A Review of William Glasser’s Choice Theory

Choice theory was developed by William Glasser, M.D. Glasser’s (1998) book is titled Choice Theory: a New Psychology of Personal Freedom.

Here are some of the basic points of Glasser’s choice theory:

•Glasser believes that human behavior is encouraged by need for survival, belonging, power, freedom, and fun. These needs are very similar to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

• Glasser’s term “Quality World” refers to an individual’s understanding of her (or his) world based on experiences throughout life.

• Glasser’s “Total Behavior” has four parts: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology. Glasser argues that a person has direct control/ choice over her (or his) acting and thinking. Indirectly a person’s feeling and physiology can be changed as a result of her (or his) acting and thinking.

• Glasser believes that unhappiness is the result of disastrous relationships with significant people such as spouse, parents, children, friends, etc.

Here are some of the basic adages of Glasser’s choice theory:

  • 1. An individual can only change her (or his) own behavior.
    2. A person can only provide information.
    3. Mental health problems are the result of relationship problems.
    4. The problem relationship is in current/ present life.
    5. Past experiences has created who a person is today, but a person must fulfill her (or his) own needs in the present.
    6. An individual must satisfy needs in her (or his) “Quality world.”
    7. All people can do is behave.
    8. A person’s “total behavior” has four parts: (acting/ thinking) and (feeling/ physiology).
    9. All behaviors are “chosen.”

• Application of choice theory: We can’t control another person’s behavior. All we can do is to meet with an individual to help him (or her) to solve problems. This includes helping the individual to create a picture of his “quality world” and plan “choices” that would help to bring about the image envisioned.

Glass, W. (1998) Choice theory: a new psychology of personal freedom. New York: HarperCollins.