Dr. William Glasser (1925-2013)

Dr. Glasser was an internationally recognized psychiatrist who is best known as the creator of Reality Therapy, a method of psychotherapy he created in 1965 and that is now taught all over the world.

Born in 1925 and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Glasser was initially a Chemical Engineer but went into psychiatry when it became apparent to him that this was his real interest in life.  He attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and took his psychiatric training at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles and UCLA (1954-57). He became Board Certified in 1961 and was in private practice from 1957 to 1986.

Glasser’s path was one of a continuing progression from private practice to lecturing and writing and ultimately culminating in the publication of over twenty books. After writing the counseling book, Reality Therapy (1965), he published his first book on education, Schools without Failure (1969).

In the late 70’s, Glasser was introduced to control theory systems through the writings of Dr. William T. Powers.  In consultation with Powers, Glasser applied Powers’ knowledge of how systems work to the field of human behavior.  That theory of why and how we behave is now called Choice Theory.

In his next key book, Choice Theory (1998), Glasser greatly expanded the understanding of motivation and behavior.  He later wrote, Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health (2003), to help people improve their mental health and happiness. In 2005 he produced a booklet, Defining Mental Health as a Public Health Issue to provide a new resource for mental health professionals. Finally, in 2007, Eight Lessons for a Happier Marriage, co-authored with his second wife, Carleen, became his third book to help couples learn important tools for improving their relationship.

Dr. Glasser’s approach is non-traditional. He did not believe in the concept of mental illness unless there is something organically wrong with the brain that can be confirmed by a pathologist.

Very early, he came to the conclusion that genetically we are social creatures and need each other and that the cause of almost all psychological symptoms is our inability to get along with the important people in our lives.

By 1980, he had begun to form the idea that led to Choice Theory: why so many people are unhappy in their relationships. Unlike all other living creatures, only human beings are genetically driven by the need for power. We try to satisfy that need by using what he calls, external control psychology – literally trying to force people to do what we want them to do. This struggle has led to the symptoms described in the DSM-V. Dr. Glasser teaches that if we can’t figure out how to satisfy our power need by respecting each other, our days on earth are numbered. He offers Choice Theory to replace external control and has dedicated the remainder of his life to teaching and supporting this idea.

In 1967, he founded The Institute for Reality Therapy, now William Glasser International. Since that time, over 75,000 people worldwide have taken intensive week training to gain knowledge on how to apply his ideas in their professional life. They have discovered that by using Choice Theory, their personal relationships have improved as well.

Some of his many accomplishments are as follows:

  • Listed in Who’s Who in America since the 1970s
  • 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 and finally,
  • 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.