What is Reality Therapy?


Approximately 20 million people in the United States struggle with at least one substance use disorder. There are various treatment options available to these individuals to help them overcome addiction and maintain their sobriety. One of these treatment options is reality therapy, an effective therapy model used to change people’s behavior and outlook.

Many treatment facilities offer reality therapy as part of a comprehensive continuum of care. Below, learn about what reality therapy is in detail, how it works and how it helps in addiction treatment.

Defining Reality Therapy

Reality-based therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. This type of therapy focuses on the client as a whole and aims to improve their current relationships or circumstances while staying grounded in the present. While we may not be in control of how we feel, we’re able to control how we think and behave. Reality therapy aims to fix avoidance behaviors that result in psychological problems that can influence addiction.

Reality therapy hinges on the idea that the most crucial need for any individual is a feeling of love and belonging. By fostering connections, individuals can fulfill all other basic needs. People can ultimately improve their lives by taking control and learning to make positive decisions.

Examples of Reality Therapy Techniques

The goal of reality therapy is to alter an individual’s behavior to inspire positive changes. When a person starts working with a therapist, they might experience various techniques, including:

  • Self-evaluation: As individuals work through therapy, they’ll work to identify current behaviors affecting their current situation. Identifying these behaviors helps establish where a person currently stands and what changes they can make. This technique will provide a benchmark of an individual’s progress on multiple occasions.
  • Planning: Once the evaluation is complete, a therapist will help an individual develop an action plan. The plan will detail new actions or behaviors to help the individual achieve their goals. The plan should be specific, attainable and focused on positive changes.
  • Reframing: A therapist will help reframe negative thoughts or concepts more positively, switching the focus from problem-focused to solution-focused. By remaining positive, the work becomes more about finding solutions than staying stuck on the challenges.
  • Behavioral practice: Reality therapy focuses on changing behaviors, and a therapist might have you practice new behaviors in a session. Some therapists will have a person talk about these behaviors and how they would react in certain situations or act out scenarios to ensure the individual is properly prepared when the situation occurs in reality.

Regardless of the technique, all forms of reality therapy focus on:

  • Staying grounded in the present.
  • Avoiding discussions about the past.
  • Improving current relationships and connections.
  • Eliminating negative thoughts that influence negative behaviors.
  • Focusing on positive behavioral alternatives.

Where Is Reality Therapy Used?

Reality therapy can be used in various situations, including individual therapy, family counseling, education, management and marriage counseling. Every person has experiences, relationships and beliefs that influence their behaviors. Reality therapy works by helping individuals focus on their current behaviors in their situation and how they can make changes to fulfill their basic needs for a happy and healthy life.

When people participate in reality therapy, they’ll meet with a therapist who will help individuals define what they want to change about their current situation. Once a person’s true desires are uncovered, current behaviors are examined to determine if they are helping or hurting a person’s chances of achieving their desires.

These behaviors are evaluated to create a realistic picture of how an individual works towards their desires and what changes can be made to inspire a positive outcome. Positive behaviors replace their negative alternatives. The final step is to create a plan using these positive alternatives to achieve the individual’s goals.

One of the most crucial steps of reality therapy is the individual’s commitment to the necessary behavioral changes. They must take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences of their behaviors. It’s essential to remain encouraged during this process. A person’s thought patterns are undergoing changes, which may be challenging at first. However, persistence is necessary to sustain behavioral changes and see real improvement in their situation, whether they’re using reality therapy to improve themselves, their marriage or their family.

How Reality Therapy Is Used in Substance Abuse Rehabs

While reality therapy can be used in various circumstances, it is often used to treat substance use disorders. Reality therapy is focused on influencing positive behavioral changes to achieve the desired outcome. When a person enters a reality-based therapy program for addiction, they’ll analyze the thought patterns that influenced their addictive behaviors.

Some people started using substances because they felt a lack of control in their lives. Others may use substances to cope with uncomfortable emotions or feelings, such as grief, loneliness or pain. Reality therapy helps people accept what they cannot control and improves upon what they can. With reality therapy, people with substance use disorders have the option to take responsibility for their past behaviors and focus on moving forward.

Many people who struggle with substance abuse have lost their personal relationships or they’re strained and uncomfortable. Reality therapy will focus on rebuilding these connections to foster a sense of belonging, which is essential for the success of reality therapy. If a person feels loved or as if they belong, they’ll be able to meet their other basic needs and turn away from substance abuse.

Reality therapy is often used alongside other clinical treatment methods. Once a person has detoxed from a substance, they may require various levels of care to improve their symptoms and sustain sobriety. Rehab facilities often offer a continuum of care that includes various treatment programs that are personalized based on an individual’s needs.

Reality therapy can also be a part of a dual diagnosis treatment program. A therapist can help address the substance misuse or abuse and the underlying mental health condition that may have been a contributing factor to the addiction. Reality therapy is just one type of treatment offered at substance abuse rehabs to treat addiction and the underlying cause.

Contact Crest View Recovery Center to Learn More About Reality Therapy

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. At Crest View Recovery Center, we offer various forms of treatment, including our reality-based therapy model, to help you overcome your struggles and improve your quality of life. We can meet you at any stage in the recovery process, whether you’re just starting out or looking for additional support.

Our goal is to facilitate change and improve your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Our individualized treatment programs allow you to get the most from our services at the greatest benefit to you. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction recovery programs.

Related Posts