Dr. William Glasser

Dr. William Glasser

Dr. Glasser is an internationally recognized psychiatrist who is best known as the creator of Choice Theory and author of Reality Therapy, a method of psychotherapy he created in 1965 and that is now taught all over the world.

  1. Biography
  2. Development of Choice Theory®
  3. Recognition and awards
  4. Publications


“We may be up against a stone wall, but we don’t have to bloody our heads against it unless we choose to.”

The late Dr. William Glasser, M.D. was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1925. He initially studied Chemical Engineering, but went into psychiatry when he realized psychology was his real interest. After medical school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, he moved to Los Angeles. His psychiatric training from 1954 to 1957 was at UCLA and the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles. In 1961, he was Board Certified in Psychiatry. He maintained a private practice in West Los Angeles from 1957 to 1986, and continued his involvement in community psychiatry for an additional twenty years.

During his private practice, Dr. Glasser’s career expanded to lecturing and writing: culminating in the publication of over twenty books. Notably, his second book, Reality Therapy (1965), was a best seller, and drew national attention. In response to interest from counselors, he founded The Institute for Reality Therapy in 1967. Then Schools without Failure (1969), his first book on education, began a series of additional publications and long term involvement with the Glasser Quality School Movement. His continuing study of the underlying reasons for the success of reality therapy led to his book Choice Theory (1998). Up to now, over ninety thousand people worldwide have taken intensive training to gain knowledge on how to apply his ideas in their personal and professional lives.

Development of Choice Theory

“What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today, but revisiting this painful past can contribute little or nothing to what we need to do now.”

Dr. Glasser’s ideas were very progressive. Very early, he recognized that as social creatures, people need each other. He finally concluded that the cause of almost all psychological symptoms is our inability to get along with the important people in our lives. By 1980, he had begun to form the idea that led to Choice Theory®: why so many people are unhappy in their relationships. He believed that only human beings are genetically driven by the need for power. We try to satisfy that need by using what he called external control psychology–literally trying to force one another to do what we want them to do. He believed this struggle led to the symptoms described in the DSM classification. Dr. Glasser taught that if we can’t figure out how to learn to satisfy our power need by respecting each other, our days on earth are numbered. He offered Choice Theory to replace external control and dedicated the remainder of his life to teaching and supporting choice theory ideas.

An important part of Glasser’s Choice Theory is his rejection of the disease model of mental illness, with an exception for people who have demonstrable pathological brain lesions. His alarm regarding increasing use of psychiatric drugs led to Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health (2003). In 2005, he produced a booklet, Defining Mental Health as a Public Health Issue to explain that public health educational methods could be instituted to enhance public mental health.

Recognition and Awards

“It is almost impossible for anyone, even the most ineffective among us, to continue to choose misery after becoming aware that it is a choice.”

During his lifetime, Dr. Glasser maintained a very active schedule and was a much sought-after speaker, nationally and internationally. His contributions to our understanding of mental health have been recognized multiple times:

  • Since 1989, Dr. William Glasser has been recognized as a member of the distinguished faculty of pioneers in the psychological professions by the renowned Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference of the Milton Erickson Foundation.
  • In 1990, he was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, from the University of San Francisco.
  • In 2002, he received the California Association of School Counselors award for his many years of contributions to the school counseling profession.
  • In 2003, he was presented with the American Counseling Association Professional Development Award in recognition of his significant contributions to the field of counseling.
  • The American Counseling Association presented him with a Legend in Counseling Award in 2004 for developing reality therapy.
  • In 2005, the American Psychotherapy Association presented him with the prestigious Master Therapist designation.
  • Also in 2005, he was presented with the Life Achievement Award by the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology for his enormous influence as a psychotherapist and author.
  • In 2006, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctorate of Education from Pacific Union College in Angwin, CA.
  • In 2008, the European Association for Psychotherapy publicly recognized reality therapy, which Dr. Glasser developed, as a scientifically validated psychotherapy and was officially announced at the twenty-ninth Annual William Glasser Institute International Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2009.
  • In 20lO, Case Western Reserve University conferred the Distinguished Alumni Award upon him.


“We almost always have choices, and the better the choice, the more we will be in control of our lives.”

The following Glasser publications are available through William Glasser Books:

  • Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom
  • Reality Therapy: A New Approach to Psychiatry
  • Every Student Can Succeed
  • For Parents and Teenagers: Dissolving the Barriers between Them
  • Eight Lessons for a Happier Marriage
  • Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health
  • What Is This Thing Called Love?
  • Getting Together and Staying Together and Staying Together
  • Counseling with Choice Theory, the New Reality Therapy
  • The Language of Choice Theory
  • Positive Addiction
  • Fibromyalgia: Hope from a Completely New Perspective
  • Schools without Failure
  • The Quality School
  • The Quality School Teacher
  • Choice Theory in the Classroom
  • The Identity Society
  • The Choice Theory Manager