This concludes the paper that I presented on Reality Therapy; finally.
Glasser’s Reality Therapy suggests the proper function of any treatment is to provide a warm, disciplined atmosphere. The patient must be taught that people can find happiness only for themselves. No one can make another happy for long unless he becomes more responsible. Without responsibility, deep-seated satisfaction is not feasible. And, the patient should not be allowed to blame their unhappiness on others. This excuse may make him feel good briefly but it also evades responsibility. We break the law not because we are unhappy but irresponsible. Therefore, unhappiness is not a cause but a companion. Some parents learn from bitter experience that they cannot purchase happiness for an irresponsible child. A car, for instance, only extends the scope of irresponsibility and more deterioration.
Therapy should include all aspects of the patient’s present life. Discuss his own personal ideas of right and wrong as they relate to interests, hopes, fears, opinions, and values. To open up his life is to talk about new horizons and make him aware of life beyond his difficulties. Anything is grist for therapy discussion: politics, plays, books, movies, sports, hobbies, finances, health, marriage, sex, and religion are all possible subjects. This allows the patient to test the opinions of the therapist on many subjects and introduces a more responsible attitude toward most facets of life.
However, we should never sympathize with or excuse his behavior. And his irresponsible behavior is never justified, no matter how much he may have suffered at the hands of others. It is a waste of time to discuss past errors. The present is the critical task in making him the responsible person he can become.
The therapist cannot get involved with the patient unless he is different from everyone else in the patient’s life. A person feels inferior when he tells of his failures and misfortunes unless he is closely involved with the listener. Conversely, in Reality Therapy we rarely ask why but what. What are you doing; not why are you doing it. All the reasons in the world for why he drinks will not lead an alcoholic to stop. When the patient admits that his behavior is irresponsible, the last phase, or learning, begins. When the delinquent learns the value of working and the good feelings that accompany responsible action, therapy is approaching an end. Reality may be painful, harsh, or dangerous and changes slowly. But all we can hope for is to do it right and enjoy the pleasure or pain that follows with being responsible.