What is Reality Therapy?
Reality therapy is a practical therapeutic method developed by Dr. William Glasser, which focuses on here and now rather the past, problem-solving rather than the issue at hand, and making better choices with specific goals established. Reality therapy is a time-limited, no-nonsense approach that Glasser developed and taught as a method of counseling which is based on choice theory, which states: “all we do is behave, almost all behavior is chosen, and we are driven by five basic needs” (William Glasser Institute, 2010).
Dr. Glasser was born in 1925 and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Originally he was a Chemical Engineer, but later pursued a career in psychiatry. Glasser’s approach to therapy is non-traditional in that he rejected Freud’s model of classic psychoanalysis, which focused on the unconscious factors that influence behavior. He does not believe in the concept of mental illness, unless it can be medically confirmed by a pathologist that there is something wrong with a clients’ brain. Additionally, as Corey notes, Glasser rejects the necessity of diagnostic labels (Corey, 2013, p.335). Glasser’s theory also undermines the necessity of looking into a clients’ past, asserting that it’s insignificant now because it cannot be changed. Throughout his career Glasser had a private practice in psychiatry, was a prominent speaker, and authored over twenty books. He began to develop his ideas of reality psychiatry, later known as reality therapy, while working as a psychiatrist at a girl’s prison.
Glasser believes that humans are genetically social creatures and need other people. He suggests that the cause of almost all psychological symptoms is an inability to get along with the important people in our lives. According to his assertions humans attempt to behave in a way that offers them the most control over their lives regardless of whether or not that control is fancied or real. They are misguided by the delusion that they can rest happiness and satisfaction out of the world around them, if only they manage it well. Glasser teaches choice theory to replace this irrational pursuit of what he refers to as external control. Glasser’s ideas caught the attention of educators and after writing the counseling book, Reality Therapy in 1965, he published his first book on education, Schools without Failure in 1969. In the early 80’s, Glasser was influenced by William T. Powers who wrote on control theory systems. Glasser integrated Powers’ ideas of how systems work into the field of human behavior and developed the idea of choice theory, which is a systematic explanation of how the human mind works. According to choice theory, humans choose many of their behaviors to satisfy five basic needs: survival; love and belonging; power; freedom; and fun. Glasser’s contribution to education adapted W. Edwards Deming’s philosophy of business and organizational success with reality therapy/choice theory. Dr. Robert...