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Reality Therapy


Reality therapy, developed by Dr. William Glasser, is founded on the principles of choice theory and has developed into a widely popular and recognized therapy form. Professionals in education, mental health, social services, and even parents have embraced the fundamentals of this therapy. Reality Therapy suggests that all human issues derive from a lack of fulfilling relationships with others. The goal of this therapy is to provide a connection for people, beginning with the therapist-client connection.

Overview of Reality Therapy

Reality therapy, like every other therapy, begins with the therapeutic alliance. Once this relationship is established, the therapist can start the process of transformation by guiding the client’s attention to their present behaviors and out of their past. Using the client as an observer, the therapist asks the client to gauge their behavior and the effects it has had on their life thus far. This is the first step in mapping out new strategies. With cues and guidance from the therapist, the client should be the architect of their own transformation. This process empowers the client and builds self-confidence. The next step in the journey is committing to the plan. Getting real in reality therapy is one of the core elements of this technique. Applying accountability to the plan through the use of verbal commitment or even a written contract brings the idea to a place of tangibility and it makes it more “real.” In reality therapy, the client and therapist also agree that failure is not an option. If the plan does not work, or the client does not work, excuses are unacceptable. Instead, the client and therapist agree to stay committed to each other and the goal and work to devise another plan until they find one that can be carried out. 


The Therapist-Client Connection and Reality Therapy

The therapist-client connection is at the core of this theory as it is the relationship is the most important dynamic to facilitate healing. This initial stable relationship is then used as a model for the formation of fulfilling connections outside of the therapy environment. Clients learn valuable tools and skill sets in the safety of the therapeutic relationship. If they are secure and confident in their abilities in that arena, they will easily be able to transfer those same methods outside of that arena. When the client can fully embrace and employ the behaviors, actions, and methods they have developed through therapy, they will be able to positively affect their external relationships and the influences they have on their life experiences.


Core Needs and Desires - Reality Therapy Perspective

Nearly every form and variation of psychology is based on the theory that all people are born with specific basic needs that if left unmet, lead to disharmony or disturbance. Reality Therapy classifies these five needs in this manner:


1) Power - A sense of winning, or achieving, or a sense of self-worth

2) Love and Belonging - To a family, to a community, or to other loved ones

3) Freedom - To be independent, maintain your own personal space, autonomy

4) Fun - To achieve satisfaction, enjoyment and a sense of pleasure

5) Survival - Basic needs of shelter, survival, food, sexual fulfillment


The fact that everyone is at all times striving to meet these basic needs is at the heart of Reality Therapy.


Multicultural Issues and Reality Therapy



Reality therapy is an effective therapeutic strategy to address many issues, but is especially valuable in treating highly sensitive problems. People who suffer with AIDS or other culturally controversial challenges can benefit greatly from reality therapy. Racial issues, sexual identity issues, and cultural clashes are all topics that can cause division and tension. Reality therapy helps bridge the gap between intolerance and ignorance through education and equality, resulting in a more unified community or organization.


Additionally, this type of therapy has proven successful at helping family members, colleagues, and other peers better understand these often difficult situations. Reality therapy encompasses sensitivity and empathy in an authentic way that opens the eyes of clients without shame, regret or embarrassment. Reality therapy is also an extremely useful approach in family settings. Using respect and acceptance, each family member is given the opportunity to express their needs and desires in order to lay the foundation for a plan that will develop into closer bonds, deeper understanding and better conflict resolution.


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Last updated: 05-02-2014


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