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Reality Therapy

Reality therapy focuses on the present rather than the past, with practitioners encouraging clients to recognise the importance of personal responsibility. The intention is to help people take control of and improve their lives. It is a here-and-now approach aimed at encouraging clients to make better choices that will benefit them in their present and future.


The methodology was created and developed by psychiatrist William Glasser during the 1960s. He experimented with some of the techniques during his time at the California Youth Authority, where he was head psychologist. In 1966 he published his book, Reality Therapy and three years later opened the Institute for Reality Therapy in Los Angeles.


This type of therapy belongs to the Cognitive Behavioural approach to psychotherapy. It takes as its starting point the notion that human beings have five basic needs:

  • Survival
  • Belonging
  • Power
  • Freedom
  • Fun

Practitioners contend that people are constantly striving to satisfy these needs. When emotional distress or dissatisfaction emerges it is because some of them are not being met.

How can Reality Therapy Help?

Reality therapists try to help their clients learn the behaviours necessary to meet their needs and like many therapies, the relationship between therapist and client is paramount. Although its practice is not widespread, reality therapy has been used effectively to address issues connected to behavioural and emotional problems.

Useful Resources for Reality Therapy

The Institute For RT UK

The William Glasser Institute