Reality Therapy

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“. . .it is what you choose to do in a relationship, not what others choose to do, that is the heart of reality therapy.” --- William Glasser, creator of Reality Therapy

In 1965 William Glasser wrote the book Reality Therapy and launched a new type of cognitive-behavioral approach to therapy which centers on happiness. Through Glasser’s years of studying behavior he found that people chose to be depressed, anxious, panicky, angry, behaving in a way that looks psychotic in order to avoid other more painful experiences or to reach out for help. He believed that people’s difficulties were bound to a relationship problem or an absent relationship.

He was a strong advocate of drug-free treatment believing that people react to events and actions, not brain chemistry. If people were to receive much needed relationship-focused therapy, the so-called need for drugs would disappear.

Glasser divided unhappy people into two camps: those who work toward the company of happy people, and those who succumb to their unhappiness and get buried by it. The second group feels good by making risky choices which provide hollow euphoria: drugs, alcohol, sex, food. Meaningful relationships bring them back to happiness.

Ultimately Glasser believed the problem is too much external influence. We let other people tell us what they need to satisfy them. We also spend too much time telling others what they need to give us. “You need to do this for me.” People should work together discussing what each wants for himself rather than what others can do to make him happy. It is a message of empowerment and self-direction. “I need to do this for myself. I need to make choices that get me closer to my goals.” Reality therapy advocates internal focus of control and constantly check behavior against resulting goals.

7 Habits and 5 Needs

Glasser created “7 Deadly Habits of External Control” which are criticizing, blaming, complaining, threatening, punishing, bribing or rewarding. His “7 Caring Habits of Choice Theory” are respecting, supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, and negotiating differences.

He outlined five basic, genetic-coded needs: survival, love or belonging, power, freedom, and fun. Balance of all five is the key to happiness.

Reality Therapy, because it is nonjudgmental and self-empowering is a philosophy used by schools, prisons, and many halfway houses. It has been successful for a number of difficult to treat groups.

The key to the success of Reality Therapy is staying focused on the present, on what is currently happening in your life to advance your goals, but not getting weighed down by it. You may be a culmination of past experience, but the future is yours to decide. Are your actions drawing you closer or pushing you further away from happiness? Have you gotten distracted with fantasy or fear? A therapist who uses Reality Therapy will not accept excuses for failure and will help a patient redirect his or her efforts.

Source:, Wikipedia, Depression-Guide


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