Famous Psychologists: William Glasser
William Glasser, M.D. is an American psychiatrist born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1925, and developer of Reality
Therapy and Choice Theory. He is notable for having developed a cause and effect theory that explains human behavior.
The following has been adapted from the Wikipedia website.
His ideas which focus on personal choice, personal responsibility and personal transformation are considered controversial by mainstream psychiatrists who focus instead on classifying psychiatric syndromes (and who often prescribe psychotropic
medications to treat mental disorders. Dr. Glasser is also notable because he has used his theories to influence broader social issues such as education, management, marriage, and recently advocating mental health as a public health issue, to name a few.
Last, but not least, he is notable because he warns the general public about his profession and the dangers therein.
William Glasser was educated at Case Western Reserve University (Ohio, U.S.), where he received a B.S in 1945 and a M.A. in clinical psychology in 1948. He received his M.D. in 1953 and completed a psychiatric residency between 1954
and 1957 at UCLA and at the Veterans Administration Hospital of Los Angeles. He was board-certified in psychiatry in 1961. The University of San Francisco awarded Dr. Glasser an honorary degree in 1990. In 2003 he received the American Counseling Association's
Professional Development Award; in 2004, the ACA's "A Legend in Counseling Award;" in 2005 the Master Therapist designation by the American Psychotherapy Association and the Life Achievement Award by the International Center for the Study of
Psychiatry and Psychology.
A practicing psychiatrist, he has also authored and co-authored numerous books on mental health, counseling, and the improvement of schools, teaching, and several publications advocating a public health approach to mental health versus
the prevailing "medical"
During his early years as a psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in LA, he met Dr. G. L. Harrington, an older psychiatrist who Glasser credits as his "mentor."
Glasser founded The Institute for Reality Therapy in 1967, which was renamed The Institute for Control Theory, Reality Therapy and Quality Management in 1994 and later The William Glasser Institute in 1996. The institute is located in Chatsworth, California,
and has branch institutes throughout the world.
By the 1970s Dr. Glasser called his body of work Control Theory. By 1996, the theoretical structure evolved into a comprehensive body of work renamed Choice Theory, mainly because of the confusion with perceptual control theory by William
T. Powers, developed in the 1950s.
Application in Classrooms and Similar Settings
Application in classrooms and similar settings (adapted from Wik.ed: William Glasser website.
In Glasser’s book Control theory (1986), he expresses his view on current classroom management as, “We are far too concerned with discipline, with how to ‘make’ students follow rules, and not enough concerned
with providing the satisfying education that would make our overconcern with discipline unnecessary.
Due to this, his Control theory attempts to explain why students are performing less in school as well as makes changes to the structure of the classroom to fix it.
Glasser views that all student choices are based on five basic and universal needs. These needs are: survival, love/belonging, freedom, fun, and power (William Glasser Institute, 2005). He maintains in his Choice Theory (1998) that
95% of all behavior problems in the classroom are students attempting to fulfill their need for power. The most important is the need to be loved and belong since Glasser feels that having that close relationship is essential to meeting any of the other
needs. Thus, he has listed the seven habits that teachers should have in the classroom. These Seven Caring Habits are:
6) Respecting; and
7) Negotiating differences,
while also listing his Seven Deadly Habits:
6) Punishing; and
7) Bribing or rewarding to control.
When dealing with misbehaving students, Glasser has teachers employ the methods of Reality Therapy. The main part of this approach is to avoid past actions and force the student to respond to what they are doing, what need they are
fulfilling by doing it, and what they are going to do to correct this behavior. These “what"
questions avoid the negative teacher reactions defined in the Seven Deadly Habits while forcing responsibility on the students. Glasser then has the teacher make a contract with the student that the student creates revolving around what will be done to
correct the problem. Glasser feels this is necessary because it forces the student, who has become so lost in the symptom causing the behavior, to “reconnect"
with what the student actually needs.
Reinforcement is not a part of Glasser’s overall approach, as he feels any consequence of an action, whether positive or negative, should be the natural one instead of teacher-given. If a teacher were to interfere, this would
be letting “the student of the hook. The use of punishment is also dismissed as effective management because of its inabilities to provide the student with responsibility and because he feels that it has been proven ineffective by the American judicial
Glasser’s method of confronting students about their behaviors leads into what he feels is extremely important in the classroom: the Class Meeting. During these meetings, students and teacher sit in a circle facing each other
to talk through problems. The teacher leads the class through three possible types of meetings. There is the open ended, educational, diagnostic, and problem solving, all of which allow the students to confront others about problems they see in a mature
and clam manner. At the end of the meeting, the teacher and students should have a plan that is agreed upon by all just like the contract created in the teacher-student situation.
There are 20 schools throughout the country that have adopted Glasser's philosophy and created what he calls a Quality School. The criteria for Quality Schools are as follows:
1. Relationships are based upon trust and respect, and all discipline problems, not incidents, have been eliminated.
2. Total Learning Competency is stressed and an evaluation that is below competence or what is now a "B" has been eliminated. All schooling as defined by Dr. William Glasser has been replaced by useful education.
3. All students do some Quality Work each year that is significantly beyond competence. All such work receives an "A" grade or higher, such as an "A+".
4. Students and staff are taught to use Choice Theory in their lives and in their work in school. Parents are encouraged to participate in study groups to become familiar with the ideas of Dr. William Glasser.
5. Students do better on state proficiency tests and college entrance examinations. The importance of these tests is emphasized in the school.
6. Staff, students, parents and administrators view the school as a joyful place.
For more information about William Glasser and mental health treatment, please click on the websites listed below.
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