Reality Therapy by William Glasser
Jul 15, 2021
The humanistic orientation in psychotherapy, which emerged as a "third force" before the predominance of the psychoanalysis and behaviorism, promotes the conception of people as beings oriented towards the good, individual development, recognition of their own strengths, creativity, the adoption of responsibilities and the experience of the present moment.
In addition to person-centered therapy in Carl rogers, the psychodrama by 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 reality therapy developed by William Glasser.
- Related article: "Humanistic Psychology: history, theory and basic principles"
William Glasser Biography
Psychiatrist William Glasser (1925-2013) was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Although at age 20 he graduated in Chemical Engineering and devoted himself to this profession for a time, he subsequently chose to focus on his true calling: human life. In 1949 he completed a master's degree in Clinical Psychology and in 1953 he obtained a doctorate in Psychiatry.
Glasser finished his studies working with WWII veterans, a task to which he continued to dedicate himself until he was expelled from the Veterans Administration Hospital for his opposition to the ideas of Freud, which prevailed among the leadership of this institution.
Later he worked with girls with criminal behavior problems; around this time he began to develop the ideas that would make him a celebrated author. In 1957 he opened a private psychotherapeutic clinic in Los Angeles, California, in which he would work until 1986. As his career progressed, Glasser began to focus on teaching and outreach.
In 1965 he developed his best known contribution: Reality Therapy (or "Reality Therapy"), an intervention that is framed in 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 ability to decide.
- Related article: "History of Psychology: main authors and 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, with whose point of view he clearly identified 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. It consists of images about our personal conceptions of relationships, beliefs, possessions, etc. that we consider ideal. This World of Quality develops during life from the internalization of aspects of reality.
Glasser stated that we constantly and unconsciously compare perceptions of the world with the idealized images, similar to Jungian archetypes, that make up the World of Quality. Each individual tries to ensure that his life experience is consistent with what he considers 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 troubled relationship is always part of our life today.
- 5. Although the past determines our current way of being, we can only satisfy our present and future needs.
- 6. To satisfy our needs we must satisfy the images of the Quality World.
- 7. All we people 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 characteristics that are easier to identify.
William Glasser's reality therapy aims to achievement of concrete goals through problem solving 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 on improving the conditions of the future; This is contrary to the strategies of a good part of the clinical interventions that existed at the time in which that Reality Therapy emerged, who were interested above all 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 satisfy these needs; According to this author, people who seek therapeutic help with this objective reject the reality in which they are immersed.
Thus, Glasser attributed the psychological and emotional problems to the unsatisfactory results of the behaviors of the clients, and not to the fact that the social and legal context, or the person's own self-demands, may be excessively strict. The therapeutic emphasis is on what is under the client's control.
Therefore, for Glasser the "cure" for dissatisfaction is taking responsibility, maturity and awareness greater than those that exist today. 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"