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Reality Theory and its use in Group Counseling Jennifer Sabol APU EDCO 555 Fall 2 2010
Reality Theory Reality Theory and its use in Group Counseling The approach of the Reality theory is one that the person has the responsibility to make decisions good or bad and then has to learn to deal with the consequences. This theory is used with students with behavioral problems and can help alleviate future ones if the students who are introduced to the theory learn how to continue to use it. Reality Theory was developed by William Glasser and was associated with the five basic needs
that a person can’t fully function without. Group sessions based on reality theory tend to be person centered and focus on the present. I will discuss what reality theory is and how it can be applied in-group counseling in schools, Strengths and limitations of reality theory, and group goals and evaluation methods used in relation to reality theory in schools. William Glasser discovered reality theory after studying the Freudian approach and was left with many questions. He wrote the book Reality Theory (1965), and a couple years later Schools Without Failure (1969). Glasser’s approach to dealing with problem behaviors is to satisfy the five needs that a person has and after that the person will not have behavior problems. The five needs that Glasser highlighted is: Survival, Love and belonging, Power or recognition, Freedom, and Fun (ChangingMinds.org 2011). When students are able to control these five needs then they should be free from behavior problems. In reality theory the main focus lies in the present, also that a person possesses the power to control the outcomes of their behaviors. His theory puts a lot of responsibility onto the subject and forces them to be in control of their behaviors. To Glasser, the reasons that you perform certain behaviors are because you are lacking in one of the needs he described. In a Journal article about the Evolution
Reality Theory of Reality theory to Choice theory William Howatt (2001) talked about how Glasser changed his theory from Reality based to Choice Theory. “According to Dreikurs
(1952), Adler believed a persons basic mistakes in life could be understood as mistakes in commonsense thinking. Glasser (1984) argues the behavior we present to the world is always a choice. His divergence stems from the concept of self-control (2001).” During group counseling, Reality theory can be used to enlighten students of the five needs that have to be met daily so that they can control their behaviors. In some groups the focus is on how your needs are met and not really of the emotions or feelings of the person. Reality theory or Choice theory is based around the idea that you control everything so the group leader works on getting the group to meet their needs. The first thing that a group needs to establish is trust. The students need to trust the leader and the group members; otherwise they will not be comfortable and will not openly work on themselves (2001). The next part of the theory is to get the group members to self evaluate their behaviors and to have them see what they are doing that is unwanted. According to Wubbolding (1988) reality therapy helps individuals regain control over their behaviors. After the group has established trust and have learned to self evaluate their behaviors, the group works on ways to prevent their behaviors through actualizing that they control what is happening. Once they realize that they are causing the behaviors then they can modify their acts and work on using other ways to meet their needs. One of the main structures of Reality theory is the questions that are asked to the students in the group. According to Wubbolding (2006) having students answer Socratic method questions can help them to understand more about themselves and develop their existing knowledge, and they can learn from their peers. Through this exploration
Reality Theory students touch on things that they would not normally discuss. Thus activating the knowledge that they have about themselves and others. Reality theory is not like group
counseling where you sit about and discuss you problems, it is more of a self-exploration of what makes you perform in certain ways and what control you have on your behaviors. With all theories there are strengths and limitations with reality theory. Some of the strengths that reality theory has are it is easily understandable and can be used with students of all ages. Because you only have to have an understanding that you are in control and that you have needs, almost anyone can use reality theory. Another strength is that the theory is applicable to a wide range of clients. The theory can be tailored to work with students that are victims, achievement oriented, and clients who are resistant to therapy. The focus on behavior makes it non-threatening to some people because initially you don’t have to talk about your feelings and about your past to uncover some breakthrough. Some limitations that Reality theory has are that it ignores the role of environmental factors and blames everything on the person. Also Glasser originally did not believe in mental illness and thought that people were just weak and using it as an excuse. Other reasons that Reality theory has its limitations is because it can be too simplistic and has too little focus, progress is based on how much the student or person puts into the therapy so if you have a person that does not care then reality therapy will not benefit them. When running a group using Reality theory the focus of the group should be on trust and the idea that a person controls their own behavior. The group atmosphere should not feel like therapy, it should be light and open, with an emphasis on discussions. When introducing the theory to the group it should be explained in a way that lets the
Reality Theory members grasp the idea and understand that they have the control in the group, not the leader. Explanations of the theory include discussing the five needs that should be satisfied. Every week the goal of the group meeting should be to answer more questions and learn more about themselves as well as why they perform the unwanted behaviors. One way of evaluating progress is through self-evaluations. Every group meeting at the end members should evaluate where they think they need to improve their behaviors and how much they understand what is causing them to behave in that way. In one research journal Byron Loyd (2005) wanted to find out the effects of the choice or reality theory on high school students perception of the four psychological needs outlined by Glasser. Literature has shown that not meeting these needs causes a rise in unwanted behaviors and higher levels of anger, disruptive classroom behaviors, and lack of academic performance and motivation (2005). Loyd’s study found that in three out of four of the needs there was improvement through discussion of the principles. In the areas of Fun, Freedom, and Power students showed a greater understanding of their behaviors and let to a decrease of unwanted behaviors. However, in the area of belonging there was not significant growth in either group (2005). From this research journal Loyd presented recommendations for counselors to use in school settings. More information can be obtained from a longitudinal study of the reality theory and the understanding of the psychological needs. Glasser’s Reality Theory is used widely in schools from elementary to high
schools to help students work on their problem behaviors. With the right students and the right approach this theory can alleviate problem behaviors with students and improve academic achievement. I find this theory to be helpful in giving students the tools to help
Reality Theory themselves and to understand that they are in charge of their behaviors and decisions. This theory can empower students to become more self aware of their actions and can
also help them to understand themselves better. Giving the power back to the students is one way that we can continue to help them, and they can continue to become better students.
Reality Theory References Howatt, W. A. (2001). The evolution of reality therapy to choice theory. International Journal of Reality Therapy, 21(1), 7-12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Loyd, B. D. (2005). The effects of reality therapy/choice theory principles on high school students' perception of needs satisfaction and behavioral change. International Journal of Reality Therapy, 25(1), 5-9. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Reality Therapy Power Point Presentation. (n.d.) Retrieved from www.psych.umn.edu/courses/spring06/.../reality%20therapy.pdf The William Glasser Institute: Who we are, Dr. Glasser. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.wglasser.com/index.php? option=com_content&task=view&id=28&Itemid=58 Wubbolding, R. E. (2007). Glasser Quality School. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 11(4), 253-261. doi:10.1037/1089-26220.127.116.11