William Glasser

William Glasser was an American Psychiatrist who, in 1965, published the book “Reality Therapy”. In this he challenged the then traditional views of psychiatry about the nature of mental illness, the helping process, the use of the past and many other ideas about human life.

Glasser’s Basic Beliefs

He believed that so-called “mental illness” is in fact a behaviour chosen by the individual in an attempt to keep his or her life in balance. This choice is not necessarily conscious but is always the individual’s best attempt at any given time to meet his or her needs. Glasser’s belief in the ultimately positive intent behind all human behaviour counters many other views that see some human behaviour as a “disorder”.

He never accepted the “chemical imbalance” theory of human behaviour nor the pharmaceutically based treatment that stems from such a view. At the same time he taught about “total behaviour”, the idea that all our behaviour is made up of four inseparable components: doing, thinking, feeling and physiology. This leads to a form of therapy that helps the person make life-changing choices by changing any one of these four components, usually the doing or thinking dimensions as these are the easiest to control directly.

Glasser believed that when a person has a psychological problem it exists in the present, although it may have been influenced by past experiences. Therefore his therapeutic approach focuses very much on the present world of the client.

Human problems arise when an individual’s basic needs are not being met and Glasser saw relationships as intimately tied up with how people meet their needs. Hence his therapy pays a lot of attention to the relationships in people’s lives.

Glasser the Teacher

William Glasser MDApart from authoring many books in the areas of therapy, education and management, Dr. Glasser taught his ideas through his own institute, in public lectures and by participating in major conferences on psychotherapy and education.   In 1998 he published “Choice Theory”, his new theory to explain not only the processes of Reality Therapy but also human behaviour in general.  He spent the rest of his life promoting Choice Theory psychology and its application to mental health.

William Glasser passed away on the 23rd of August 2013 in Los Angeles.

Awards received by Dr. Glasser

  • listed in Who’s Who in America since the 1970s
  • 1989 – invited to join the distinguished faculty of pioneers in the psychological professions for the renowned Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference
  • 1990 – awarded  an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa from the University of San Francisco
  • 2003 – presented with the ACA Professional Development Award recognizing the significant contributions made to the field of counseling
  • 2004 – presented with the “A Legend in Counseling Award” by the ACA
  • January – 2005 presented with the prestigious Master Therapist designation by the American Psychotherapy Association
  • 2005 – presented with the Life Achievement Award by the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology for his enormous influence as a psychotherapist and author

A video recording of Dr. William Glasser’s first talk in Ireland on 1st June 1985. (1 hour 50 minutes)

Note: The William Glasser Institute is now called “William Glasser International“.

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