What Is It?
Reality therapy is a client-centered form of cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on improving present relationships and circumstances while avoiding discussion of past events. It teaches that we cannot control how we feel, we can control how we think and behave. This approach is created around the idea that it’s very important that every person feels loved, needs to be loved and to feel as though they belong.
Reality therapy is a method that emphasizes the accountability and current behavior of individuals. Reality therapy promotes metacognition. Through increasing accountability for the individual’s behavior, RT improves hope by clarifying how and why to choose options that determine the direction of their life.
Five Basic Needs
Reality therapy is based on the work of psychiatrist William Glasser in the mid-1960s. It is built on the idea that everyone is seeking to fulfill five basic needs. Mental health issues arise when any of these are not being met. The five basic needs are:
- Power, or a sense of self-worth and achievement
- Love and belonging, or being part of a family or community of loved ones
- Freedom, or independence
- Fun, which includes a sense of satisfaction or pleasure
- Survival, or the comfort of knowing that one’s basic needs—food, shelter, and sex—are met.
When one or more of these needs go unfilled, the resulting problems occur in the present time and in current relationships. So, it makes sense to think and act in the present time. All of our basic needs are met only by building up strong connections with others and having a sense of purpose.
Metacognition is “thinking about thinking.” It is becoming aware of one’s awareness and higher-order thinking skills. Metacognition can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or problem-solving.
This theory is widely used in the treatment of addictive disorders (such as drugs, sex, food, work). Reality therapists believe that drug addicts choose their behavior as a way to solve the failure caused by unpleasant relations.
Getting control over their choices and accepting responsibility should be the subject of the treatment. By modifying different psychological aspects of an individual, reality therapy helps them to face the realities of their behavior and choices and recognize that they are responsible for their miseries and misfortunes.
The goal of reality therapy is to help people take control of improving their lives by learning to make better choices.
How Does It Work?
Reality therapy focuses on present issues and current behavior as they affect you now and will affect your future. Little or no time is spent delving into the past. Since reality therapy is solution-oriented, you will examine how your behavior is interfering with your ability to form stronger relationships and figure out what kind of changes you can make in your behavior to get what you want out of life.
An individual can learn how to reconnect with people from whom they have become disconnected. If you try to make excuses or blame someone else for your behavior, the therapist will show you how that kind of thinking results in behavior that prevents you from improving your relationships and reaching your goals.
You will have the opportunity to learn and practice new behavior in the privacy of the therapist’s office before you employ them in your outside life.
When one or more of these needs go unfilled, the resulting problems occur in the present time and in current relationships. So, it makes sense to think and act in the present time.
Reality therapy is also “choice therapy.” Your every behavior is choice. The principle that humans choose to behave in certain ways and that these choices can help or hamper your ability to satisfy essential needs and meet individual goals.
You can’t change or control others, so the only sensible approach to solving problems is to control yourself and your own behavior by making the choices that help you achieve your life goals. Things can happen to you that are out of your control, but even then, you still choose your responses to them.
The Three R’s of Reality Therapy
The three guiding principles of Reality Therapy are:
- Realism—If you choose reality therapy, be prepared to discuss solutions to your problems realistically. That might mean facing hard facts and letting go of impossible dreams. You need to ground yourself in the reality of who you are, how the world works and the reality of what you can do right now to improve your life and relationships.
- Responsibility—Responsibility is key in reality therapy because you can only change your world when you understand what others are responsible for and what is only yours to do. You can’t change someone else’s behaviors. You can only change your own. To do that, you must take responsibility for both the choices you make and the consequences that result.
- Right and Wrong—Reality therapy isn’t just about getting what you desire. It’s about satisfying your needs in ways that don’t infringe on the rights of others who are also trying to meet their needs. You know what’s right and wrong by the way you feel about it.
Reality Therapy and Substance Abuse Treatment
Substance abuse is one of the most outstanding socio-psychological hazards that can easily wreck one’s personal, family, and social life. In recent years there have been many developments in the field of substance abuse disorder treatments such as pharmaceutical, psychological and social interventions.
Treatment goals emphasize three items:
- Discontinuing physical dependence on drugs
- Discontinuing psychological dependence on drugs and psychosocial rehabilitation
- Reducing the non-physical outcomes of abuse, like anxiety and depression
In William Glasser’s Reality Therapy method, he insists on confronting reality, taking responsibility and morally judging right and wrong behavior. This approach emphasizes the individual’s freedom and responsibility and declares behavior as a responsible choice that is made by the individual and significantly affects his mental health. The difference between healthy and unhealthy individuals lies in their sense of responsibility, living in the present, making informed choices, the power to control problems and being aware of their true needs.
Dr. Robert Wubbolding, director of the Center for Reality Therapy in Cincinnati has adapted the reality therapy approach specifically for working with addictions. His therapy includes the following components:
- Asking the client about his wants and helping him to clarify his goals for therapy and for himself
- Asking the client what he is doing now
- Encouraging the client to conduct a self-evaluation about the effectiveness and appropriateness of his behaviors
- Focusing on a commitment to a plan of action
A study of substance abusers was conducted using a self-goals questionnaire. They were questioned after two, four, and six weeks of therapy. The changes reported by the addicts were increased self-esteem, increased awareness toward taking responsibility for one’s own behavior and learning how to communicate through friendly methods. Therapists believe that the basic problem with most clients is their unsatisfactory or unsuccessful relationships with the people they need.
Emotion regulation is a major and important incentive for substance abuse; in fact, substance abusers associate their abuse with the substance’s soothing nature. Emotion regulation can then be defined as the physiological behavioral, and cognitive process which enables individuals to regulate experiences and express emotions.
Studies have indicated that individuals incapable of controlling emotional excitation will most likely become permanent substance abusers. Low levels of emotion regulation caused by the inability to effectively manage and confront emotions play a role in the onset of addiction.
Addicts face many problems when regulating their emotional states. The problem with most addicts is that they avoid inner experiences and do not accept or fully experience their feelings. Mood disorders and most commonly depression are among the most common first-hand disorders associated with addiction, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
By using the metacognition training of reality therapy addicts learn to become aware of their feelings and fully experience them. Unless that happens, successful treatment cannot be expected.
Personal Photo Album
In Dr. Glasser’s opinion, humans create images in their minds to fulfill their innate needs. These images are collected in a personal photo album. The photo album is the world in which we live and in which we fulfill our dreams. He names this world as the world of desires, or the qualitative world. This includes expectations of success and opportunities for fulfilling our needs.
He also believes that the total behavior consists of 4 elements:
In reality therapy, the treatment is actually a type of training that strives to teach the individual, in a short time, that he or she should have learned during natural development.
If you or a loved one are dealing with a substance abuse or addiction situation, you would benefit from this therapy. Start some cognition therapy here and now. You chose to read this article. Be aware and honest about your situation right now. Crest View Recovery Center can offer you a safe haven in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina while you pursue your real dreams creating your personal photo album.
At Crest View, we work to improve the lives of our clients and their families. There is help for you through individualized treatment and holistic approaches. Call us to speak with a professional now at (866) 327-2505. You can also contact us here.