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The Reality Therapy (Reality Therapy) by William Glasser

The Reality Therapy (Reality Therapy) by William Glasser

March 29, 2024

The humanistic orientation in psychotherapy , which emerged as a "third force" in the face of the predominance of psychoanalysis and behaviorism, promotes the conception of people as good-oriented beings, individual development, the recognition of one's own strengths, creativity, the adoption of responsibilities and the experience of the present moment.

In addition to the therapy centered on the person of Carl Rogers, the psychodrama of Jacob Levy Moreno, the Gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls, or the existential psychotherapy of Abraham Maslow, among this set of therapeutic interventions we find some less known, such as the reality therapy developed by William Glasser .


  • Related article: "Humanist Psychology: history, theory and basic principles"

Biography of William Glasser

The psychiatrist William Glasser (1925-2013) was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Although at the age of 20 he graduated in Chemical Engineering and dedicated himself to this profession for a time, later he chose to focus on his true vocation: human life. In 1949 he completed a master's degree in Clinical Psychology and in 1953 he received a PhD in Psychiatry.

Glasser finished his studies working with veterans of World War II This task was continued until he was expelled from the Veterans Administration Hospital for his opposition to Freud's ideas, which predominated among the board of directors of this institution.


Later he worked with girls with problems of criminal behavior; at this time he began to develop the ideas that would make him a famous author. In 1957 he opened a private psychotherapeutic clinic in Los Angeles, California, where he would work until 1986. As his career progressed, Glasser moved to focus on teaching and outreach.

In 1965 he developed his most well-known contribution: Reality Therapy (or "Reality Therapy") , an intervention that is part of humanistic psychology and focuses on the acceptance of reality by people dissatisfied with the current conditions of their lives. For Glasser, the core of therapeutic change is the human capacity to decide.

  • Related article: "History of Psychology: authors and main theories"

The theory of selection

In the late 1970s, Glasser developed his theory of human behavior, which he eventually called "Choice Theory". His work was based on the contributions of William T. Powers, whose point of view was identified clearly after becoming familiar with it.


The core idea of ​​Glasser's selection theory is that the dissatisfaction of people with respect to their interpersonal relationships is due to the biological need to have power over others and to force them to do what they want. The objective of his theoretical contributions was to help people respect each other.

The theory of selection proposes the existence of a "World of Quality" in our mind . This consists of images about our personal conceptions of relationships, beliefs, possessions, etc. what we consider ideal. This World of Quality develops during life from the internalization of aspects of reality.

Glasser said that we constantly and unconsciously compare perceptions of the world with idealized images, similar to the Jungian archetypes, which make up the World of Quality. Each individual seeks that their life experience is consistent with what they consider to be the model to be achieved.

Glasser's selection theory is completed with the 10 axioms described by this author :

  • 1. We can only control our own behavior, not that of others.
  • 2. We can only give information to other people.
  • 3. All lasting psychological problems have a relational character.
  • 4. The problematic relationship is always part of our current life.
  • 5. Although the past determines our current way of being, we can only meet our present and future needs.
  • 6. To satisfy our needs we must satisfy the images of the World of Quality.
  • 7. Everything we do is behavior.
  • 8. The "Total Behavior" is composed of Four components: acting, thinking, emotion and physiology .
  • 9. We only have direct control over acting and thinking; the change in these indirectly influences the modification of emotion and physiology.
  • 10. The Total Behavior is designated by verbs that refer to its easier to identify characteristics.

Reality Therapy

The reality therapy of William Glasser aims at the achievement of concrete goals through the resolution of problems and making the right decisions. It is about helping the client achieve their personal goals by analyzing their current behaviors and modifying those that interfere with the goals.

This psychotherapy focuses on the present moment and the improvement of the conditions of the future; this is opposed to the strategies of many of the clinical interventions that existed at the time of Reality Therapy, which were mainly interested in the past and the personal history of the person.

Glasser described five basic needs: love and belonging, power, survival, freedom and fun . The therapist must collaborate with the client so that he can meet those needs; According to this author, people who seek therapeutic help with this objective reject the reality in which they find themselves immersed.

Thus, Glasser attributed the psychological and emotional problems to the unsatisfactory results of the clients' behavior, and not to the fact that the social and legal context, or the same self-requirements of the person, can be excessively strict. The therapeutic emphasis is placed on what is under the control of the client.

Therefore, for Glasser the "cure" for dissatisfaction is the assumption of responsibilities , maturity and awareness greater than those that exist today. The therapeutic success would be related to the fact that the client stops rejecting reality and understands that he will only achieve satisfaction by working on himself.

  • Related article: "Types of psychological therapies"

What is Reality Therapy? (Choice Theory) (March 2024).


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