Posts tagged “reality therapy

50 Years and the Price of True Success

Adrienne Nater, girls vice-principal at Oxnard High School in 1965.

Adrienne Nater, girls vice-principal at Oxnard High School in 1965.

I wrote about Adrienne Nater in the Glasser biography, Champion of Choice. In the same year that Reality Therapy was published, 1965, Adrienne was a vice-principal at Oxnard High School in Southern California. She read Reality Therapy and began to rely on the approach as she worked with student offenders. In spite of the documented success she was having by working with students in this way the school principal at the time didn’t like the methods and forced her to resign. In short, she liked the elements of reality therapy, successfully used them as she worked with students, and got fired for it!

A newspaper clipping from the Oxnard Press Courier, April, 1966

A newspaper clipping from the Oxnard Press Courier, April, 1966

This story would have slipped from sight and remained unnoticed forever had it not been for the fact that the Oxnard Press Courier ran quite a few articles on the situation during the spring of 1966. I stumbled onto newspaper clippings of the story in an old photo album sitting on the floor of a partially opened closet door in Glasser’s home office. I was immediately captivated by the story as I read through the now-yellowed articles. Glasser and his wife, Carleen, were also captivated by the story, and that led to a highlight moment during the biography interviews. Carleen got some help from Directory Assistance and, remarkably, within a few minutes was talking to the same Adrienne Nater on the phone. After a short explanation of who she was and why she was calling, Carleen handed the phone to Glasser. Try and picture it. Out of the blue, 40 years after losing a position because of the ideas of reality therapy, the author of Reality Therapy calls you. It was a special moment! (Several months later they met in person.)

William Glasser and Adrienne Nater meeting for the first time over 40 years after her leaving Oxnard High School.

William Glasser and Adrienne Nater meeting for the first time over 40 years after her leaving Oxnard High School.

One of the Oxnard Press Courier’s articles, under the headline Resigning Vice Principal Believes Her Theories Supported By Results, described how –

Miss Adrienne Nater’s give-and-take theory of discipline at Oxnard High School is difficult and time-consuming in practice, but she believes it pays off in benefits to the misbehaving student.

Her approach was one of the chief reasons why she was forced to resign as girls’ vice principal.

“If a child is sent to the office, I try to find out why,” she says. “I let her relate what happened and then I try to show her why she can’t be disrespectful. I don’t mete out punishment without letting the child know why. Control by fear and hatred is bad. I think the only way is through respect and understanding.”

School principal, Clifford Powell, says her forced resignation was “just a case of not being suited to her job.” District officials say her job is to discipline students instead of counseling them.

Miss Nater says “you can’t separate counseling and disciplining, and that her approach is similar to that of Dr. William Glasser, psychiatrist at Camarillo School for Girls. Dr. Glasser says his psychotherapeutic techniques of discipline do not prevent enforcement of conformity to regulations. Miss Nater says she ran onto his book, Reality Therapy, by accident. His technique is far more formalized than mine,” she adds.

“The truth is,” Nater says, “that not many teachers have received an education in the modern techniques of reaching these unhappy youths. They know only that discipline is sort of eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth throwback to the era when pain, humiliation, and embarrassment were thought of as educative processes.”

Miss Nater believes her technique “helps a young person find herself in some small way and so become a better member of our society. These young people are behind me because every one who got into trouble feels that she better understands herself through the new approach.”

Her student supporters have started a drive to retain her. Their parents also have joined the campaign by signing a petition being circulated.

More Oxnard newspaper clippings from the spring of 1966.

More Oxnard newspaper clippings from the spring of 1966.

Another Press Courier article quoted Adrienne explaining that –

“I simply can’t go along with traditional discipline. In generations past a vice principal was supposed to be thoroughly feared and hated. Traditionalists seem convinced that hatred is constructive. I know better, and so does Dr. Glasser out at the Ventura School for Girls near Camarillo.”

“I follow Dr. Glasser’s philosophy in every sense of the word because it works in maintaining discipline and it leaves the disciplined youngster on your side.”

Miss Nater is perfectly honest and willing to admit that all her life she has rocked boats. “Not because I deliberately set out to do so, but because I was very early trained to think for myself, to make my own decisions, and to follow practices and policies that, to me at least, seemed the most effective and efficient.

Petitions and protests, including by parent groups, and even including local church priests and pastors, did not prevail, though, and Adrienne Nater, after being forced out, went on to serve her community in other ways. One of the Oxnard Press Courier editorials ended by pointing out that –

“Miss Nater would have no trouble finding another job. Oxnard High School might have a lot of trouble finding another vice principal who could win the confidence of students.”

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

I couldn’t agree with this editor’s insight more. I thoroughly enjoyed my interviews with Adrienne, since I knew immediately that her story needed to be a part of the biography. In spite of our visits and all the details of her career experience we talked about, she recently surprised me again with information that just has to go in future editions of the biography. She recently read Champion of Choice for the first time and, as a result, we re-connected.

In one of her emails she brought up a name that she and I had never talked about, but that she was reminded of as she read the book. Keep in mind that after leaving Oxnard High she stayed and worked in the Oxnard / Simi Valley area. Here is what she shared –

“This is so astounding: Brad Greene and I were colleagues in Simi. I remembered that he was selected to lead Apollo by his administrative buddies because he was not quite up to their standards of being a good Christian. This difference was not acceptable. Brad was placed in his position as a punishment. He made them eat dirt.”

William Glasser and Brad Greene, 2004 (Jim Roy photo)

William Glasser and Brad Greene, 2004 (Jim Roy photo)

Brad Greene was the principal featured in one of Glasser’s best books, The Quality School: Managing Students Without Coercion (1990). Glasser heard about Brad and went to Apollo High School to meet him and explore the possibility of becoming involved at the school. Glasser and Brad formed a very good working relationship and Glasser maintained a regular presence at the school, working with teachers and students, as he began to write the manuscript for The Quality School. Brad Greene and Apollo High School learned a lot from Glasser, but Glasser would be the first to emphasize how much he learned from Apollo High School. There was so many things Apollo was doing right even before Glasser arrived on the scene.

Glasser's experience at Apollo High School with Brad Greene was an important part of The Quality School.

Glasser’s experience at Apollo High School with Brad Greene was an important part of The Quality School.

The Quality School did well as far as copies sold and Brad attained nationwide notoriety because of it. He went on to become one of Glasser top trainers, traveling across the country to help others understand the concepts of reality therapy and choice theory. The thing is, though, that Brad hadn’t gone looking for notoriety or for cross-country travel. Even as others thought they were punishing him by putting him at an alternative high school out in Simi Valley, Brad focused on helping kids and creating a school in which they wanted to attend. His superiors may have thought he wasn’t Christian enough, yet he helped to create a school that really cared about students, a very unique group of students at that, and sought to help them attain their diploma.

Two stories of amazing educators who sought to live and teach the principles of reality therapy and choice theory. One lost her job over it, while the other got transferred to a school nobody else wanted. Yet they persevered, always looking out for kids, and always trying to inspire their colleagues to do the same.

Happy 50th Anniversary to Reality Therapy!!

Happy 50th Anniversary to Reality Therapy!!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Reality Therapy, whose ideas have rocked the world of therapy ever since. I can think of no better way to acknowledge Reality Therapy’s importance than to share the stories of Adrienne Nater and Brad Greene, two quietly powerful people who live the principles of Reality Therapy every day.


Good News About Guilt


During one of our interviews for the biography, Glasser said something that caught my ear. Maybe it was my religious upbringing that acted like Velcro to his comments on guilt, but whatever it was the comments have stuck with me ever since.

One of the girls Glasser worked with at the Ventura School seemed to have a breakthrough, and upon realizing she needed to start being truthful with those trying to help her, began revealing the details of her destructive past. She felt a lot of guilt and hoped to be forgiven.

The Ventura School for Girls, before it was moved to Ojai.

The Ventura School for Girls, before it was moved to Ojai.

Recalling this later, Glasser wrote in Reality Therapy (1965) that, “Instead of forgiving her, which used to be my natural impulse before I discovered how wrong it is therapeutically, I told her she was right to feel miserable and probably would continue to feel bad for the next few weeks. In reality therapy,” he continued, “it is important not to minimize guilt when it is deserved.”

From my own upbringing the idea of guilt had been a kind of bad word, something you needed to stay away from, and even to be cleansed from, so considering it from this matter of fact perspective was ear-catching. The following excerpt from Champion of Choice (2014) further explains his perspective.

When I questioned Glasser on that stance, he replied, “Yeh, yeh, I think guilt is a perfectly good emotion. I have nothing against guilt.” He added: “Well, the girls used to ask me this question, ‘Dr. Glasser, will you forgive me for the things I’ve done?’ You know they have a little religious background, some of them, and I said, ‘That’s not up to me to forgive you. I won’t hold what you’ve done against you, but in terms of forgiving that’s something you have to work out with your own self. I can’t forgive you. You did something wrong. You did it. The best way, if you’ve done something wrong, is to stop doing it, and maybe even treat the people you wronged, if you treated people wrong, better. That’s my advice, but that again up to you.’”

But if someone, like a person may come into my private office and say, ‘I feel so guilty, and I don’t know why.’ I said, ‘What have you done wrong?’ And that came as a new concept. Guilt without sin is a very common concept among people. It’s like you carry around the sin of the world or something like that. I said, ‘Well, if you can tell me something you’ve done really wrong, then I could certainly appreciate that you feel guilty about it, and I think that’s good. The guilt will prevent you from doing it again. But if you’re all upset and worked up and you’ve done nothing wrong, then I have no interest in it. It’s up to you.’”   pg. 111

Guilt is a huge factor when it comes to mental health. Not dealing with guilt effectively leads to a poor self-concept, broken relationships, and often a series of trips to a counselor or therapist. Religion is supposed to help us deal with guilt, but unfortunately, religion often does the opposite.


Thanks to a tip from a friend I was alerted to the work of Dr. Brene Brown, who does research on shame and guilt. In her book, Daring Greatly (2012), Brown states that “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists—it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.”

Shame is a foreboding sense of unworthiness that is powered by the belief that, at the core of who I am as a person, “I am bad.” Guilt, on the other hand, has to do with a specific behavior or mistake. Instead of thinking I am bad, our self-talk would say that “I did something bad.” Interestingly, while shame leads toward self-protection, blaming others, and rationalizing our imperfections, guilt can prod us toward apologizing and changing a behavior.

Glasser alerted me to the idea that guilt can be useful and serves a purpose when it 1) causes us to stay aligned with our deeply held values, and 2) helps us stay connected to others. Brown seems to view guilt in the same way, that it can be a healthy part of our lives, but emphasizes how shame is different altogether from guilt. Shame causes us to isolate rather than reach out, to become silent rather than communicate openly, and to wrap ourselves in aloneness rather than foster intimacy with those who are important to us.

It might be hard to believe there is good news in guilt, but apparently there is.


Now priced at $18.51 on Amazon; 21 reviews have been submitted.

Now priced at $18.51 on Amazon; 21 reviews have been submitted.

The eBook version can be accessed at –

The paperback version can be accessed at –

or from Amazon at –

Signed copies of Champion of Choice can be accessed through me at –

Compassion and Slim Choices


The power of choice may be the most powerful power that human beings can access! We have the ability, do we not, to choose what we will do this moment, to choose our course of action, to literally choose our destiny. Some embrace this as the reason for their own success, while at the same time citing it as the reason for other’s failure. People who are struggling could make different choices. It is as simple as that. But is it that simple?

A friend who works with people who are coping with grinding, generational poverty, recently talked with me about this. He described how the spectrum of choices available to different individuals can vary so greatly that they are barely comparable. Consider the following graphic –

photo 1

Person 1 – Joe, does have a spectrum of choices, however financially, socially, and emotionally slim those choices might be.

photo 2
Person 2 – Gavin, has a much wider spectrum of choices. He comes from a financially solid background and has a large number of social connections from which to attain his own goals.

It is interesting that the choice options which may appear as the absolute best for Joe appear as the lowest possible options for Gavin. Their worlds are that different. And given this reality, what are the implications for those who work with the Joe’s and Gavin’s among us?

1950s, pre-fame Bill Glasser

1950s, pre-fame Bill Glasser

In his first big seller, Reality Therapy (1965), Glasser emphasized the role of personal responsibility. He described then how being responsible is analogous to being mentally healthy, while being irresponsible is equated with mental illness. Responsibility was basic to reality therapy and living responsibly ultimately led to happiness. These statements may have been accurate, yet Glasser became uncomfortable with how the concept of responsibility was being applied. Practitioners, many of them teachers, social workers, counselors, or in law enforcement, were using responsibility more like a “sledge hammer” than a goal or guide. When it became apparent that a student or parolee or client was behaving irresponsibly, then guilt or threats or disappointment would be applied in various forms. Seeing this trend develop, Glasser pulled back from the responsibility emphasis. The strands of responsibility could only be presented or emphasized from a foundation of involvement or a positive relationship.

The spectrum of choice issue may be similar to the responsibility issue, in that it may be too easy to assume that choice is choice and that everybody has access to a wide spectrum of options. If we think that way it will be just as easy to become judgmental toward anyone that doesn’t access good choices (which are obvious to us) or who may even make bad choices (when to us it is so plain that it could only be a bad choice).

The implication for us is to remember how different the choice options are for people, especially those affected by poverty, and how important it is for us to be compassionate in our thinking and our behavior.

Expecting Joe to view his life options in the same way that Gavin views his options is not realistic, and in some ways even cruel. One of the awesome aspects of choice theory is that it enables us to work with others as individuals, truly taking their reality into account as plans are formed toward a better future.


You Are Missed, Bill Glasser!

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

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

William Glasser passed away a year ago today. His legacy includes a long and successful career in which he influenced countless people on how to be mentally healthy and happy in their relationships with others. As the creator of Reality Therapy, Glasser challenged the therapeutic status quo and began to melt the complexity of human psychology; as the creator of Choice Theory, he provided a model of human behavior that even a child can understand, a model that acknowledged basic human needs and wants.

Everybody needs one essential friend.   William Glasser

Although anticipated, his passing left a void organizationally and more importantly, left a void personally within the hearts of those who were seeking and continue to seek to understand his ideas about motivation and behavior. Organizationally, people have stepped up to maintain and even grow the structure of Glasser, Inc. Time will tell regarding the extent to which the organization flourishes or not. For many of us personally, though, this same process is going on within our own hearts and minds. In what ways and to what extent are Glasser’s ideas flourishing within us as individuals? What do his ideas mean to us personally?

Relaxing in the living room with the TV on, although still ready to talk about life. (Photo by Jim Roy)

Relaxing in the living room with the TV on, although still ready to talk about life. (Photo by Jim Roy)

For me personally, the principles of Choice Theory continue to influence my thinking a great deal. Of course, it is one thing to think something and quite another thing to consistently apply that thinking in your life, but Choice Theory brings me back to a good starting point when I get off track. Before becoming acquainted with Choice Theory, I was very capable of choosing to depress and to withdraw in general. Now, after learning about Choice Theory, not so much. Glasser’s ideas have been a kind of psychological immunization against the common mental distressers for me.

It is almost impossible for anyone, even the most ineffective among us, to continue to choose misery after becoming aware that it is a choice.   William Glasser

His explanation of the importance of the relationships in our lives has been very significant for me, especially the idea that our ability to influence a person is directly dependent on our level of connection with him/her. For parents and teachers this is the gold standard of advice. As long as we are connected to our kids we have influence with them. When that connection is severed, usually due to our anger or disgust or coercive approach, so, too, is the influence. It is crazy how flippant we can be with this kind of connection!

Glasser and Albert Ellis, 2005. (Photo by Jim Roy)

Glasser and Albert Ellis, 2005. (Photo by Jim Roy)

Glasser’s biography, Champion of Choice, became available less than four months after his death. So close. People that knew him and worked with him for many years have affirmed the book’s accuracy, which means a lot to me, and people that thought they knew him well have indicated they learned new things about his life from reading the biography. Of special importance to me, though, is the possibility that readers will learn about the principles of Reality Therapy, Choice Theory, mental health, and the whole idea of getting and staying happy.

If everyone could learn that what is right for me does not make it right for anyone else, the world would be a much happier place.   William Glasser

Today (Saturday, Aug. 23) also happens to be my Sabbath, a day designed for rest and contemplation. Glasser’s ideas have certainly been a part of my spiritual journey and have strengthened and enlarged my concepts of total well-being, love, freedom, purpose, and joy. He has been a mentor to me and I will take solace in reflecting on our time together and the positive ways he influenced me – cognitively, emotionally, and even spiritually.

You are missed, Bill. You are missed.

Glasser's writing space, minus his computer, where so much of his creativity was put to the page. (Photo by Jim Roy.)

Glasser’s writing space, minus his computer, where so much of his creativity was put to the page. (Photo by Jim Roy.)

I invite you to respond to this post and share what Glasser or his ideas have come to mean to you since his passing a year ago. I think you need to register on WordPress to submit comments, but the registration is super easy. No big deal. I encourage you to do it and share.


Now priced at $18.20 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been uploaded so far.

Now priced at $18.20 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been uploaded so far.

The Future of Choice Theory Is In Our Hands

In the last Better Plan post I shared the questions that people would ask William Glasser himself, if he were still with us. (If you have insights or answers to one of the questions, please share them with us.) Today I will post the results of the other assignment I gave during the Toronto talk, that being – What suggestions do you have to get Glasser’s ideas out to the public more effectively?

Those in attendance at the Toronto talk were asked to work with a partner and think of things that could be kept in mind as the organization moves forward. If there was more than one suggestion for the same idea I placed an “x” after that idea. Some ideas have quite a few x’s by them. If we had more time in Toronto we could have refined these ideas even more. However, here they are in their more raw form.

TED talks. x x x x x x x x x

Create a YouTube channel with strategic key words that will attract people when they do searches. x x x x x x

Use social media more. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. x x x x x x

Writing reviews on Champion of Choice. x x x x

Choose a business model and concentrate our efforts to market choice theory, including hiring people who know marketing. Develop a recognizable brand and logo. x x x

Establish and support the William Glasser Foundation. x x

Model the theory and walk our talk. x x

Training to certification must be quicker for the millennial generation. x

Research. x

Create partnerships with different people, communities, or businesses. x

Let people know about x

Be clearer about what is required to be certified.

Keep reality therapy in the discussion – don’t limit it to choice theory.

Reach out to universities and textbook writers. Get the word out to academics.

Develop a graduate curriculum for reality therapy.

Develop a reality TV show on reality therapy and choice theory.

Talk shows – Ellen, Oprah, Saturday Night Live, etc.

Market “Choice Theory in Motion” more aggressively.

Create a database of supporting evidence (annotated) of studies supporting choice theory.

Create marketing for Take Charge of Your Life.

WGI members need to be attending and presenting at other conferences, like the ACA.

Make a movie of Champion of Choice.

Never give up.

Write a book about Rochester School and the experiences we had implementing choice theory in our community.

Find a young person to be his (Bill’s) champion.

Focus on youth.

Providing funding to offer training to principals and teachers.

Produce a film or documentary on Bill and his ideas.

Massive book launches.

Effective one-day workshops.

Filming teachers who are effectively applying RT/CT in the classroom and publishing these examples.

A focused voice from each discipline using choice theory.

We’re getting too old as an organization. We need to connect to youth.

#choice theory

Create a presence on maternity wards and geriatric centers – e.g. material that would help new parents

Introduce CT concepts in the school system at an early age – embed in the curriculum.

There are some very good ideas here. Some of them we can do as individuals, while some of them would need to be addressed at an organizational level. Do you want to lobby for one of these ideas? Respond in the box below and let us know what you are thinking. Thank you to each set of partners during the Toronto talk who came up with these suggestions.


“If you don’t like something, change it;
if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”
Mary Engelbreit

A Selfie from Toronto

I am in Toronto, Canada, attending the 2nd International Glasser Conference, from July 9-13. I was asked to give the opening keynote address, which I did yesterday morning. The following selfie, taken as I began the talk, captures part of the crowd as the conference opened.

Hello from everyone at the 2nd International Glasser Conference in Toronto!

Hello from everyone at the 2nd International Glasser Conference in Toronto!

The energy in the room was very positive, which helped my creativity as I shared details of the writing of Glasser’s biography, as well as stories from his life. (The talk was video-taped, so I am may be able to post that on The Better Plan soon. Feedback from those who have already read the biography has been very positive. Glasser “old-timers” are pointing how there are details about Glasser’s life and his ideas that they did not know about. There is a strong desire to “get the word out” about the book, including other countries like Australia, Ireland, Japan, and Korea. The biography is already being translated into Japanese, and people approached me about translating the book into Korean and Arabic, too.

I brought close to 40 copies of the book to the conference, but they all sold very quickly. I wish I could have brought more copies with me. Those wanting signed copies of the book can get them from me directly. (More on that later.) Of course, the book is also quickly accessible through Amazon.

Carleen Glasser, Maggie Roy, and Sandie Wubbolding.

Carleen Glasser, Maggie Roy, and Sandie Wubbolding.

I was especially frustrated that so many of those attending the conference from other countries were not able to bring copies of the book back home with them. I have checked on shipping costs to Canada and the rates are ridiculous. If I am looking at the websites of the US Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS correctly, it will cost more to ship the book than the cost of the book itself. Not acceptable. My hope is that something can be done to make the cost of the book reasonable to Glasser advocates around the world. We will solve this!

There are so many wonderful things going on at the conference, so many wonderful presentations and breakout sessions. One of the wonderful things is a choice theory curriculum for children out of Australia. Developed by Ivan Honey, the program is called The Amazing Adventures of Doug Dragster. A pilot project is going on right now in Los Angeles, in cooperation with Loyola Marymount University, to determine the extent to which the program teaches children the skills to improve their mental health, resiliency, and well-being. There is actually a really good sale going on until Sunday, July 13. Through Sunday you can download the book for 99 cents; plus all proceeds from the book will go to support the research project that is being done by LMU on the effects of the Doug Dragster curriculum.


Speaking of Amazon, it’s really important for everyone to submit a review of the Glasser biography, Champion of Choice. It’s easy to do and it will make a huge difference toward getting the word out there about so many of the positive things William Glasser did throughout his life. It doesn’t have to be long.

More tomorrow! In the meantime .  .  .

Ahh .  .  . Toronto. What a great city!

Ahh . . . Toronto. What a great city!

Glasser Biography Now Available


The Glasser biography has been printed and is now available!

I knew the day would come, and yesterday it did come, as I received from the printer my copies of the finished book! It took longer than I thought it would to go through the editing and publishing process, but that is behind us now.

I am pleased with the look and feel of the book, especially the inside look of the pages. Great font and spacing; it is very readable in that way. Hopefully, you will find it readable in every way.

The first interview I conducted with Glasser took place on September 26, 2003. It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 10 years since that moment we began in his Los Angeles home. I didn’t start out as his biographer. I approached him about my completing a dissertation on the development of his ideas. He agreed and the interviews began.

After our third interview he began referring to our work as his biography project, something I was open to, although I had no clue at the time of the implications of what it would mean to become his biographer. At the 2004 international Glasser conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, he surprised me during the banquet when he officially introduced me as his biographer. I realized then that the project was going to be more than a dissertation.

I presented a copy of my dissertation to Glasser in 2007.

I presented a copy of my dissertation to Glasser in 2007.

We continued interviewing together through 2008, although we talked pretty consistently even after the formal interviews had stopped. He filled in details as I ran into missing pieces of his story. He was always glad to visit about his ideas. The biography project was important to him.

I wish that I could place a copy of his biography in his hands today. I really wanted to do that; I think he wanted that, too. We would have enjoyed holding something so tangible as a representation of all that we had worked on together. And for him, with the book representing his life and work, it would have been even more significant.

The biography is now available, and you would think I would be able to tell you about how to get a copy. But alas, I cannot .  .  . yet. My copies were shipped from a printer in Illinois, although I am pretty sure the printer will have nothing to do with sales and shipping. The publisher is Zeig, Tucker & Theisen Publishing, but as of this morning there is no announcement on their website about the book. I know that Jim Coddington at is going to have information about the biography, but nothing yet there, either.

I will be in touch with the publisher on Monday and will get all of the ordering information, which I will immediately pass on to you.

For now I am enjoying going through the book and re-reading portions of it myself. It has been a while since I have written it so it is like bumping into a good friend who you haven’t seen in a long time. It has been good for me “catching up” with the Glasser story.


Unpublished Glasser Article

Bill Glasser 1977 (contributed by Jim Roy)

Bill Glasser 1977 (contributed by Jim Roy)

Going through some of my Glasser artifacts recently I came across a short article he wrote over 30 years ago. Based on the author bio info at the end of the article I would say it was written in 1980. The article was typed, maybe by Glasser himself, but probably it was dictated by him and then typed by someone else. By 1980 Glasser had met William Powers and had been introduced to the ideas of control theory, ideas that deeply influenced him.

Bill Glasser 1981

Bill Glasser 1981

I don’t think the article – titled Some Thoughts About Raising Children – was ever published. I am sharing it with you, exactly as it is written, for several reasons.

1. It is enjoyable to read Glasser’s ideas, especially a potential article that may have slipped through the cracks and gotten overlooked.

2. Do you detect a reason why the article may have been filed away or even rejected? You will be reading the exact draft that I have. Would editing help make the article stronger?

3. Do you think Glasser would have written this article 20 or 25 years later? Did he end up modifying any of the ideas expressed in the article in 1980 later in his career?

Ok, those are the thought questions to get you started; here’s the article.



William Glasser, M.D.
President, Institute for Reality Therapy

     What do we owe our children and what do they owe us? Book after book, from the Bible to Spock, has attempted to answer these questions and the parade continues because no book seems to satisfy any parent for long. We wish there were a child-rearing manual like that which comes with a Mercedes but we are not machines. We are living creatures driven, as no other creature is, by strong, often conflicting forces. Because we must discover an infinite variety of ways to satisfy these forces the definitive how-to book will never be written. It follows, therefore, that we will never know how to raise our children. If we can accept the uncomfortable premise that here there are no right answers then I believe we have the chance to succeed reasonably well in this difficult task. And even if our success is minimal we will do them less harm than if we tried to follow any current “truth.”

Regardless of what we do, and granted that there is no universal way, most of us want our children to be happy, to love and respect us, and to be successful in some way that we define success. Because we tend to love them extravagantly most of their lives most of us will have no trouble accepting that we owe them food, shelter, safety and our companionship. But, as hard as this may be to accept, they, I believe, owe us nothing; if we want their love we must earn it. This is not hard to do as long as we do not attempt to cajole, coerce, or force them to be the people that satisfy us.

What we should be sensitive to from early on is what they want. Then as much as we can, rather than to give them things we should make an effort to take the additional time to teach them how to satisfy their needs themselves. If, however, what they want is in conflict with what we believe, as it often will be, as they mature, we should, in words they can understand, state our beliefs. But along with telling them what is important to us we should encourage them to try to convince us that their needs are worthy of our support. This means that we should listen to them and if they are at all convincing help them to get what they want. If we are unconvinced we should continue our argument but also make an effort (and it will be an effort) not to criticize them or to use our parental power to stand directly or indirectly in their way.

Assure them from the time that they can comprehend it that we believe in the way we live our lives, but that our way is not necessarily the best way, the only way or the way for them. And as our way changes, as it will, show them that we can be tolerant of ourselves as we change. From this they will learn that they too have a way but that it is not the only way and that they should be tolerant of themselves as they change.

Assuming that we can do this, especially to refrain from criticizing them, we have a chance, even a good chance (there are no sure things in this delicate process) to enjoy the reward which is a child who loves us, respects us, and enjoys spending time with us. But if we achieve this reward we should be cautious and resist the temptation to gain more, that is to convince these “good” children that they also be what we want them to be. It is our failure to resist this ever-present temptation that causes most of us who succeed for quite a while eventually to fail. If we are getting along well and then they start to slip away it will be because it is so difficult in raising children to keep the ancient proverb, “let well enough alone.”

+    +    +

William Glasser, M.D. is the President and Founder of the Institute for Reality Therapy, incorporated in 1967. His major books are Reality Therapy, Schools Without Failure, The Identity Society, and Positive Addiction. All are published by Harper & Row and Reality Therapy and The Identity Society are available in German translations. Two new books have been written. Available now is What Are You Doing?, a series of cases written by Reality Therapists and edited by Naomi Glasser. To be available in March of 1981 is Stations of the Mind, a new book linking how our brain functions to Reality Therapy. Both are published by Harper & Row.

Dr. Glasser has worked in schools, correctional institutions, mental hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. He teaches and lectures all over the world and still conducts a small private practice. People interested in further information about Reality Therapy and training programs can write to:

Institute for Reality Therapy
11633 San Vincente Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049


Don’t write to the above address. There are no Glasser offices on San Vincente anymore, although some of you reading this will remember that place fondly.

If you are so inclined let me know how you respond to the thought questions before the article. Would Glasser have written this article 20 years later?


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Sticking It In Their Ear

Newspaper article from 1962

Newspaper article from 1962

Early in Glasser’s career he emphasized the idea of being responsible. Reality Therapy (1965) echoed this theme a lot. Taken as part of the overall elements of reality therapy – elements like involvement, no punishment, and never give up – responsibility could be kept in perspective. However, Glasser soon discovered that teachers were taking the idea of responsibility and using it as a hammer to whip kids into shape. Seeing that people were misusing the idea he began to pull back from it.

Early on he was also known as an expert on classroom discipline and his “get tough” approach was advertised in national magazines. He let this happen for a while, but realized that such a message didn’t accurately capture what he was trying to do. Once again, he began to pull back from what people thought he was saying.

We still face this challenge today. We love the sound of choice theory and are drawn to its application, yet when we have marinated for so long in external control (reward/punishment) it is easy to go back to what we know. Teachers chuckle in agreement when I suggest that it is possible to use internal control strategies in an externally controlling way. As Glasser used to say, “It’s easy to believe in choice theory, but it’s hard to do.”

I thought about this during our recent Choice Theory Study Group as we focused on the concept of total behavior. Key pieces of total behavior include that 1) all behavior is purposeful and that 2) all behavior is made up of four parts – thinking, acting, feeling, and physiology. A key piece of total behavior is that two of the four parts – our thinking and our acting – are under our direct control.

And this is where a potential problem lurks. In the same way that teachers back in the 60s and 70s misunderstood and misapplied the idea of responsibility as Glasser intended, teachers today might be tempted to tell students that they are responsible for their own thinking and acting. If something is under our direct control, like how we act, then it may seem reasonable to emphasize this to students, even to bombard them with it.


This is the thing, though. Gaining insight into total behavior and understanding how it applies to you personally doesn’t come from someone else telling you about it, especially during a tense moment when they may be telling you to get your act together. Such insight comes from being gently led toward the concept and being asked the right questions at the right moments.

One of my mentors, a man who taught me so much about supervising teachers, shared that

“It is better to get something out of someone’s mouth,
than it is to put it into their ear.”

As teachers and parents this can be our goal, too. Total behavior is correct, in my opinion, and our having direct control over our thinking and behavior is correct, too. Helping our children and students realize that, without damaging our relationship with them, is our challenge. Somehow we need to help them talk about what the idea of total behavior means to them, rather than just sticking the concept in one of their ears.


If Dr. Glasser’s Ideas Are So Great . . .

The following article was written by Charlotte Wellen, a teacher at Murray High School in Virginia. Murray was the first public high school in the U.S. to become a Glasser Quality School.


If Dr. Glasser’s Ideas Are So Great and Have Been Around for Fifty Years, Why Aren’t All Schools Using Them?

— A Murray High School Perspective

Recently, I received an email from a teacher who hopes to convince the administration and staff of her school to move in the direction of creating a Glasser Quality School. She was asked the question that is the title of this article and she wanted my help to answer it. Perhaps she sent this to many of the Glasser Quality Schools. I found this a compelling question and I wanted to share my answer here because we have all given a lot of thought to our goal of teaching the world choice theory and we have often wondered why there aren’t more Glasser Quality Schools. Below is my answer to her question:

What a great question! Actually, it has only been 20 years since Dr. Glasser put his ideas together into a form that could help people create an entire school. He came out with The Quality School and Quality School Teacher in the mid-90’s. Also, this is not the type of program that can be started in a school at the beginning of a year and then changed a couple of years later. This is a program that starts up inside of each participant, from the administration to the teachers, the students, and finally going home to the parents, and home to the teachers’ families and the principal’s family, too.

Choice Theory is not a program. Glasser Quality Schools are not a program. They are a thought system, a way of life, a new way of thinking about the world, about the relationships between students and teachers, administrators, and families. It has taken us 26 years to create our current level of mastery of Dr. Glasser’s ideas here at Murray. We still have a long way to go and are involved in making many changes, many improvements. Dr. Glasser always said that 95% of any problem was a system problem and only 5%, if that much, was a people problem. So, the job of creating a Glasser Quality School is to come up with a system that works to create happiness in the school. This is not as easy as it sounds, nor as difficult.

For instance, each of us is learning Choice Theory. Each of us has our own level of understanding of these ideas and each of us is wrestling with our own level of resistance to these ideas. We are not all in the same place at the same time, so the system you develop has to have a tolerance and a love for the growing, the individual transformation, that is required. The system has to have a tolerance for the time it takes for each individual to transform him/herself.

I can attest to the idyllic environment that is created when you work hard for 26 years to develop a school based on Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory. We are not all perfect here. Most of our students have been very hurt by life in so many ways, hurt by the education system that has left too many of them feeling like failures. We have conflicts every day, but we have a system to understand the conflicts and to work them out. For instance, when two students became angry at one another on Friday, both of them requested to be able to separate from the other, so no physical conflict would arise. They walked away. This is the result of years of work with these two boys to learn Choice Theory, that they can get in charge of the choices they make when anger hits them. They did not get “in trouble” because they raised their voices at each other and disrupted class. They got time and attention from trained and loving teachers who heralded their decisions not to hit each other and helped them think through what had happened that led to the conflict, what they each could have done differently, and on Monday, will help them mediate with each other until a plan they can both agree with is in place and a solution to their conflict has begun.

There is so much to say about this program. Our test scores soar because our students are happy here and want to do well to help the school, and themselves. But the best of all is the feeling of camaraderie, of friendship between students and teachers. Here, there is trust between us. We work hard at it. We constantly work to improve our relationships because we know kids won’t learn well from people they don’t love and who don’t love them. We use the word love all the time here. We aren’t afraid to say we love our kids and they aren’t embarrassed to say they love us, too. We think schools should be built on a foundation of love and trust.

So, why aren’t there thousands of these schools — good question. We work all the time to help schools consider adopting these ideas. Our students travel to schools around the world, teaching people how to start up a Glasser Quality School. No one is as great a spokesman about Glasser Quality Schools than the kids who are educated here. Just last week, we hosted a team from a county in North Carolina who had heard about Murray and wanted to see it in action. Afterwards, they were so overwhelmed by the level of love the kids shared about the program and the level of understanding they had about why they are being educated the way they are. They said they want that for their school. They asked our kids for advice about how to implement these ideas with middle school kids and got lots of suggestions. They are planning to bring a team of Murray kids to North Carolina to talk to their faculty.

I think that it takes a long time and a lot of commitment to help an entire staff come to believe that it’s possible to create a school based entirely on love and respect and to be willing to transform themselves by learning Choice Theory, Reality Therapy, and Lead Management, in order to bring this about. For instance, teachers may have become set in their ways and it might be tough for them to give up their “teacher look,” the one that nails a kid who is disrupting. But that look is a threat. That look has no place in a Glasser Quality School. So to even give up the looks we’ve come to rely on, that’s asking a lot. And it takes YEARS of practice, but like anything worth doing, years of practice pay off hugely! We think our kids deserve an education from a team of professionals who have been practicing for years to treat them respectfully, and to expect great things from them, so they feel inspired to excel. But I think you can see that each of the individual transformations that will need to take place for this to happen take time and inclination and especially belief.

When we first started Murray, we all believed we could change schools so kids and teachers would like them more. At first, we brought all our old controlling and punitive behaviors with us and we used them all. This was good because we got to see that they don’t really work, if working means helping resistant students come to love us and to therefore love school and education. And because we began the school open to changing education in a serious way, we kept tinkering. We kept developing methods of helping ourselves as staff grow and slough off our old punitive ways and to keep from having a school of chaos with kids running around causing untold trouble. We learned that kids who love their school don’t want to cause trouble and are willing to keep working to unlearn their old habits of acting out and hurting others without thinking. They are mostly grateful to be learning the skills they can clearly see will help them in their lives, both in and out of school.

So, if you want to talk more about Glasser Quality Schools, feel free to call me. I LOVE talking about Glasser Quality Schools because I believe that these ideas are so superb that one day all schools will be using them. Educators would be fools not to use these ideas when they work so well at helping people love school and learning.

I would be greatly interested in your opinions in this site regarding my thoughts about the challenges of setting up thousands of Glasser Quality Schools.


Charlotte Wellen, NBCT, Murray Choices Teacher
Instructor at the William Glasser Institute – US

Murray High School
Ashby Kindler, Principal
Charlotte Wellen, Contact
1200 Forest Street, 
Charlottesville, VA 22903
PH: 434-296-3090   
FX: 434-979-6479


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, 2013!
May each of us become able to recognize the blessings for which we can be thankful!
And may we choose to be grateful.


Choice Theory Study Group
December 7

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