Posts tagged “reality therapy

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

William Glasser: A Life to Celebrate

Bill and Carleen Glasser (2007)

Bill and Carleen Glasser (2007)

William Glasser passed away on August 23, 2013. He was 88 years.

As an every-man psychiatrist, Glasser was appreciated by people around the world for his views on mental health and his strategies for counselors and especially educators. A progressive before it was in fashion to be progressive, he rejected commonly held beliefs that blamed mental disease for people’s behavior and instead described methods whereby people could recognize their own role in returning to wellness.

Glasser’s ideas on mental health began to form in the late 1950s when he worked with veterans in a mental hospital in Los Angeles and with delinquent teenage girls in a prison school. He burst onto a national stage, though, when he published Reality Therapy in 1965, and then Schools Without Failure in 1969. Reality Therapy was like a psychiatric shot heard around the world and he began to receive a lot of attention, especially from those working within the helping professions — counselors, social workers, corrections officers, addiction clinics, and especially teachers.

Reality therapy went on to become one of the main talking therapy options that future therapists learned about in degree programs and established Glasser as one of the most well-known psychiatrists in the world. He believed that the concept that people suffer from a mental illness was actually a road block to effective treatment, rather than being a help. Glasser wanted to compassionately help people become stronger and more responsible. To that end, reality therapy emphasized the need for a warm, caring relationship between therapist and patient; was built on the belief that people are capable of becoming responsible for their behavior; focused on the present and future, rather than the past; focused on present, conscious thinking and behavior, rather than trying to discover “unconscious” thought patterns; and desired to teach patients ways to fulfill their own needs within an effective (personal) moral framework. It was a groundbreaking approach that ultimately led to many others also building on the site that he began.

School principals and teachers recognized something special in reality therapy that could make a positive difference in the lives of students and when Glasser received a large grant to improve public education in 1967 the Educator Training Center was established and he embarked on a lifelong quest to show educators the importance of providing a need-satisfying environment for students. Of his 23 books, five of them were exclusively school related.

Glasser came to be known for control theory, the theory that he felt explained why reality therapy was so effective. Control theory described how people are internally motivated and are always acting in a way that they think will best meet their needs, which may even include choosing to be miserable. He became known for his emphasis on the idea that the only person we can control is ourself. Mental health, or happiness, is maintained as a person learns to stop trying to control others behavior and instead learns how to form and keep good relationships with the important people in his life. Glasser liked the details of control theory, but not the label, and in 1996 he changed the label to choice theory, which he felt more accurately described the essence of his beliefs.

Glasser was a prolific writer and lecturer and leaves behind a body of work–23 books, multiple booklets, and many, many journal articles– that will provide support and challenge traditional approaches for years to come. Besides eight active regional organizations throughout the U.S., the Glasser Institute also has a presence in more than 20 countries on six continents. Australia is one of the countries that has especially embraced Glasser’s ideas.

Glasser became a board-certified psychiatrist in 1961, and while he was well known in the popular press, he was not embraced by his own field. Writing books like Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health (2003) may have something to do with that. Being progressive has a price. Yet, even though he was somewhat ignored within psychiatry, toward the end of his career he received a great deal of official appreciation. In 2003 Glasser received the Professional Development Award from the American Counseling Association for his significant contributions to the field of counseling. The following year the ACA conferred to him the Legend in Counseling Award for his development of reality therapy. In 2005, along with being one of the faculty for the esteemed Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, he was presented the prestigious Master Therapist designation by the American Psychotherapy Association. He received two honorary doctorates–one from the University of San Francisco in 1990 and the other from Pacific Union College in 2006.  And in May, 2013, Glasser was officially recognized by the California state senate for a lifetime of achievements and his meritorious service to humanity.

Glasser was preceded in death by his first wife, Naomi, and his son, Joe. He is survived by his wife, soul mate, and co-author, Carleen; and his daughter, Alice, and son, Martin; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; as well as his brother, Henry, and sister, Janet. He is survived, too, by the many who heard him talk and read his books and articles and who, in some small way, felt like they were his soul mate as well. To his loved ones and close friends, and to every one of his “survivors” — Here’s to a life of choice!


What could be added to this tribute to make it even better? What did I leave out?


Thank you to those of you who responded to the initial announcement of Bill’s passing away. Some very heartfelt and eloquent thoughts were expressed in those comments.


If you haven’t, I hope you’ll take a moment and sign up to follow The Better Plan blog. It’s also easy to register for WordPress, which then allows you to click on the LIKE button of blogs you appreciate. I think this would be especially good for the blogs about Glasser’s passing away. WordPress is the biggest of all blog sites and a blog like this one being LIKED by a large number of people would alert  a huge blogging community to the life and work of William Glasser.

I will miss you, Bill.

Bill Glasser, as we were watching a basketball game together.

Bill Glasser, as we were watching a basketball game together.

William Glasser passed away yesterday, August 23, at 6:30 PM. He died peacefully in the loving arms of his wife, Carleen. He was 88 years old.

I anticipated this day, his being gone, but it didn’t prepare me for the loss that I feel. He became more than a mentor to me. His ideas appealed to me at a deep level and ultimately changed the paradigm from which I view the world. That he and I were able to spend so much time together talking about his life and his views will always mean a great deal to me. In some ways, the biography that came out of those visits takes on even greater meaning now.

To a great extent, The Better Plan blog exists because of him. Scripture and other spiritual writers like Ellen White pointed toward a human behavior model of internal control, yet for some reason it was Bill Glasser that alerted me to the importance of the internal control model. It was my agnostic friend Bill Glasser that, in his own unique way, encouraged me to take another look at what Scripture and Ellen White have been saying all along. It was Bill who put me on the trail of the better plan.

For me, a light has gone out today. I feel a little bit more alone, a little bit more on my own. Grief is like that. It has its own agenda, it’s own clock. In time, the grief will lessen and I will see more clearly the many lights that his message ignited. Many besides me were affected by his ideas. As the creator of reality therapy and the architect of choice theory, Glasser meant a lot to a lot of people. That really is where I want my focus to be. Instead of dwelling on the light that has gone out, I want to think about the many lights that will begin to shine brighter. And by many lights I mean you and me and the potential of our modeling lives of strength and freedom.

In the coming days and months there will be time to say more. For now I am of the mind to reflect on Glasser’s effect on my life and cherish the time I had with him. My heart goes out to those who are especially feeling his passing–his immediate family and his close circle of friends and colleagues. We will miss him and there’s no getting around it.

I hope the media takes note of his passing and reminds people of what Glasser stood for and what he accomplished during his career. I would appreciate it if you would let me know if you see or hear something on the news or in the print media regarding William Glasser.  I feel blessed to have called him my friend.

Happy Birthday, Bill!

On Saturday, May 11, William Glasser turns 88 years of age. Since 1960, when his first book, Mental Health or Mental Illness?, was published, and even before when he began to give presentations to youth authority staff around the state of California, Glasser has been a distinctive, ground-breaking voice in the fields of mental health and education. Books like Reality Therapy (1965), Schools Without Failure (1969), Control Theory (1985), The Quality School (1990), and Choice Theory (1998) appealed to millions of readers and offered clear, reasonable approaches for those working with the mentally distressed, for counselors and therapists, for social workers, and for educators. Some of his best work turned out to be for schools. Millions of students have benefitted from his non-coercive management approach, an approach that improved the lives of teachers as well.

One of my favorite pictures of Bill, taken while we watched the Superbowl together.

One of my favorite pictures of Bill, taken while we watched the Superbowl together.

I became friends with Glasser in 2000, which led to our working closely together, beginning in 2003, on what would become his biography. I read most everything he wrote, all of his 23 books and many of his journal articles, and interviewed family members, friends, and colleagues about his career, however it was the almost 60 interviews that he and I did together that formed the backbone for the book. The timing of our work turned out to be important, as he was still strong and sharp as we looked back into his long and impressive career. To pick his brain on important topics in such a personal setting is a privilege I shall always treasure. The book (I think there is a good possibility it will be called William Glasser: Champion of Choice) should be available in a few months.

Taken of me and Glasser as I present him with a copy of my dissertation, which was a biographical study on the development of his ideas.

Taken of me and Glasser as I present him with a copy of my dissertation, which was a biographical study on the development of his ideas.


Something significant occurred within the psychiatric community over the last couple of weeks and it reminded me, in a roundabout way, of Glasser’s basic message. The “something significant” was that the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Dr. Thomas Insel, has come out against the long-awaited DSM-V. Rejecting the most recent version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), referred to as the bible of psychiatry, seems to admit what Glasser said for so many years, that it described symptoms, but didn’t define mental illness. People may act differently and even strangely, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their brain is diseased. Psychiatry and the psychiatric drug industry is desperate to discover the biological connection between behavior and disease in the brain, but as yet no connection has been determined.

William Glasser and Thomas Szasz at the 2005 Evolution of Psychotherapy conference. Glasser and Szasz were not close during their careers, but they did agree that there was no such thing as mental illness.

William Glasser and Thomas Szasz at the 2005 Evolution of Psychotherapy conference. Glasser and Szasz were not close during their careers, but they did agree that there was no such thing as mental illness.

A recently published book about how the DSM is compiled, The Book of Woe: The Making of the DSM and the Unmasking of Psychiatry (2013), states simply that “Psychiatric diagnosis is built on fiction and sold to the public as fact.” Gary Greenberg, the author of the book and a psychotherapist himself, reminds readers of what people like Glasser have been saying for a long time, that while the public seems to believe that psychiatric diagnosis is based on scientific data and comprehensive research there is still “not one biological test for a DSM disorder.”


My hope is that on this day, Glasser’s birthday, we will appreciate him for creating and refining such an empowering and hopeful explanation of how our brains work and why we behave the way we do. Rather than our being victims of a diseased brain, we can begin to take steps, however small, toward responsibility and happiness. For fifty years he has pointed the way to mental health, emphasizing the importance of the relationships with others in our lives and explaining the power and freedom of our choices. His ideas have meant a great deal to me personally and have added value to my life.

Thank you, Bill. May this day be special in every way!

Tough Love?

Reality Therapy cover]

“Patients want you to correct their irresponsible behavior,
but they want it to be done in the genuine spirit of helping them,
not to satisfy yourself by winning a power struggle.”
William Glasser

The above quote is from Reality Therapy, the book that propelled Glasser onto an international stage. While I am not a therapist the quote spoke to me as an educator, as I think students want something similar from us as principals and teachers. Students don’t mind being corrected, but not when it feels like they are losing a contest. Reality Therapy emphasized the idea of responsible vs. irresponsible behavior and Glasser became known for a get-tough approach, not only in psych wards and private practice offices, but in schools, too. Through Glasser’s writing and speaking, through advertisements in journals and magazines, and through word-of-mouth testimonials, educators became aware of his matter-of-fact toughness and it appealed to them.

As he saw, though, how teachers were latching onto the responsibility theme, and how they wanted to blame students for their irresponsible behavior, Glasser pulled back from his use of the word responsible. His “toughness” was always meant to be cradled in what he called involvement. Involvement was about a warm, caring relationship between two people, a meaningful connection between therapist and patient, or in our case, between principal and student. It may be that we need to correct a student who makes a mistake, or that we need to correct a faculty member who uses poor judgment, but this interaction should not become a contest between two people. The skill lies in our ability to confront without attempting to control; to correct while preserving the student’s or faculty member’s sense of freedom.

A spirit of wanting to feel in control and wanting to “win” interactions with others can run very deep in our personal way of being. Our lives are not easily compartmentalized and if we show up this way at school, chances are we will show up this way at home, too. Our spouse and our children may experience us in this mode on a regular basis. At least two bad things happen when we go into the control or contest mode. One, the focus becomes the contest, rather than the needed area of improvement. And two, the relationship is harmed. Whether between principal and student, husband and wife, or parent and child, a controlling interaction removes capital from a relationship bank account that is not that easily replaced. Over time a controlling approach can bankrupt even our most precious connections with loved ones.

It’s not that correction is bad. Correction is sometimes needed. The trick is staying in a place of love and empathy as we seek to maintain a necessary boundary. The apostle Peter came to understand this way of being and gently reminded us to –

“Care for the flock that God has entrusted you.
Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly
—not for what you will get out of it,
but because you are eager to serve God.
Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care,
but lead them by your own good example.
1 Peter 5:2,3

(This post first appeared as a contribution I made to a recent edition of Leading the Journey, an e-newsletter on excellence in leadership, which is being co-written and sponsored by Dr. Ed Boyatt, retired and former Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University, and Dr. Berit von Pohle, Director of Education for the Pacific Union Conference. I wrote it with school principals in mind, however I think it can apply to teachers and parents as well. To receive the Leading the Journey e-newsletter, send an email to

One day is ours — Today!


I want to give a shout-out to Gretchen Rubin and The Happiness Project (You can access her blog and website at  I receive a quotation about being happy every morning from The Happiness Project and one of these quotes very much resonated with choice theory. It went like this –

“There is almost one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time we have any power.”    Leo Tolstoy

Reality therapy is based on the belief that all problems are present problems. Something in our past may have influenced our behavior, but we can only deal with what’s happening in our lives right now. Choice theory states that the only person we can control is ourselves. Similarly, that control is always in the present, in the now, as Tolstoy would say it. William Glasser understood as well as anyone the importance of living in the present. The past is past, gone, nothing we can do to change it, and the future isn’t here yet, but we can affect the now, the present.

Glasser didn’t formulate reality therapy or choice theory from a spiritual perspective. He believed such views made sense and would best contribute to mental health, but his views weren’t based on scripture. At least he wasn’t aware of a scriptural tie-in. As it turned out, though, living life in the present is very scriptural. In the Sermon on the Mount, after explaining that His Father will give us everything we need, Jesus further assured us with, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

Commenting on Matthew 6:34, a little book called Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing encourages us to embrace the principle of today. Let these words sink into your heart, soak in them, be at peace.

   When we take into our hands the management of things with which we have to do, and depend upon our own wisdom for success, we are taking a burden which God has not given us, and are trying to bear it without His aid. We are taking upon ourselves the responsibility that belongs to God, and thus are really putting ourselves in His place. We may well have anxiety and anticipate danger and loss, for it is certain to befall us. But when we really believe that God loves us and means to do us good we shall cease to worry about the future. We shall trust God as a child trusts a loving parent. Then our troubles and torments will disappear, for our will is swallowed up in the will of God.

   Christ has given us no promise of help in bearing today the burdens of tomorrow. He has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9); but, like the manna given in the wilderness, His grace is bestowed daily, for the day’s need. Like the hosts of Israel in their pilgrim life, we may find morning by morning the bread of heaven for the day’s supply.

   One day alone is ours, and during this day we are to live for God. For this one day we are to place in the hand of Christ, in solemn service, all our purposes and plans, casting all our care upon Him, for He careth for us. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” “In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 30:15.         Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 100, 101

One day alone is ours – today!

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Mama G

Reviewing the edits in the Glasser biography this past week, I was reminded of story that took place on Glasser’s first day of his first job. His non-traditional views may have bothered some at UCLA’s School of Psychiatry and at the last second an offer for him to become one of the teaching faculty was rescinded. With a young family to support he needed a job and followed up on an opening at a prison school for girls in Ojai, California, 65 miles one way from where he lived. The Ventura School for Girls needed a psychiatrist and, although not a prestigious position, Glasser jumped at the chance to work there.

Bill, 1950ish                                                                                                                           William Glasser, shortly before he began at the Ventura School in 1956.

Some might think that the famous William Glasser went in there and turned that school around, but that was not necessarily the case. For one thing, he wasn’t famous yet. For another, his beliefs and ideas were just forming. As it turned out, the Ventura School for Girls would have an incredible impact on the formation of the principles of reality therapy, which I shared in the last blog, and in preparing him to see the importance of the principles of control theory. He did help the school, a lot, but he is quick to point out just how much the school helped him. He didn’t start working there with a full understanding of the need for a warm, caring relationship between the staff and the girls, nor had he embraced the idea of punishment being counterproductive, but he witnessed first hand how these elements worked and how much they mattered. This brief excerpt from the book gives us an inkling as to how the school could have been such an important part of his life.

     On his very first day at the Ventura School, Glasser was a part of a significant incident that revealed the impact the school was going to have on him. He had arrived a little late, but Mrs. Perry encouraged him to go down to one of the cottages and meet the housemother and the girls. Since he had gotten there late, it was the afternoon and the girls were either already in their cottage or were drifting back from classes. One of Miss Perry’s assistants took Glasser to one of the cottages and introduced him to Mama G. The housemother titles often started with the word Mama and then the first letter of their last name. The assistant headed back to the office, and shortly thereafter a new girl was brought to the cottage. She had just arrived from Norwalk, California. Glasser remembered it like this:
“She came in and Mama G said hello to her. Mama G sat in the day room with the other girls, except she had a little table, about 24” by 24”, which she sat behind so she could write notes on it and things like that. They had certain paperwork they had to do. And, the girl, a big girl, I mean, 5’8”, like not an ounce of fat on her, must have weighed about 150 or 160 pounds, I mean she was a tough looking girl, and she was angry.
I’ve never seen anyone as angry as her. I’d never seen anyone like any of these girls before. I mean, they were all full of tattoos, which I’d never seen before, self-tattooed with India ink. But anyway, this girl, I don’t remember if she had any tattoos on her, but she just started to curse Mama G and threaten her, and I, you know, I knew there was nothing I could do, but I was still nervous. Cuz this woman, I don’t think Mama G weighed more than, you know, 80 or 90 pounds, 4’10” maybe, and 75 years old. I mean, she was a frail old lady, and this girl is cursin’ her. And as I say, the other girls—‘cuz by that time I was one of the girls—the other girls were watchin’ and I was watchin’, too. They seemed interested, but no one seemed nervous or upset, you know, as if this is not such a big deal. And so she must have cursed the woman—Mama G, I mean—she must have let her have it for 30 or 40 seconds, which is an eternity.
And then Mama G got up from her little table, ‘cuz the girl was kind of leaning on her little table and cursing her right in the face, you know, threatening her, and Mama G got up and walked around the table, around the big girl that was standing there leaning on it, put her arm around the girl’s waist, which was pretty tall for her, you know, and gave the girl a hug and in a very sweet voice said, “Honey, is something bothering you?”
And, then, the girl, dealt with such kindness and total lack of, you know, being angry or punishment, you know, as we would say now, no external control at all, she just started to cry.  She cried and cried, and the tears ran down her face, and Mama G had to take a box of Kleenex and kind of settle her down, and the other girls, including me, wanted to help her, and Mama G dragged her over and said, ‘Now here are the girls you’re going to be with. It’s a nice cottage. These are nice girls. They knew you were coming, and they’re looking forward to meeting you, and this is Dr. Glasser, our new psychiatrist.’ And, I did talk to her a little bit. She wanted to talk to me, and I talked to all the girls, and then I had to leave.”
One of the keys to Glasser’s counseling approach is recognizing the need for the therapist to establish a relationship with the client, to become involved in an understanding of the client’s life and challenges. On his first day at the Ventura School, Glasser witnessed how powerful it can be when the relationship is focused on first.

Mama G sounds like a very special lady to me. So much confidence combined with so much tenderness. She knew that things were going to work out and that love was going to help them work out sooner than any of the other options available. Mama G and God have a lot in common. It is powerful when relationships are valued in the way Mama G valued them. Glasser learned something that day he never forgot. He then passed it on to you and me. And now we can pass it on to others.

The Life Principles of Reality Therapy

This week has been spring break at PUC, but life has kept moving pretty quickly none the less. One of the things I have been working on this week is the Glasser biography. An editor had been working on the manuscript for over a month, making corrections on grammar and sentence structure, deleting what she felt was unnecessary, and commenting on areas that lacked clarity. I received the edited manuscript last weekend and have been carefully going over the corrections and suggestions since then. I thought she did a very good job. I also thought I was pretty good with the English language, however it is a bit humbling to have your work carefully edited by someone who knows what they are doing. After reviewing her edits I re-wrote sections that she felt needed it, defended anecdotes she felt should be taken out, and re-evaluated some of the ways I characterized certain events and people. Today I sent back to her a copy of the manuscript in which I edited her edits. It is actually a rich process. I think within the next month I will be able to answer the question, “When is your book coming out?”

Going through the entire book in a few days has brought back into the forefront of my thinking a lot of Glasser’s ideas. For instance, there is a table in the book that summarizes the principles of reality therapy, the therapeutic approach for which Glasser became famous. These principles are really quite powerful. Just in case one or two of them have slipped your mind, I list them here –

Principles of Reality Therapy

Make a PLAN

Although Glasser did not come at these from an intentionally spiritual perspective I think there is something very Christlike about these principles. While they were initially designed to guide the process between therapist and client, Glasser came to view them as a way of life, a set of guiding principles from which anyone could benefit. In other words, the principles could help a therapist working with a patient, but they could also help a person working through a life challenge on his own.

Positive involvement is about the need for positive relationships based on a warm, caring regard for another person. Whether counselor and client, husband and wife, supervisor and employee, or teacher and student, positive involvement is essential. In my next blog I will share a story from the biography that exemplifies the principle of involvement. The story happened to Glasser on the first day of his first job.

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