William Glasser’s Choice Theory
HHS310: H & HS Culture: The Helping Relationship
Prof. Kari Merrill
November 12, 2012
William Glasser’s Choice Theory
The foundation of this theory is the simple belief that we alone are responsible for everything we do. This includes having the control over how we feel. If we are miserable, we have chosen to be miserable. If we are happy, a conscious decision was made to be happy. Considered to be the ultimate goal in this theory is the belief that our ultimate goal should be to strive for and accept personal responsibility or accountability for our lives. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may very well have been the basis for Glasser’s Choice Theory due in part to the central theme of basic human needs and the pursuit of these needs. Survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun are the five basic needs shared by all humans as described in the Choice Theory. All day, everyday humans are striving to fulfill these basic needs. “Everything that one does in this life is designed to fulfill one or more of the Basic Needs”. (Mottern, 2007) Interestingly enough the one need that separates humans from other higher order animals is the need for power. It is this very need for power that can be the source of discontent when one person attempts to assert their power upon another person. Dr. Glasser is controversial for his belief that unless there is documented proof of an organic brain disease mental illness does not exist. In essence, he does not subscribe to the notion that one’s mental stability is affected by factors such as chemical imbalances or some other biological reason as the causation of mental illness. He did not believe that people should be labeled as mentally ill without a confirmed diagnosis of a true disorder of the brain such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or traumatic brain injury. A far cry from promoting the advantages of conventional psychotherapy over medication, he believes there is never an indication for conventional psychopharmacology. According to his theory, by meeting one’s basic needs there will be less mental stress and it will not manifest itself as mental illness. It is important to note that while Dr. Glasser defends this belief in many of his publications utilizing group dynamic studies he has performed, he has not conducted any proven scientific studies to support and refute the assertion that conventional psychopharmacology and therapy are superior treatment methods in the case of mental illness. Another cornerstone of the Choice Theory is the belief that past relationships have little bearing on one’s current and future relationships. “Choice theory focuses on improving present relationships, almost always disregards past relationships, and depends for its success on creating a good relationship between the client and the counselor.” (Glasser, 1999) Another way to approach this concept is to understand that when unhappy in a present relationship it is possible that a past relationship contributed to the current problem, ultimately the past is never the root cause of the problem. Dr. Glasser wants people to replace external control psychology with Choice Theory in their lives to obtain personal freedom. Through the ten axioms of the Choice Theory personal freedom can be defined and redefined to suit each individual. In the following paragraphs each axiom will be explored in detail. As mentioned, the first of ten self-evident truths or axioms of the Choice Theory would be that the only person whose behavior we are able to control is our own. If people are willing and able to suffer through the alternative, punishment or at worst death, nobody could force another person to do anything they were not so inclined to do. Rarely is punishment an effective motivator and when a person chooses to bow to the threat they will not complete or perform at their best. “He sees punishment and rewards as a type of...
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