Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy


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Reality Therapy is the method of counseling that Dr. Glasser taught beginning in 1965. Reality therapy is firmly based on Choice Theory. A strong understanding of Choice Theory enhances the ability to effectively use Reality Therapy. 

Since the source of almost all human problems is due to unsatisfactory or non-existent connections with important people, the goal of Reality Therapy is to help people reconnect. To create that essential connection between people, the Reality Therapy counselor, teacher or manager will:

  • Focus on the present and avoid discussing the past because almost all human problems are caused by unsatisfying present relationships.
  • Avoid discussing symptoms and complaints as much as possible since these are the ways that people choose to deal with unsatisfying relationships.
  • Explain the concept of Total Behavior, which means to focus on what the person can do directly – act and think. Since every behavior is a Total Behavior, when people change their actions and thinking, their physiology and feelings also change.
  • Avoid criticizing, blaming and/or complaining and help people to do the same. By doing this, they learn to avoid some extremely harmful external control behaviors that destroy relationships.
  • Model non-judgmental and non-coercive behavior. Teach and encourage people to evaluate their choices by asking the Core Question: “Is what I am doing getting me closer to the people I need?” If the choice of behaviors is not working, then the counselor/mentor assists the person to identify behaviors that lead to a better connection.
  • Teach people that, legitimate or not, excuses stand directly in the way of their making the connections they want.
  • Focus on specifics. Find out as soon as possible who people are disconnected from and work to help them choose reconnecting behaviors. If they are completely disconnected, focus on helping them find a new connection.
  • Assist them to make specific, workable plans to reconnect with the people they need, and then follow through on what was planned by helping them evaluate their progress. Based on their experience, counselors/mentors may suggest plans if the people are unable to create one of their own. They should be careful to communicate that there are almost always more options than one to solve problems. A plan is always open to revision or rejection by the person who will be implementing it.
  • Be patient and supportive but keep focusing on the source of the problem – the disconnectedness. People who have been disconnected for a long time will find it difficult to reconnect. Choosing to remain consumed with the symptom results in this disconnection. Whatever their complaint, reconnecting is the best possible solution to their problem. Help them to understand, through teaching them Choice Theory and encouraging them to read Dr. Glasser’s book, Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom.

Examples of the utilization of Reality Therapy in a counseling session, along with the techniques developed by Dr. Glasser, are demonstrated in the book: Counseling with Choice Theory: The New Reality Therapy. This may be purchased through William Glasser Inc.

A course is also available, which illustrates 10 examples of utilizing the questioning process of Reality Therapy: Living Life with Choice Theory.

If you still want to know more, register for a Basic Intensive Training, which is the first step in the Choice Theory/Reality Therapy Certification process.