Dr. Glasser



 Dr. William Glasser

 Dr. Glasser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1967, he founded The Institute for Reality Therapy. Since that time, over 75,000 people worldwide have taken Intensive Training to gain knowledge on how to apply his ideas in their professional life. They have discovered that by using choice theory, their personal relationships have improved as well.

Although Dr. Glasser is retired from the speaking circuit, he remains interested in all the Institute training that is occurring worldwide.

Some of his many accomplishments are as follows:

  • listed in Who’s Who in America since the 1970s;
  • 1990 - awarded  an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa from the University of San Francisco;
  • 2003 - presented with the ACA Professional Development Award recognizing the significant contributions made to the field of counseling;
  • 2004 - presented with the "A Legend in Counseling Award" by the ACA;
  • January - 2005 presented with the prestigious Master Therapist designation by the American Psychotherapy Association; and finally,
  • 2005 - presented with the Life Achievement Award by the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology for his enormous influence as a psychotherapist and author.

Dr. William Glasser Eulogy


William Glasser

On August 23, 2013 Dr. William Glasser died peacefully in his home surrounded by his wife Carleen and his son Martin. He had been in a state of declining health for several years and had been retired for four years.


He will always be remembered for founding reality therapy. His groundbreaking book Reality Therapy, published in 1965, created a stir among professional people. This book was the result of his experience and research in a mental hospital and a correctional institution. He described how he believed people chose their behavior and could therefore alter it. Even though he was a psychiatrist the psychiatry profession did not readily accept his work. But counselors, psychologists, social workers and educators welcomed it enthusiastically and began implementing it in schools, clinics and correctional institutions. As time passed Dr. Glasser developed an educational reform program now known as "The Glasser Quality School".


For 50 years Dr. Glasser traveled throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia lecturing to large groups of professional people and others who wished to assist their clients more effectively or who wished to improve their own lives. As time went by he added a theoretical basis to the practical delivery system. He called the theory "choice theory" and described it as the train track for the train, reality therapy. Choice theory provides the validation for the application of his ideas to education, parenting, corrections, addictions and all human relationships.


In 1974 he developed a certification process in reality therapy. Since that time, thousands of people have taken training programs and been certified in reality therapy through the William Glasser Institute. At the present time this program exists in over 20 countries and on six continents.


In his many books, lectures and conversations he always stressed the importance of human relationships as central to effective mental health. As a visionary he wanted to teach his system to the world. As a practical service provider he always demonstrated his method in his teaching by asking members of the audience to present him with difficult situations. He frequently said, "Give me your toughest clients" and immediately related to them with empathy, firmness and most of all with his eye-twinkling humor.


Reality therapy and its theoretical basis choice theory are now represented in most counseling textbooks and are taught in counseling and psychotherapy courses. His system has gained respect and prestige as a scientifically proven methodology applied to persons from cultures around the world.


He was a frequent presenter at American Counseling Association conferences delivering keynote addresses. He especially enjoyed talking to students and practitioners in the exhibit hall while spending hours each day answering questions and autographing books. In 2004 he was pleased to receive the Legend in Counseling Award for his development of reality therapy presented by the American Counseling Association.


Beginning in 1989 he served as a member of the distinguished faculty at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference sponsored by the Milton Erickson Foundation and which assembled "the pioneers in the psychological profession." He took pride in his provocative approach to the world of human relationships even to the point of stating that most long-term psychological problems are in fact relationship problems.


His most recent professional recognition came to him on May 11, 2013, when the State Senate of California recognized him for a lifetime of achievement. They stated the following:


"WHEREAS, Intelligent and articulate, aware and involved, Dr. William Glasser is a fine example of a public-spirited citizen willing to assume the responsibilities of leadership, and through his remarkable personal and professional achievements, he has become a legendary figure who is admired by people throughout the State of California and beyond; now, therefore, be it


RESOLVED BY SENATORS CAROL LIU AND LONI HANCOCK, That they recognize and thank Dr. William Glasser for a lifetime of achievements and meritorious service to humanity, and convey sincere best wishes that his indomitable efforts will continue in the years ahead."


On a more intimate level still in the minds of some members of the William Glasser Institute and of major significance to all members of the William Glasser International was the message from Bea Dolan to Bill at the 1990 International Conference, the silver anniversary of the publication of Reality Therapy. She had been the superintendent of the Ventura School and sent the following touching tribute to Dr. Glasser emphasizing human relationships:


"We at the Ventura School started every treatment program the department had: citizens' advisory groups, ward advisory committees, small and large group counseling, off-campus services, etc. And what did we get – each other! A reward beyond compare."
Quite recently, a woman approached him at his home and begged him for advice for how to deal with her 3 year-old son. He paused for a long time and then reached deep down inside his soul and gave her 2 suggestions: "Always treat him as if he is good." And "Set up circumstances where he can only succeed." These wise words could serve as his suggestions for all counselors. They represent for us a worldview, an attitude toward clients and his perception of all human beings. These two sentiments transcend a particular counseling system in that they summarize his legacy.


We, his followers and members of his organization, still consider him friend, family, mentor, colleague, visionary and exemplary human being. Rest in peace, good friend. You will always be with us and we, your entire institute, pledge to continue your work and to teach your life changing ideas.


Submitted by: Bob Wubbolding, Linda Harshman, Georgellen Hofhine and Al Katz