Unlock the Power of Now: Reality Therapy Based Practice

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By The Mindful Leader Team

What is Reality Therapy? 

Reality Therapy, developed by psychiatrist William Glasser in the 1960s, is a powerful approach that helps individuals take responsibility for their choices and actions, ultimately leading to improved mental well-being and relationships. This article aims to provide an overview of Reality Therapy, its key principles, and its application in various aspects of life, as well as a self-guided practice to explore how to apply this approach in personal lives or work.

William Glasser (1925-2013) was an influential American psychiatrist who challenged traditional psychotherapeutic methods. Disillusioned with the conventional Freudian approach, which he saw as overly focused on symptoms and exploring unconscious processes, Glasser developed Reality Therapy in the 1960s. He believed that the root of most psychological distress was unmet needs and poor choices, rather than unresolved past conflicts or mental illness.

Reality Therapy is deeply intertwined with Glasser's later development of Choice Theory, which posits that almost all behavior is chosen and replaces external control psychology. According to Choice Theory, the key to fulfilling one's needs is by making better choices within the five basic needs: survival, belonging, achievement, independence, and fun.

Key Principles

Reality Therapy is grounded in several key principles that guide individuals toward making positive changes in their lives. These principles include focusing on the present moment, emphasizing personal choice and responsibility, recognizing the importance of satisfying relationships, and utilizing the WDEP system for effective problem-solving.

  1. Focus on the present moment
    Reality Therapy emphasizes the importance of focusing on the present rather than dwelling on past events or future worries. By directing attention to the here and now, individuals can better assess their current situation and take action to improve it. This principle encourages people to recognize that they can make changes in their lives, regardless of what has happened in the past.

  2. Emphasis on personal choice and responsibility
    A core tenet of Reality Therapy is that individuals are responsible for their choices and actions. This principle encourages people to recognize that they have control over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and that they can choose to respond to situations in a way that aligns with their goals and values. Individuals can feel empowered to make positive life changes by accepting personal responsibility.

  3. Importance of satisfying relationships
    Reality Therapy recognizes that fulfilling relationships are essential to meeting one's basic needs and achieving well-being. This principle emphasizes the importance of developing and maintaining strong, supportive connections with others. By building satisfying relationships, individuals can create a sense of belonging, love, and support to help them navigate life's challenges and achieve their goals.

  4. The WDEP system (Wants, Doing, Evaluation, and Planning)
    The WDEP system is a practical problem-solving framework used in Reality Therapy to help individuals identify their needs, evaluate their current behaviors, and create a change plan. The four components of the WDEP system are:
  • Wants: Identifying what an individual desires or needs in their life.
  • Doing: Examining the current actions and behaviors that the individual is engaging in to meet their wants.
  • Evaluation: Assessing whether the current behaviors are effectively meeting the individual's needs and moving them closer to their goals.
  • Planning: Developing a specific, achievable plan to change ineffective behaviors and replace them with more effective strategies to meet one's needs and achieve one's goals.

By utilizing the WDEP system, individuals can gain clarity about their desires, evaluate the effectiveness of their current approach, and create a roadmap for making positive changes in their lives.

RT Practice

Set aside dedicated time and space to begin this self-guided reality therapy exercise. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit and reflect without interruptions. Gather your materials, including a journal and a pen.

Begin with an Awareness of Breath or Focused Attention mindfulness meditation, or whatever practice best supports you in settling into a more focused and clear state.

After the mindfulness meditation, turn to your journal and respond to the following prompts. 

  1. Identifying current challenges and desires (Wants): What are the main challenges you are currently facing? What do you want to achieve or change in your life?
  2. Reflecting on current actions and behaviors (Doing): What actions are you taking to address your challenges and reach your goals? Are these behaviors helpful or unhelpful?
  3. Evaluating the effectiveness of current strategies (Evaluation): How well are your current strategies working? Are they bringing you closer to your goals and desires, or are they holding you back?
  4. Creating a change plan (Planning): Based on your evaluation, what changes can you make to your actions and behaviors to more effectively meet your needs and achieve your goals? Create a specific, achievable plan for implementing these changes.

After completing the journaling prompts, reflect on your insights and create an action plan for integrating these changes into your daily life.

Influence and Importance:

Reality Therapy remains a vital and widely applied therapeutic approach, influencing various fields beyond traditional psychotherapy. Its emphasis on choice, responsibility, and practical aspects of dealing with present problems makes it a versatile tool in mental health treatment, education, management, and personal development.


  • Empowerment and taking control of one's life
  • Practical, actionable strategies for problem-solving
  • Improving relationships and interpersonal connections
  • Enhancing educational and workplace environments
  • Fostering personal growth and self-understanding

Final Thoughts

Reality Therapy's enduring relevance and broad applicability across different areas of life underscore its value. Its focus on present choices, personal responsibility, and the practical pursuit of fulfilling relationships offers a compelling framework for understanding and improving human behavior. By exploring and applying the principles of Reality Therapy, individuals can empower themselves to make positive changes and lead more satisfying lives.

We hope this article has provided a valuable introduction to Reality Therapy and its potential applications in your work and life. We invite you to share your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments below. Have you tried applying Reality Therapy principles in your own life? What challenges have you faced, and what successes have you achieved? Your input and perspectives help create a rich and informative discussion, benefiting both yourself and other readers on their journey toward personal growth and empowerment.

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