach the information that is crucial to the program’s theoretical framework. Process refers to the various exercises employed to work with a deep layer of emotional material that must be acknowledged, expressed and integrated in order for insight and understanding to occur. Practice anchors the acquired insights into a durable behavior by spending time learning how to embody what has been learned. Practicing the GRIP tools makes the insight operational as a behavioral skillset.


Fred Matser (founder)

Fred Foundation was founded by Fred Matser in 1996 to contribute to the development of a more functional society. From a vision of interconnectedness of life and circular thinking.

Read more about Fred