Classroom Applications- The Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy was invented in the mid 1960's by William Glasser. It is a type of counseling used to help change behavior patterns. The main premise in Glasser’s theory is that we have "control over our actions"; therefore, we are able to change our performances. In Glasser’s explanation of Reality Therapy, he states, “the goal is to reconnect people.” Reality Therapy can help individuals learn to be more responsible with their actions.

Reality Therapy relies on the teachings and beliefs of Choice Theory. Therefore, counselors use Glasser’s five basic needs premise when implementing the theory. Glasser's five basic needs include “survival, love, power, freedom and fun.” One element of Glasser’s theory is that in order for us to be satisfied with our surroundings, our basic needs must be met.

One of the first steps Glasser says a teacher or counselor must execute is the counseling environment. The counseling environment is important for individuals seeking help through Reality Therapy. It provides a safe and secure place for a student to express and work on themselves and their actions. A few guidelines for this environment are "to quietly listen to the individual, do not blame or criticize, focus on the present, and except no excuses for someone’s behavior."

Another step a counselor or teacher does when implementing Reality Therapy is to ask questions. The questions are, "what do you want, what are you doing to achieve your wants/goals and, is it working"? From these questions, the counselor can help the individual create what Glassers refers to as a "workable plan."

Reality Therapy is not just about counseling. It is about initiating healthy and sustainable behaviors that are in our control. The "workable plan" should be something that the student can control. An example of this is the student’s ability to study for a test even when they have no control over what will be on the test. Another example is when two peers are arguing and each student has the control over his or her own actions. They can choose to walk away from the fight or continue to argue.

Teachers can use Reality Therapy in the classroom. They can help each student come up with a plan they can implement to change their behavior or actions. Glasser states in his book Control Theory in the Classroom that “Our behavior is always our best attempt at the time to satisfy at least 5 powerful forces, our basic needs.” (14) If the student and teacher understand these basic needs then Reality Therapy can help them work through their choices and actions in the classroom.

April Languirand

O’Marian, P. Relative Theory and Choice Theory

Furr, L. Choice Theory Psychology

The William Glasser Institute. 2010. The Glasser Approach: Choice Theory

Glasser, W.(1986) Control Theory in the Classroom. New York: Harper and Row.