Archive for category The Glasser Approach

Be content with…

Be content with what you havel

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Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy is the method of counseling that Dr. Glasser has been teaching since 1965. Reality therapy is firmly based on choice theory and its successful application is dependent on a strong understanding of choice theory. Reality therapy training is available to anyone…the first step in learning this tool is to enroll in a Basic Intensive Training.

Since unsatisfactory or non-existent connections with people we need are the source of almost all human problems, the goal of reality therapy is to help people reconnect. To create a connection between people, the reality therapy counselor, teacher or manager will:

  • Focus on the presentand avoid discussing the past because all human problems are caused by unsatisfying present relationships.
    • Avoid discussing symptoms and complaints as much as possible since these are the ways that counselees choose to deal with unsatisfying relationships.
    • Understand the concept of total behavior, which means focus on what counselees can do directly – act and think. Spend less time on what they cannot do directly; that is, change their feelings and physiology. Feelings and physiology can be changed, but only if there is a change in the acting and thinking.
    • Avoid criticizing, blaming and/or complaining and help counselees to do the same. By doing this, they learn to avoid some extremely harmful external control behaviors that destroy relationships.
    • Remain non-judgmental and non-coercive, but encourage people to judge all they are doing by the choice theory axiom: Is what I am doing getting me closer to the people I need? If the choice of behaviors is not working, then the counselor helps clients find new behaviors that lead to a better connection.
    • Teach counselees that legitimate or not, excuses stand directly in the way of their making needed connections.
    • Focus on specifics. Find out as soon as possible who counselees are disconnected from and work to help them choose reconnecting behaviors. If they are completely disconnected, focus on helping them find a new connection.
    • Help them 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 may suggest plans, but should not give the message that there is only one plan. A plan is always open to revision or rejection by the counselee
    • ·         Be patient and supportive but keep focusing on the source of the problem – the disconnectedness. Counselees who have been disconnected for a long time will find it difficult to reconnect. They are often so involved in the symptom they are choosing that they have lost sight of the fact that they need to reconnect. Help them to understand, through teaching them choice theory and encouraging them to read the book, Choice

Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom, that whatever their complaint, reconnecting is the best possible solution to their problem.

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If I wanted to ruin someone’s life…

Nothing has harmed the quality of individual life in modern society more than the misbegotten belief that human suffering is driven by biological and genetic causes and can be rectified by taking drugs or undergoing electroshock therapy.  Modern psychiatry has made up the most ugly story possible about human conflict and emotional pain – reducing it to nothing more than bad genes and unbalanced chemical reactions.

If I wanted to ruin someone’s life, I would convince the person that biological psychiatry is right – that relationships mean nothing, that choice is impossible and that the mechanics of a broken brain reign over our emotions and conduct.  If I wanted to impair an individual’s capacity to create empathic, loving relationships, I would prescribe psychiatric drugs, all of which blunt our highest psychological and spiritual functions.

W. Glasser M.D. Counselling with Choice Theory 2000


To keep on good terms with adult children..

To keep on good terms with adult children,  continue to be warm and loving, but do as little as possible for them or to them,  as much with them as you both enjoy and respect them enough to be willing to leave them alone if this is what they want.

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The reason students do badly…

The main reason so many students are doing badly and even good students are not doing their best,  is that our schools,  firmly supported by school boards, politicians, and parents,  all of whom follow external control psychology,  adhere rigidly to the idea that what is taught in school is right  and that students who won’t learn it, should be punished.

This destructive,  false belief is best called schooling.


The faster you go…

The faster you go, the more students you leave behind. It doesn’t matter how much or how fast you teach. The true measure is how much students have learned.

Dr. William Glasser

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Choice Theory Helps With:

School systems   Training teachers and administrators to implement Dr. Glasser’s renowned quality school ideas.  The focus is on using choice theory to improve the system by changing the approach to educating students.

A Glasser Quality School includes a competence-based classroom and aims at having no low grades, no discipline problems and high achievement on standardized tests.  Measurable quality work and joyful students, staff and parents is apparent throughout the school.

Addiction   Effectively help those suffering from addictions and other health related problems as well as provide aid and comfort to their families through reality therapy interventions.  Education and prevention are the key to lifelong wellness

Criminal Justice Dr. Glasser developed reality therapy in a detention facility for young women called The Ventura School for Girls in California.  The book, Reality Therapy, describes some of the work he did there.  Reality therapy, based on choice theory, has helped people look at new and more effective ways to deal with the various aspects of corrections.   Reality therapy teaches that we need NOT be victims of our past or present unless we choose to be.

Dr. Glasser’s ideas have been used successfully with the criminal justice system, court-ordered programs such as domestic violence groups, adjudicated youth, gang members, parole officers, military police and civilian police officers.

Relationships Whether speaking about marriage, partnerships or dealing with family issues such as parenting skills, Dr. Glasser’s ideas have helped couples, parents, teachers, foster parents and others develop happier, more fulfilling relationships.

The focus of counselling with choice theory is improving relationships and is applicable with even the most difficult or at-risk populations.

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Your Quality World

William Glasser claims that all of us are aware we live in a world we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell and we call it the real world or reality; we are inclined to assume that it’s the same world for all of us.

Optimists and pessimists live in the same world, as do the sane and crazy but each sees it differently. He says that much of what we see may be close to what others see or we couldn’t get along at all but it is not the same.

Glasser says that choice theory explains that the reason we perceive much of reality so differently from others has to do with another important world, unique to each of us, called the quality world.

This small, personal world, which each person starts to create in his or her memory shortly after birth and continues to create and re-create throughout life, is made up of a small group of specific pictures that portray, more than anything else we know, the best ways to satisfy one or more of our basic needs.

What these pictures portray falls into three categories:

  • the people we most want to be with
  • the things we most want to own or experience
  • the ideas or systems of belief that govern much of our behaviour

Any time we feel very good, we are choosing to behave so that someone, something, or some belief in the real world has come close to matching a picture of that person, thing or belief in our quality worlds.  Throughout our lives we will be in closer contact with our quality worlds than with anything else we know.

Glasser says that most of us know nothing about our basic needs but what we know is how we feel and we always want to feel as good as we can. Therefore, the overwhelming reason we chose to put these particular pictures into our quality worlds is that when we were with these people, when we owned, used, or experienced these things, and when we put these beliefs into action, they felt much better than did other people, things or beliefs.

Our quality worlds contain the knowledge that is most important to us.  As much as we may try to deny the importance of this knowledge, according to Glasser, we cannot.  When we say, I don’t care, we are not telling the truth.  If what we are talking about is in our quality worlds, we care deeply.

For each of us, this world is our personal Shangri-la, the place where we would feel very good right now if we could move to it.

Maureen McKenna 2010

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Glasser’s Choice Theory

Choice theory is a noncontrolling psychology that gives us the freedom to sustain the relationships that lead to healthy, productive lives.

Glasser states that if we are not sick, poverty stricken or suffering the ravages of old age, the major human problems we struggle with – violence, crime, child abuse, spousal abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, the proliferation of premature and unloving sex and emotional distress – are caused by unsatisfying relationships.

These are husband-wife, parent-child, teacher-student and manager-worker. He claims that if we do not improve these relationships, we will have little success in reducing any of the problems in the previous paragraph.

We all choose all our actions and thoughts and, indirectly, almost all our feelings and much of our physiology…The seeds of almost all our unhappiness are planted early in our lives when we begin to encounter people who have discovered not only what is right for them – but also, unfortunately, what is right for us.  Armed with this discovery and following a destructive tradition that has dominated our thinking for thousands of years, THESE PEOPLE FEEL OBLIGATED TO TRY TO FORCE US TO DO WHAT THEY KNOW IS RIGHT.  Our choice of how we resist that force is, by far, the greatest source of human misery.  CHOICE THEORY CHALLENGES THIS ANCIENT  ‘I-KNOW-WHAT’S-RIGHT-FOR-YOU’ TRADITION.

From the perspective of forty years of psychiatric practice, it has become apparent to me that ALL UNHAPPY PEOPLE HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM: THEY ARE UNABLE TO GET ALONG WELL WITH THE PEOPLE THEY WANT TO GET ALONG WELL WITH…Our present psychology has failed claims Glasser.

Glasser calls this universal psychology that destroys relationships because it destroys personal freedom, external control psychology. The control can be as slight as a disapproving glance or as forceful as a threat to our lives. …it is an attempt to force us to do what we may not want to do.  We end up believing that other people can actually make us feel the way we feel or do the things we do.  THIS BELIEF TAKES AWAY THE PERSONAL FREEDOM WE ALL NEED AND WANT.

The simple operational premise of the external control psychology the world uses is: PUNISH THE PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING WRONG, SO THEY WILL DO WHAT WE SAY IS RIGHT; THEN REWARD THEM, SO THEY KEEP DOING WHAT WE WANT THEM TO DO.

What makes this psychology so prevalent is that THOSE WHO HAVE THE POWER – AGENTS OF GOVERNMENT, PARENTS, TEACHERS, BUSINESS MANAGERS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS, WHO ALSO DEFINE WHAT’S RIGHT AND WRONG – TOTALLY SUPPORT IT.  And the people they control, having so little control over their own lives, find some security in accepting the control of these powerful people.

…it continues because when people do not do what we want them to do, coercion and control are all we think of using...the powerless accept it because as miserable as they may be, they believe that they are not free to choose otherwise.  They further believe, usually correctly, that to resist would be worse.

The heart and soul of this book is ‘Will what I am about to do bring me closer to these people or move us further apart?

One of the most puzzling exceptions to this widespread use of external control psychology is that we rarely use it with our best friends, …with them, even though few of us are aware of it, we use choice theory. …We recognise that good friends are our most reliable source of long-term happiness.

If we practiced choice theory with everyone, we would make – and keep – many more friends, and our happiness would be substantially increased. What may also be involved here is OWNERSHIP.  Most of us believe that we should or do own our husbands, wives, children, students and employees…As long as we believber that we own people, we don’t hesitate to force them when they don’t do what we want them to do.  We feel differently with our friends; we accept that we don’t own them and they don’t own us.

Glasser states three beliefs of external control psychology…

First belief:  I answer a ringing phone, open the door to a doorbell, stop at a red light, or do countless other things because I am responding to a simple external signal.

Second belief: I can make other people do what I want them to do even if they do not want to do it.  And other people can control how I think, act and feel.

Third belief: It is right, it is even my moral obligation, to ridicule, threaten, or punish those who don’t do what I tell them to do or even reward them if it will get them to do what I want.

These three commonsense beliefs are the foundation of the external control psychology that essentially rules the world.…The foundation of these beliefs, that we are externally motivated, is WRONG.

…we do not answer a phone because it rings; we answer it because we want to…the ring does have a purpose, but it is not to make you answer.  …Choice theory explains that stimuli, in the sense that they can consistently control a human being to make a specific choice, do not exist…When we do as we are told, it is because we choose to do it on the basis of the information we have. …Choice theory explains that we are, as all living creatures, internally motivated.

Glasser states what seems the obvious, that a relationship with your child is more important than their schoolwork.  What a difference it would make if all parents could believe this.

To achieve and maintain the relationship we need, we must stop choosing to coerce, force, compel, punish, reward manipulate, boss, motivate, criticise, blame, complain, nag, badger, rank, rate and withdraw. We must replace these destructive behaviours with choosing to care, listen, support, negotiate, encourage, love, befriend, trust, accept, welcome and esteem. …Since our language is a mirror of our culture, this is strong evidence that we live in a world that is attuned more to destroying relationships than to preserve them.

Glasser says, in just one area, public education, billions of dollars continue to be spent to improve school success, with no improvement no matter how success is measured. …Students who get along well with their teachers and with each other are almost always successful.

To be happy, Glasser believes we need to be close to other happy people.  Therefore, the fewer happy people there are, the less chance any of us have for happiness.

…Two groups of unhappy people – first unhappy group tries to find the way back to happiness, which I define as pleasurable relationships with happy people.  The second unhappy group has given up on finding happiness with happy people; they no longer even try to have pleasurable relationships. …Almost all these unhappy people have abandoned good relationships for nonhuman pleasure.

…If there is a defining characteristic of AA, it is that the organisation uses much more choice theory than external control.

Failure at love may top the list of human misery. …There are probably more unhappily married people who never divorce than those who do.

It is hard, if not impossible, to love someone who wants to control and change you or someone you want to control and change.   …To get sex, which can provide pleasure without love, many people are willing to act as if they are in love when they are not.

Depending on your mate for everything is asking more than what most relationships can provide.  Glasser says that at a minimum, we want someone to listen to what we have to say. If no-one listens to us, we feel the pain of the powerless, the kind of pain you feel in a foreign country when you are trying to get information and no-one speaks your language.  In a choice theory world, many more people would enjoy the benefits of listening to each other without trying to get the last word.

The Golden rule according to Dr. Glasser is: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. External control, the child of power, is the enemy of freedom.  Its bloody rule, use the power you have to kill the people who don’t agree with you, is the leading cause of suffering around the world. …Creative people who feel free to create are rarely selfish; they get a lot of pleasure from sharing their gift.

…If you will do what I say, I will protect you against the forces of evil, is the working maxim of every tyrant who has ever lived.

Excerpts of Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom W.Glasser M.D.  Harper Collins 1998

Edited by M.McKenna Sept. 2010