Reality Therapy: A Case Study

Modified: 5th May 2017
Wordcount: 1672 words

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Reality Therapy is a therapeutic approach that focuses on problem solving and making better choices in order to achieve specific goals. Reality Therapy was developed by Dr. William Glasser, and its primary intention is to focus on the here and now, rather than the past. Reality Therapy is intended to solve problems, rebuild connections and work towards a better future. The author of this paper chose to do an overview of Reality Therapy, and apply Reality Therapy to a case study. Throughout the textbook was no less than ten different types of therapy theories, and reality Therapy struck the author as a potentially effective way to treat clients experiencing various issues that prompt him/her to seek counseling. The case study involves a man named Chad. Chad is a middle aged man with two children at home. Chad has a difficult time in his relationship with his wife and children. Chad also has difficulty communicating and relating to members of his immediate family.

“Reality therapists believe the underlying problem of most clients is the same: they are either involved in a present unsatisfying relationship or lack what could even be called a relationship” (Corey, 2009, 2013, p335).

Reality Therapy is tied very closely with Choice Therapy (both from William Glasser) and while “Choice Therapy explains why and how we function, Reality Therapy provides a delivery system for helping individuals take more effective control of their lives” (Corey, G. (2009,2013, p336). The textbook states, “Contemporary Reality Therapy focuses quickly on the unsatisfying relationship or the lack of the relationship, which is often the cause for clients’ problems” (Corey, 2009, 2013 p338).

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William Glasser is the leading contributor to Reality Therapy. Educated initially as a chemical engineer, Glasser became interested in Psychology and ultimately Psychiatry. Glasser was certified in Psychiatry in 1961, following his studies at the Veterans Administration and UCLA in Los Angeles. Glasser maintained a private practice from 1957-1986 (Corey, 2009, 2013, p 334). Glasser was influenced by a fellow Psychiatrist and mentor named G.L. Harrington. “Harrington believed in getting his patients involved in projects in the real world, and by the end of his residency, Glasser began to put together ideas that would later be known as Reality Therapy” (Corey, 2009, 2013, p334).

The following are some of the key terms and key concepts of Reality Therapy:

View of Human Nature

“Choice Therapy posits that we are not born blank slates waiting to be externally motivated by forces in the world around us. Rather we are born with five genetically encoded needs that drive us all our lives: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun” (Corey, 2009, 2013, p 336).

Choice Therapy Explanation of Behavior

Glasser did not like the terms depress, having a headache, being upset or angry. He preferred to think of it as rather than being depressed, we are depressing, we are upsetting, etc (Corey, 2009, 2013, p 337).

Characteristics of Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy generally attempts to bring the focus immediately to unsatisfying relationships or the lack thereof. This is the reason for many who seek out professional counseling. Therapists engaged in Reality Therapy typically do not listen very long to complaining, blaming and/or criticizing. Therapists believe these are the most ineffective models of behavior. Here are some of the underlying characteristics of Reality Therapy: Emphasize Choice and Responsibility, Reject Transference, Keep the Therapy in the Present, Avoid focusing on Symptoms, and Challenge Traditional Views of Mental Illness (Corey, 2009, 2013, p 338-340).

Chad scheduled an appointment for counseling and came to the first session with some issues he is having with his relationship with his wife. The two of them have not been communicating very effectively lately, and this has caused some difficulties within his relationship. His complaints are that his wife just does not understand him like she once did. She does not meet his emotional needs, she is no longer engaging in topics of his interest, and although they continue to live in the same home together, he is growing into a feeling of detachment with his wife.

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As a therapist utilizing Reality Therapy in our sessions, I would want to help Chad recognize that focusing on his past will not benefit him in his future hopes of a satisfying relationship with his wife. I would want him to understand that he can take control of his feelings and his behavior that will ultimately help him in both his present and future relationship with his spouse. I would also want Chad to see that rather than expressing his feelings as being depressed, it would be better for him to say his feelings were depressing.

In our session the first thing I would want to build would be a relationship with Chad. I would want to assure him that I am not there to hurt him, but to help him. I would want Chad to feel comfortable in sharing some things with me as his counselor. Building a relationship with him would be vital to further sessions as we work together on improving his perception of his relationship.

I would then seek to implement procedures that would help Chad begin to change his behavior. The author of the textbook made the following interesting observation: “The art of counseling is to weave these components together in ways that lead clients to evaluate their lives and decide to move in more effective directions” (Corey, 2009, 2013, p 342). The counseling experience begins with an exploration into the clients’ needs, wants and/or perceptions. I would want Chad to explore ways in which he feels he could change. He may consider looking at ways in which he can alter his behavior. I would want Chad to see that if his behavior is not getting him what he wants, I would help him see that only he can change his behavior (Corey, 2009, 2013).

I would ask Chad to explain what he is doing when he feels this detachment from his wife. What are his actions when he feels that he is having trouble communicating with his wife? If Chad is distracted by someone else; another woman perhaps, I would want Chad to determine if she may be the cause of his feelings of detachment. If Chad is ignoring his wife’s communication and not paying attention to her emotional needs, I would ask him to determine if he can think of ways in which he could give her the attention she needs. I may encourage Chad to suggest to his wife that they spend the first 30 minutes after they both get in from work and just express to one another how their day was, any important information that needs to be exchanged between the two of them, what they need from each other in the present, and any future needs they may have.

I would foresee Chad taking the initiative with his wife to ensure that their relationship is strong. If Chad is noticing a difference in their relationship, I am certain she notices it also. By him taking the first steps to change hi behavior, may cause her to be receptive to the changes as well. Chad’s recognition of the opportunity that rests within himself to change his circumstances may be empowering to him, and therefore serve as motivation to change his current relationship into one that is more productive and satisfying to him.

I see Reality Therapy fitting well with my worldview. While I have a worldview that places God at the top and in control of all things, I also see man’s responsibility for the choices he makes in his own life. Reality Therapy allows the client to focus on the deliberate choices they have made in life, and it also gives them an opportunity to focus on the results those choices have brought. Proverbs 23:7 states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (, 2013). I believe God allows man to make choices in his own life, and sometimes those choices carry consequences. As stated before, the counselor must articulate the correct way for the client to (1) see his behavior as it really is, and (2) be willing to take ownership of it and change the behavior.

I would want Chad to understand that God is for him and his happiness in life. I would want Chad to see verses in Scripture that support that statement. Verses like Romans 8:31 when Paul said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (, 2013). When Chad expresses his doubt of whether or not his wife loves him, and when he expresses his doubts of whether or not he loves himself, and when he even questions whether or not God has given up on him, I would also want him to see a passage found in Romans 8:38-39. Paul states, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (, 2013). I would want to integrate Scripture and the promises of God into the use of Reality Therapy, and I personally think they blend well together with the potential for positive results in Chad’s life.

In conclusion, the author of this paper chose to write of Reality Therapy because he likes the approach the counselor takes with the client. He also favors the approach the client takes in accepting responsibility for his/her own actions. Possibly the what the author likes most about Reality Therapy is the fact that it encourages the client to not simply look to the counselor for answers to fix his/her problem; it encourages the client to work with the counselor to develop a plan to change what has brought him/her to counseling to begin with.


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