William Glasser is an American Psychiatrist who, in 1965, published the book "Reality Therapy". In this he challenged the then traditional views of psychiatry about the nature of mental illness, the helping process, the use of the past and many other ideas about human life. 

He believes that so-called "mental illness" is in fact a behaviour chosen by the individual in an attempt to keep his or her life in balance. This choice is not necessarily conscious but is always the individual's best attempt at any given time to meet his or her needs. Glasser's belief in the ultimately positive intent behind all human behaviour counters many other views that see some human behaviour as a "disorder".

He does not accept the "chemical imbalance" theory of human behaviour nor the pharmaceutically based treatment that stems from such a view. At the same time he teaches about "total behaviour", the idea that all our behaviour is made up of four inseparable components: doing, thinking, feeling and physiology. This leads to a form of therapy that helps the person make life-changing choices by changing any one of these four components, usually the doing or thinking dimensions as these are the easiest to control directly.

Glasser believes that when a person has a psychological problem it exists in the present, although it may have been influenced by past experiences. Therefore his therapeutic approach focuses very much on the present world of the client.

Human problems arise when an individual's basic needs are not being met and Glasser sees relationships as intimately tied up with how people meet their needs. Hence his therapy pays a lot of attention to the relationships in people's lives.

Apart from authoring many books in the areas of therapy, education and management, Dr. Glasser has continued to teach his ideas through his own institute, in public lectures and by participating in major conferences on psychotherapy and education.


Note: The William Glasser Institute is now called "William Glasser International".