William Glasser

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William Glasser: Choice Theory

William Glasser: Choice Theory
William Glasser was born on May 11 1925, in Ohio. He attended Case Western Reserve University, from where he earned both his BA and MA. He continued his education in California and received his MD from UCLA. Glasser worked as a psychiatrist for the VA in the beginning of his professional career. It was during this time he met his mentor, Dr. G.L. Harrington. Glasser spent much of his lifetime focusing on the development of his theories, specifically his Choice Theory. He studied the effects of control and how it related to psychology and observed this dynamic in his own clients over decades of private practice. He examined how the choices each individual made affected the other, and focused on the fact that each had the power to make their own, unique, personal choices, independent of the other. In 1967, Glasser opened the Institute for Reality Therapy (Sharf 2004). Three decades later, the institute was renamed for its founder and continues to offer education, training, and advances in Glasser’s theories and therapies through its many branches throughout the world. Glasser began to develop his theories after several years in clinical practice. He realized that many people were extremely unhappy with their lives, and in particular, with their relationships with others. Glasser understood that humans have an innate need to control their situations, and the people in their lives, to gain power. This driving need causes individuals to exhibit forceful behaviors in order to satisfy that craving. The need to control, to have power over others, can be tempered if we choose to respect others. Relationships can be healed, and needs can be met, with respect, love, and mutual satisfaction. Control does not have to destroy lives. It was based on these theories that Glasser developed Choice Theory (Sharf, 2004)

Choice theory provides an explanation of motivation which is markedly different from what many of us have been taught. A central aspect of Choice Theory is the belief that we are internally motivated (Glasser, 1986). While other theories suggest that outside events “cause” us to behave in certain predictable ways. Choice Theory teaches that outside events never “make” us to do anything. What drive our behavior are internally developed notions of what is most important and satisfying to us. Our “Quality World Pictures,” these internally created notions of how we would like things to be, are related to certain Basic Needs built into the genetic structure of every human being. The Basic Needs which provide the foundation for all motivation are: to be loving and connected to others; to achieve a sense of competence and personal power; to act with a degree of freedom and autonomy; to experience joy and fun; and to survive. Another major concept in Choice Theory is the notion that we always have some choice about how to behave. This does not mean that we have unlimited choice or that outside information is irrelevant as we choose how to behave. It means that we have more control than some people might believe and that we are responsible for the choices we make.

Choice theory is based on the assumption that all behavior represents constant attempt to satisfy one or more of five basic inborn needs. In other words, no behavior is caused by any situation or person outside of the individual. All individuals are driven by genetically transmitted needs that serve as instructions for attempting to live their lives ( Glasser, 2010). The needs are equally important and all must be reasonably satisfied if individuals are to fulfill their biological destiny. These basic needs are: The need to survive, belong, gain power, to be free and the need to have fun. Even though individuals may not be fully aware of their basic needs, they learn that there are some general circumstances that strongly relate to the way they feel. Even though human needs are essentially the same for...
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