What Is Reality Therapy And How Does It Work?

Reality therapy is a fascinating method of psychotherapy that has been practiced for many decades now.

Its techniques are controversial, but have been found to be effective in treating a number of mental wellness afflictions.

In this post, we’ll explore the core ideas, benefits, and limitations of reality therapy as treatment.

What Is Reality Therapy?

Reality Therapy was first theorized in the 1960s by William Glasser, M.D. The theory states that by accepting responsibility over our own lives, planning intentional action, focusing on the present and not dwelling on the past, we can then achieve mental wellness.

Glasser believed that there are five basic genetically driven needs: Self-preservation or survival, love and belonging, achievement, freedom, and enjoyment.

Reality Therapy prompts the individual to figure out if their innate needs are being met- and if not, how to put themselves on a path to fulfilling them.

The Core Ideas And Elements Of Reality Therapy

Glasser believed that unhappiness in life is due to poor choices and behaviors on the part of the individual.

By evaluating the effectiveness of our choices and planning more effective behaviors and actions, we can minimize or eliminate negative outcomes.

To do this, the individual must first identify their dreams, desires, and goals in order to plan a path to attaining them.

A reality therapy technique is behavioral rehearsal, whereby the therapist prompts the client to consider possible interactions and how they can effectively behave in order to produce desirable outcomes.

“We are not at the mercy of others.”

Reality therapists focus on instilling the idea that one has control over their own choices and behavior, and is capable of producing outcomes that lead to success. Additionally, it is put forth that the only person we have control over is ourselves.

By identifying our goals and our level of commitment to achieving them, we can begin to plan effective actions and behaviors as a pathway to fulfillment.

Through this process, an individual will begin to understand that fulfillment is best achieved with an internal driving force, rather than a reliance on external influences.


Transference of responsibility is a common way of emotionally dealing with an issue, but this is ineffective as it produces no outcome but a feeling of resentment.

By taking accountability of our lives and our choices, we can then proceed to act effectively so as to produce change.

Many are resistant to this mode of thinking and reframing, as we are prone to placing blame onto others- and especially onto past experiences.

Reality therapists encourage clients to think deeply about their actions and the outcomes they produce. This is preceded by identification of their goals and desires.

With an awareness of their aims, therapists work with clients to consider how effective their current actions and habits are, and to plan more effective actions towards fulfillment.

Actions should be:

Present Moment

Reality therapy emphasizes that change is reliant on self-responsibility and the “here and now”.

Reality therapists work with clients to help them understand that the past cannot be changed, but how we move into the future can.

If we lose time dwelling on the past, we have less time to focus on making positive change for the present and future.

When Is Reality Therapy Used, and What Can It Help With?

Reality Therapists promote an understanding of the client’s own capacity to produce positive change in their life.

It can be particularly useful in the counseling of couples, people suffering with addiction, and in school settings.

For couples, it can prompt each individual to consider how their own actions affect their partner and their connection, and what their responsibilities are within the partnership.

For those suffering with addiction, reality therapy can instill a sense of hope by altering the individual’s thinking patterns in order to reframe the issue.

By planning out actions and behaviors, the addiction-afflicted individual might come to perceive that there is a pathway out of this negative routine they’ve become lost in.

For students, reality therapy can prompt an understanding that negative consequences can be avoided by taking responsibility to fulfill their duties and behave appropriately.

Practicing behavioral planning means that they can alter their actions to match this reframed perspective.

Reality Therapy Vs. Traditional Psychiatry And Psychotherapy

While traditional psychiatry and psychotherapy techniques tend to focus on past experiences and traumas that have influenced present behaviors, reality therapy shifts focus to the “here and now”.

Rather than examining external influences, diagnosing mental conditions, and prescribing medicinal remedies, reality therapy places responsibility entirely on the individual to navigate their way toward fulfillment.

Disadvantages, Criticisms And Limitations Of Reality Therapy

One criticism of reality therapy is the potential imposition of the therapist’s own personal ideals onto the client within the action and behavior planning process.

Another common criticism is its dismissal of past experiences, traumas, and behaviors- elements which are of vital importance to most psychotherapy techniques.

Many experts have also also critiqued reality therapy’s dismissal of mental health conditions and use of medication.

Read the fullarticle at https://www.psychnewsdaily.com.



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Psych News Daily

PsychNewsDaily brings you the latest research from the worlds of psychology, cognitive science, mental health and more.