Posts tagged “Glasser and reality therapy

The Wrecking Crew


I recently saw The Wrecking Crew, a movie about the burgeoning music industry around Los Angeles in the 1960s, and the almost unknown studio musicians that played anonymously on many of the albums that were then being recorded. An impressive number of these songs went to the top of the billboard charts and achieved widespread fame.

Carol Kaye, bass player for The Wrecking Crew, and one of the best bass players of all time.

Carol Kaye, bass player for The Wrecking Crew, and one of the best bass players of all time.

These incognito studio musicians came to be known as The Wrecking Crew and were highly regarded throughout the Southern California music industry. Unfortunately, that almost invisible regard was all the notoriety these musicians would receive, as they were never mentioned on album covers or with singles that achieved #1 billboard status.

The list of individuals and groups they recorded with is too long to list here, but a few of them include: The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, The 5th Dimension, The Association, The Monkees, John Denver, Nat King Cole, Simon & Garfunkel, The Grass Roots, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Cher, The Partridge Family, Bing Crosby, and Nancy Sinatra. They also recorded countless TV program theme songs (recall the opening to Bonanza) and commercial jingles.

Tommy Tedesco, probably the best guitarist you never heard of.

Tommy Tedesco, probably the best guitarist you never heard of.

So what’s the problem, you might be thinking. Let’s take The Beach Boys as an example. Brian Wilson, a member of The Beach Boys, was a music genius and arranged harmonies that are incredible. The rest of the group could sing well, but they weren’t as good as Brian when it came to the instruments. Brian would work with The Wrecking Crew musicians when it came to recording an album, since musically these guys were amazing. Another of The Beach Boys admitted that they were on the road 150 days out of the year and didn’t have time to practice. And yes, the sound of the live group on the road was quite a bit different than the studio musicians back home. This same scenario played out time and time again with other groups, too.

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys

I loved a Gary Lewis & the Playboys album I listened to a lot as a kid back in 1967, yet now I know the actual musical impact of Lewis and the playboys on that album was pretty insignificant. There are some wonderful background guitar riffs, for instance, in the song Sure Gonna Miss Her, but as it turns out there was never anyone in the group capable of playing a guitar like that. (Thank you, Tommy Tedesco, of The Wrecking Crew.)

And so these little known musicians stayed very busy during this unique beginning of the rock and roll era, and they made good money in the process, yet they were rarely acknowledged for their contributions. Hit song after hit song was the result of their talent, but they were not given credit for any of them.

Things would change in the music industry and the studio era would pass. Music groups would come to be made of individuals with serious music talent, able to both record in the studio as well as to perform on the road. The Wrecking Crew musicians became less and less busy as a result. Some of them, like Glen Campbell, created solo careers, but this was pretty rare. For those of us who still enjoy a good song from the late 60s, we owe these musicians a big thank you.

Bill Glasser, at home, ready to visit about whatever is on your mind.  (Photo by Jim Roy)

Bill Glasser, at home, ready to visit about whatever is on your mind. (Photo by Jim Roy)

On the way home from the movie I couldn’t help but think of Glasser in the same way. I continue to see articles and books that build on (whether they realize it or not) the beliefs of William Glasser, yet he is never mentioned or acknowledged in the articles. A recent such article, How Our Thoughts Control Our DNA, explains how our perceptions can actually re-write our genes. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief (2005), writes that –

“The common idea that DNA determines so much of who we are – not only our eye or hair color, for example, but also our addictions, disorders, or susceptibility to cancer – is a misconception. This concept says you are less powerful than your genes. The problem with that belief system is that it extends to another level. You find yourself to be more or less a victim of your heredity. You become irresponsible. You say, ‘I can’t do anything about it, so why try?’ In reality, a person’s perception, not genetic programming, is what spurs all action in the body. It is actually our beliefs that select our genes, that select our behavior.”

“It is actually our beliefs that select our genes, that select our behavior.”

Anyone who has read much of Glasser cannot read this Lipton passage without tracing the important connection between the two. One of my hopes for the Glasser biography was that it would establish and remind readers of Glasser’s influence. There is a growing awareness of the human capacity to make choices and the implication this capacity has on psychological and physical health. The psychology of internal control is gaining momentum!

The psychiatric shot heard around the world!

The psychiatric shot heard around the world!

It is good that The Wrecking Crew is now being recognized for their sizable contributions to the world of music. I loved their music as a kid and continue to love their music now. In the world of psychology the most important thing is that people understand how to be responsible for their own happiness and that they understand how to meet their basic needs without bulldozing or manipulating others in the process. That said, though, I would like for William Glasser to be seen as a major contributor to this view of mental health.


Quickly order the biography from Amazon. Click on the book to access the Amazon link.

Quickly order the biography from Amazon. Click on the book to access the Amazon link.

Lighthouse Then, Lighthouse Now


I had the privilege recently to visit Juvenile Hall in Napa, California, and the classrooms that provide coursework to young people being held there, as well as the alternative middle school and high school community schools that are a part of that system as well. I was inspired by the work being done by educators who teach within this challenging environment. Because of the compassion and commitment of these teachers, students are being reached and lives are being changed for the better.


I was reminded a month ago about the work of the Napa County community schools and decided to reach out to them and learn more about what they do and how they do it. I am teaching a secondary methods class this quarter that seeks to help teaching candidates work with students who struggle with traditional textbooks and who struggle with traditional learning in general. My initial reaching out to the community schools was because I thought my students could probably learn from their methods. As it turns out, I was right. The community school student population is predominantly high poverty, significantly English-Language Learners, and with almost all of them having Individualized Education Plans. Their home backgrounds are mostly difficult, to say the least, and many of them are on probation. The influence of gangs is a factor the schools must continually address.

A student assembly focusing on making plans for a successful future.

A student assembly focusing on making plans for a successful future.

In spite of these difficulties and challenges, some that might tempt the faint-hearted to shrink from, the schools have created a consistent, supportive learning environment that students appreciate. Even when students meet court appointed goals and are eligible to return to regular schools, they often decline this option and express their desire to stay in the alternative school. They feel like they matter in the community school and that teachers want to help them.

Jim and Tom

Jim and Tom

Tom Amato, Director of the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center, went on this field trip with me and was as blown away by the positive and loving energy of the school leadership as I was. He describes how “the experience highlighted that the Napa County Office of Education understands the needs of youth in crisis and is there to advocate for and support them, regardless of poor choices, toward a better place. The compassion and passion of those involved was most inspiring.”

Seeing the facilities and listening to teachers and staff brought to mind Glasser’s experience as consulting psychiatrist at the Ventura School for Girls over 50 years ago. The school was part of the California correctional system and many of the 400+ girls being held there had committed serious offenses, yet, like the Napa staff, Glasser and the Ventura staff saw something in the girls that was worth investing in. He would talk about what a pleasant place the Ventura school was and how nice the girls were to work with and how they could go many weeks without a serious incident at all.

I wish I had pictures of Glasser during the Ventura years.

Students respond to love and respect. They can live with reasonable rules and expectations, especially when they are consistently applied without a dependence on punishment. They appreciate it when teachers try to make classes relevant. These are the elements that came to be a regular part of the Ventura School for Girls while Glasser was there from 1956-1967; these are elements I picked up on my tour of the Napa community schools.

Students from the Ventura School were very instrumental in the creation of two of Glasser’s early books – Reality Therapy (1965) and Schools Without Failure (1969) – which were both very successful. The girls’ stories and experiences were included in Reality Therapy, and some of the girls even helped to type manuscript pages for Schools Without Failure. Glasser wanted to acknowledge the importance of the school and explained that “The Ventura School was where I really developed the concepts of reality therapy.”

William Glasser and Brad Greene (2005) Photo by Jim Roy

William Glasser and Brad Greene (2005)
Photo by Jim Roy

In 1986, Glasser began working with Brad Greene, who at the time was the principal of Apollo High School, an alternative school in Simi Valley, California. Their collaboration led to Glasser writing The Quality School (1990), one of his most important books. The subtitle of the book is Managing Students Without Coercion, a key goal in his approach to school management. William Glasser and Brad Greene are examples of adults who combine the head of a teacher with the heart of a social worker, and who seek to instill a belief in students that students do not have in themselves.

I guess what I am trying to say is that whether choice theory methods were used in a prison school 50 years ago or in a prison school today, the methods are equally effective. Whether choice theory principles were a part of Apollo High School in Simi Valley 25 years ago or a part of Chamberlain High School in Napa today, the principles are effective 100% of the time. Thank you to those of you who work with challenging populations, with the goal of inspiring them to see their potential and go for it. So many of us in the greater community do not realize what a big THANK YOU you deserve!


The Glasser biography, Champion of Choice, captures so much insight from his early years, including many anecdotes from his time at Ventura. Get a paperback or digital copy today.

Digital version only $10.

Digital version only $10.



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