Book Review: Language of Choice Theory by William Glasser

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Language of Choice Theory

Theory and the Primary Theorist

This book is about choice theory, developed by William Glasser.

Brief History of the Theorist; training and background information.

Glasser first received his Master's degree in clinical psychology in 1948, then went on to complete medical school and begin work as a psychiatrist with schizophrenic males in 1954 (the William Glasser Institute, 2010). Glasser soon became interested in the issue of whether mental illness, as opposed to mental health problems, really exists; his first book was titled Mental Health or Mental Illness? (the William Glasser Institute, 2010). In 1962, Glasser coined the term "reality therapy" to describe his techniques and ideas, based on principles of personal choice and responsibility, and in 1965 published his book on the subject (Glasser & Glasser, 2010). By 1974, Glasser's books were selling worldwide and he had established the Institute for Reality Therapy; in 1978 he began work on his choice theory (initially called control theory) (Glasser & Glasser, 2010). Today Glasser's foundation is called the William Glasser Institute, and he is noted for his work in the fields of marriage, education, and business management. Glasser maintains that traditional psychiatry -- focusing on diagnosing and medicating -- is potentially harmful because it does not treat the underlying unhappiness (Glasser & Glasser, 2010).

III. The basic tenets of the theory answering the following:

a. What does the theory say about human nature?

Glasser believes that all human behavior is "purposefully" aimed at fulfilling one or more of the five "basic human needs": "survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun" (Erwin, 2004). Mental health, according to Glasser, depends on the ability of a person to successfully meet these needs by taking personal responsibility for his or her own life (Erwin, 2004). Of all the human needs, Glasser believes love and a sense of belonging is second to survival; therefore, he focuses on people strengthening connections to others.

b. How is personality formed?

From infancy on, children learn from parents and teachers that life is unfair and they must do as they are told. Glasser refers to "external control language," as that language peppered with phrases like "you," "should," and "must" (Glasser & Glasser, 2010). Thus, children grow up learning that they are not in control, they have no need for creativity because they will always be told what to do, and their personal needs are not necessarily important. Glasser believes this oppressive way of relating only creates mental health issues and further problems (Glasser & Glasser, 2010). Instead, he suggests fostering a sense of personal control and empowerment by speaking to children, students, and workers in the "language of choice" -- which supports openness, fairness, creativity, and personal responsibility (Glasser & Glasser, 2010). Glasser argues that the only person we can truly control is ourselves (Glasser & Glasser, 2010).

c. What is the role of early life events?

In choice theory, early life events are taken into consideration; however, the patient must recognize they cannot change the past. Instead, Glasser focuses on what the person can do now in order to feel in control of their own happiness. In his words: "What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future" (the William Glasser Institute, 2010).

d. Is the theory focused on the past, present or both?

Glasser's theory is entirely focused on proactive behavior in the present (the William Glasser Institute, 2010).

e. How applicable is the theory to everyday practice?

The theory is highly applicable to everyday practice. Therapists are trained to apply choice theory and reality therapy with simple, straightforward practices such as: focusing on present problems and behaviors, using creativity to solve problems, identifying practical solutions that can be implemented right away, offering support and remaining non-judgmental, being specific about what human connections need to be improved, avoiding talk about "symptoms or complaints," and applying the "Seven Caring Habits" and "Ten Axioms" of choice theory (the William Glasser Institute, 2010).

f. What does the theory say about how change occurs?

Glasser believes that we can only change ourselves. While guidance and counseling are helpful,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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