William Glasser, a native of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of reality therapy, broke away from the mainstream of psychoanalysis, rebelling against concepts of Freud, which was not very popular at the time (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). His rebellious thoughts occurred at the University of California and the Veterans Administration hospital where he was practicing psychoanalysis. He chose to leave and start developing his choice theory reality therapy while working at Ventura School for girls as head psychiatrist, where he treated them with respect, kindness, and gave lots of praise (Henderson Thompson, 2016).
During his 12 years there, he implemented a successful program based on principles he would soon coin as choice theory reality therapy (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). These principles centered on giving the chance to take ownership of decisions and the consequences of those decisions, and the five basic human needs of survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun being met (Lujan, 2015). Glasser’s reality therapy and choice theory form a marriage that is inseparable.
Choice theory is the main content of what reality therapists practice and believe, but reality therapy is how it is elivered or its vehicle (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). Ultimately, choice theory, which was originally named control theory, possess the main idea that actions taken as a result of those feelings are only controlled by the person and not external events (Bradley, 2014). People can more easily control their thinking and actions versus their feelings and physiology (Lujan, 2015). Glasser believed and based his theory off of the two basic needs of humans: love and acceptance (Bradley, 2014).
Key concepts of his choice theory are the following: 1) the only behavior someone can control is their own, 2) information s the only thing we can get from or give to other people, 3) all long lasting psychological problems are relationship problems, 4) trying to revise painful past experiences will provide little or no help on figuring out what to do now-improve an important, present relationship, 5) people are drive by survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun, 6) people can only satisfy their needs by satisfying a picture or pictures in their quality worlds, 7) from birth to death, all people do is behave, which is comprised of acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology, 8) all total ehavior is designated by verbs and named by the component that is most recognizable, and 9) all total behavior is chosen, but people have direct control only over their acting and thinking (Henderson & Thompson, 2016).
Additionally, Glasser believed that the main cause for people’s maladaptive behaviors were a result from unsatisfying or non-existent relationships (Bradley, 2014). All behaviors, including maladaptive, are comprised of four interconnected workings: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology (Bradley, 2014). The counseling relationship is monumental when attempting to achieve the goals in reality herapy. Counselors must be genuine and show interest in the client’s life; they must be encouraging, optimistic, concrete, and focused while maintaining a safe environment in order for clients to feel comfortable to evaluate themselves, but also do not feel threatened if challenged (Henderson & Thompson, 2016; Bradley, 2014).
Effective counselors model to the ABCDEFG approach to establishing rapport; ABCDEFG stands for always be courteous, determined, enthusiastic, firm, and genuine (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). Additionally, counselors must possess “positive regard (acceptance), energy, nd the ability to see everything as an advantage or positive while not being naive to the nature of humans” (Bradley, 2014, p. 3). Lujan (2015) adds that in order for counselor to build this alliance with the client, the client must let the counselor in their quality world by following the ACT process. A stands for accepting the client without judgement, C stands for care, and T represents transact (Lujan, 2015).
After establishing a healthy client-counselor relationship, counselors main goal is to help clients gain greater control over their lives by making better choices that satisfy their needs and do not interfere with others Henderson & Thompson, 2016). This is not done by controlling others, which Glasser considered as a main culprit for the misery people experience in their lives (Henderson & Thompson, 2016).
The main focus is to prevent future problems before they happen, but there is emphasis on allowing natural consequences to occur for a client’s behavior (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). For example, if a student chooses to not turn in an assignment, then the counselor must not interfere with the student receiving a lower grade. If the counselor does interfere, the student may develop a misconception that they an be rescued from their mistakes or can get out of them.
Assessment is important component of choice theory reality therapy. After evaluating a person’s belief system, clients will be asked to rationalize their beliefs and prove the unity between their actions and beliefs by analyzing the connections between the two (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). After a the client and counselor collaborate on the potential options of possible behaviors the client could try, then assessment of those behaviors is essential in establishing the effectiveness of reaching a person’s needs through that behavior. This does ean counselors will have to use careful confrontation to discuss inconsistencies with the client’s needs and behaviors.
After assessing the needs of the client and possible solutions are brainstormed, then the client needs to commit to trying to reach those set goals with the counselor and possibly others in the form of a contract (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). If the client chooses not to attempt reaching their goals, then the counselor makes a new plan that they think the client can reach. The goal is remove punishments in order to remove the client’s ability to make excuses (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). Persistence is key to helping clients become successful with altering their thoughts and actions. According to Bradley (2014), “Reality therapy uses action-oriented techniques that include teaching, positiveness, humor, confrontation, questioning, role-playing, and feedback” (p. 3).
Techniques reality therapists use is based on the WDEP system: wants, direction and doing, evaluating, and plans by the client (Henderson & Thompson, 2016; Wubbolding, 2007). Changing questions to statements for the purpose of client ownership of ideas and the client’s ownership of the direction of the counseling process is a primary focus Henderson & Thompson, 2016). The purpose of this is to help clients take charge of their lives inside and outside the counseling office (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). Reality therapy has proven to have positive results with people that have mild to moderate mental disorders as well as middle school students in developing their sense of internal control. Glasser was adamant about writing books and educating those involved with children in the school system.
He believed that kindness towards others and having faith people could handle the truth was key, and that true compassion for people was elping them to help themselves (Henderson & Thompson, 2016). The ultimate goal of this therapy is to help people not let their emotions dictate how they act, but rather regain control over their feelings in order to gain personal freedom to make better decisions with their behaviors towards themselves and others (Bradley, 2014). Choice theory reality therapy paints an optimistic picture of people; not one of brokenness, doomed suffering, or automatic without the ability of control (Lujan, 2015). It gives the person to choose what they want out of life and persevere through difficult times.