Reality therapy is a "no nonsense", "common-sense" approach that paraprofessionals
have found especially useful in working with unmotivated, institutionalized clients
(e.g., delinquents, prisoners, drug abusers).
Choice Theory: We are "control systems" and behavior originates
from inside us
as we attempt to close the gap between what we want and what we perceive that
we are getting, i.e., behavior is our best attempt to control the external world
in order to get what we want to satisfy our needs.
Within one's potential, a person is self-determined; therefore, a person
is responsible for his/her behavior.
Choices and decisions are more important than conditions in determining
responsible or irresponsible behavior.
Most mental and emotional disturbances result from irresponsibility and
the underlying problem almost always involves an unsatisfying relationship
(or total lack of a relationship) with another person.
Total behavior has four components: acting, thinking, feeling, physiology--
acting & thinking can be chosen; feeling & physiology follow.
Belonging (love)--to love and be loved.
Power or achievement (self-worth)--to feel worthwhile to self and others.
Freedom or independence
Success (flexible, effective) vs. Failure (rigid, ineffective)
Basic routes to success identity are fulfilling the above needs in ways
involve others but are not at the expense of others.
Goals of Psychotherapy
General: Responsibility; Autonomy (independence) and Connectedness (love
Responsibility = the ability to
fulfill one's needs in ways that do not
deprive others of the ability to fulfill their needs.
Specific: Client determined and individualized long term goals.
"What do you want?"
Goals should be simple and realistic or attainable.
The goal is not necessarily happiness since unhappiness is
considered to be
a result of, not the cause of, irresponsibility.
Teach clients better and more effective ways of attaining what they want.
Emphases in Therapy
Behavior (and thinking) rather than feelings (and physiology):
"We are what we do."
Present rather than past:
"Don't let the client use the past as an excuse."
Conscious rather than unconscious:
Don't use dream analysis, free association, transference.
Strengths rather than weaknesses; successes instead of failures.
Do not allow the client to
complain, blame or criticize.
Do not accept excuses.
Do not punish or criticize the client--but do not stand in the way of reasonable
Schools without failure--designed to minimize failure experiences.
Do not give up on the client.
Morality and values are discussed.
Reality and its limits are discussed--of therapy, of life.
Relationship between Client and Therapist
Involvement of therapist with the client is a key.
Therapist is warm, supportive and understanding; make friends.
Don't do it for me ---> Do it for me.
Therapist is directive and didactic.
Procedures: The "WDEP" System
1) Wants (and Needs)
Ask: What do you want?
2) Doing and Direction
Ask: What are you doing to get what you want?
In what overall direction is your life heading?
Ask: Are your wants realistic/attainable?
Is what you are doing now getting you what you want?
Is your life headed toward a desirable destination?
Is what you are doing now against the rules; is it harmful to
yourself or others?
4) Planning and Committment
Ask: What might you try instead?
Help client explore alternatives and develop a simple and realistic
action plan to get what he/she wants.
Get a commitment.
Contract--in writing, if possible.
Basically, spend a minimal amount of time discussing problems, and a
maximum amount of time discussing more effective ways to fulfill needs.