What is reality therapy and choice theory?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Reality therapy, as well as choice theory are concepts developed by Glasser (1960). The basic premise of these two concepts is that all individuals have a specific set of needs and that every choice we make, and action that we take, in life are for the primary purpose of satisfying these basic needs.

  • freedom
  • entertainment
  • survival
  • love (and being loved)
  • power

Hence, the actions of individuals are assumed (under Glasser's theory) to be a product of meeting needs. However, there is an obstacle: often times we do not concede our needs a position primary importance, as we do our "wants". As a result, going after wants, and neglecting needs, ends up throwing our life off-balance, causing a series of negative events that drive us to depression.

The choice theory that comes as a result of Reality therapy is a concept born out of the process of accepting that irresponsible behavior is the causative factor of bad choices. Hence, the job of the therapist is to extrapolate the bad choices, make the client responsible for those choices, and offer better alternatives.

Reality therapy is used in juvenile detention facilities, among other places where programs are offered to re-route the negative behaviors of juvenile offenders and make them aware of their role in choice-making. Although a seemingly-effective method, no therapy or theory should be used in isolation. A number of approaches should be put in place to work with complex behaviors and consistency is the key to it all.


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