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The Magic Behind Reality Therapy

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Reality therapy was developed by Dr. William Glasser in 1965 while he worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles. It is a form of therapy that is based on choice theory, which postulates that an individual’s life is the direct result of the choices they make. Choice theory rejects the notion that we are passive agents within our lives, meaning that life occurs to us without our intervention and that all of our behaviors are driven by our needs for survival, love, belong, power, freedom, and fun.

From the idea of choice theory, Dr. Glasser developed reality therapy, which takes this notion of choice and implements it into a practical therapy that seeks to help the individual reconnect with people and learn to make better choices. Glasser felt that all human suffering stemmed from either unsatisfactory or a complete lack of human connection and that the choices the individual makes create their current predicament. This does not mean that the individual engaged in reality therapy is necessarily to blame in the sense that they should feel guilty about their choices, but rather that the choices they make are counterintuitive to their own happiness. By exposing this truth, reality therapy seeks to provide a framework so that in the present, the individual can make better choices that will serve their ultimate happiness.

Reality Therapy and Addiction Treatment

It is no secret that many addicts and alcoholics have what appears to be an issue with decision making. While they are in active addiction, they are unable to choose not to drink or use because they are driven by an obsession and compulsion that overrides their ability to make good choices. This obsession will cause them to engage in risky behaviors that could land them in jail or in the hospital and they very often find it difficult to end relationships that are not good for them or get out of situations that are harmful.

Once the addict becomes sober, this does not necessarily mean that they will all of a sudden have a proper barometer for what healthy choices are. They will more than likely be able to choose between whether or not they are going to drink or drug again, as long as they implement a program of recovery into their lives, but in regards to making healthy life choices they are oftentimes severely lacking.

What reality therapy offers is the ability for addicts or alcoholics to relearn, or some case learn for the first time, how to make better choices in life. They will learn how to make choices that will serve their long-term goals and help them to finally stop impeding their own happiness.

patients laughing in group therapy

The Tenets of Reality Therapy

In order for reality therapy to be successful, the facilitator must move the patient out of the past and into the present. They must show them how their choices have led them to this point in their life, but in a manner that is non-judgmental and non-accusatory. Many times, addicts and alcoholics will hold a tremendous amount of guilt and shame over things that they did in the past and the goal of this form of therapy is to get them out of that shame, show them in an objective way how their current choices can affect their lives, and allow them to create a space where better choices can be made.

For this to occur the therapist must:

  • Have the patient focus on the present, avoiding thoughts about the past because they do not serve a purpose. Under this form of therapy, only unmet relational needs or choices in the present cause unhappiness and so previous unmet relational needs or choices are of no importance.
  • Have the patient avoid complaining as much as possible because often times complaining, while not inherently negative, is a way to justify unhappiness. For instance, an individual who is unhappy with their job and does not see a way out of it will complain as a means to keep themselves from actually pursuing what they want to pursue.
  • Have the patient focus on behavior and other factors that they can directly change, rather than on emotions and feelings. By having the patient focus on the things that they can control, rather than on what they cannot control, the therapy is given a practical application that can make an immediate difference.
  • Be non-judgmental, meaning they do not judge a behavior as bad or good, but rather as to whether or not it is effective in creating meaningful relationships and happiness.
  • Have the patient move past excuse making because excuses are very often just fear. While some excuses may even be legitimate, it is important for the patient to avoid any excuse making, so that they can learn to act or not act, rather than philosophize the ability of choice.

Have the patient make a plan of action. This is integral if the therapy is to be effective because under this form of therapy, life consists of a series of choices that we make. Many times people will want to make huge sweeping changes, involving tremendous upheavals in choice, but when this occurs they are likely to set themselves up for failure. Under this form of therapy, the patient is shown how to make progressive choices that will lead to their goals and learn how to objectively judge their progress towards those goals.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism or Addiction

Getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol is the most important thing that an addict or alcoholic can do in their life. It is also the most anxiety producing and frightening thing that they can do in their life, but it doesn’t need to be. With help from the professionals at Elevations Health, you can find a new life in sobriety with the least amount of resistance possible. So call us today at 1-866-200-3224 and begin your journey to recovery the right way, with Elevation Health

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