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Reality Therapy (William Glasser). Basic Beliefs. Key person: William Glasser Key theory: Choice theory and control theory Focus on responsibility for choice Focus on the unsatisfied needs , which are often the cause of problems The only person you can control is yourself

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Reality Therapy (William Glasser)

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Reality Therapy (William Glasser)

Basic Beliefs

  • Key person: William Glasser

  • Key theory: Choice theory and control theory

  • Focus on responsibility for choice

  • Focus on the unsatisfied needs, which are often the cause of problems

  • The only person you can control is yourself

  • Behavior = an attempt to get what we want

  • Focus symptoms = avoid facing unsatisfied needs

Five basic psychological needs

  • Need for Survival

    • Taking care of oneself by eating, drinking…

  • Need for Belonging

    • Need for love or relationship

  • Need for Power

    • To be better than others

  • Need for Freedom

    • How we wish to live our lives, express ourselves…

  • Need for Fun

    • Laughing, joking, sports, reading…

View of Human Nature--people

  • Try to meet basic psychological needs

  • Try to get what they want

  • Identify the frustrated need and try to satisfy it.

  • Choose to be miserable instead of becoming miserable

  • Store experiences related to how to fulfill their basic psychological needs in their brain

Four reasons for choosing depression(based on choice theory)

  • Keep their anger under control

    • Being anger can lead to violence, but depression does not

  • Get others to help them

    • Depression is a way to get help

  • Excuse the unwillingness to do something more effective

    • To avoid searching for a job

  • Gain powerful control over others

    • Others must do something for them

Therapeutic Goals

  • Help clients meet their psychological needs

  • Assess how well these needs are being met and what changes should take place

  • Take an education approach to help clients meet their needs

  • The more severe the symptom, the more clients are unable to fulfill their needs

  • Clients determine what they want

Therapist’s function and Role

  • Create a good relationship with their clients

  • Challenge clients to evaluate themselves

  • Instill a sense of hope

  • Therapeutic relationship is a mentoring relationship with therapist as a teacher and client as a student.

Therapist Attitudes

  • Do not accept excuses

    • But, make a new plan

  • No punishment or criticism

    • But, examine the consequences for not completing the goals; reevaluate the plans and make new ones.

  • Do not give up

    • Change is not an easy process

The process of reality therapy

  • Establish a supportive relationship

  • Explore clients’ needs, wants, and perceptions

  • Evaluate how effective they are in getting what they want

  • Make a plan to do better

  • Make a commitment to plans

Reality Therapy Strategies

  • Questioning

    • Ask what they want and what their plans are.

  • Being positive

    • What the client can do and reinforce positive actions

  • Confrontation

    • Not accept excuses, but continue to make effective plans

  • Paradoxical techniques

    • Reframing: helps a person change the way they think

    • Paradoxical prescriptions: choose to depress at certain times only


  • W Wants - What do you want to be and do?

  • D Doing and Direction - What are you doing?

  • E Evaluation - Does your present behavior have a reasonable chance of getting you what you want?

  • P Planning – identify ways to fulfill their wants and needs.


  • S Simple - Easy to understand, specific and concrete

  • A Attainable- Within the capacities and motivation of the client

  • M Measurable -Are the changes observable and helpful?

  • I Immediate and Involved- What can be done today? What can you do?

  • CControlled - Can you do this by yourself or will you be dependent on others?

Research on Reality Therapy

  • Some research published in the International Journal of Reality Therapy.

  • In general, research on reality therapy is limited

  • A number of studies have been done internationally.

    • In Taiwan, group reality therapy as well as lessons on choice theory have positive effect on experimental group members’ locus of control and self-concept compared to the control group.

From a multicultural perspective

  • Contributions

    • Focusing on acting and thinking reduce resistance to counseling

    • Allowing for a wide range of acceptable behaviors to satisfy needs

  • Limitations

    • Ignoring environmental factors

    • Not appropriate for some cultural values

      • it is not considered a value to ask for what they need (i.e., thinking of what is good for the social group as a whole)

Summary and Evaluation--contributions

  • Insight and awareness are not enough

  • Action and commitment to following through are the core of the therapeutic process

  • Accepting personal responsibility

  • Gaining more effective control

  • Focusing on what they can do in the present to change their behavior

Summary and Evaluation--limitations

  • Not give enough emphasis to

    • Feelings

    • Unconscious

    • Dream

    • Transference

    • the effect of early childhood experiences,

    • the power of the past to influence one’s present personality.

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