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Assumptions of Rational Choice Theory

  1. Humans are purposive and goal oriented.
  2. Humans have sets of hierarchically ordered preferences, or utilities.
  3. In choosing lines of behavior, humans make rational calculations with respect to:
    1. the utility of alternative lines of conduct with reference to the preference hierarchy
    2. the costs of each alternative in terms of utilities foregone
    3. the best way to maximize utility .
  4. Emergent social phenomena — social structures, collective decisions, and collective behavior — are ultimately the result of rational choices made by utility-maximizing individuals.
  5. Emergent social phenomena that arise from rational choices constitute a set of parameters for subsequent rational choices of individuals in the sense that they determine:
    1. the distribution of resources among individuals
    2. the distribution of opportunities for various lines of behavior
    3. the distribution and nature of norms and obligations in a situation.

(Jonathan Turner 1991, The Structure of Sociological Theory, p. 354)

This all seems so rational – what goes wrong? Why do individuals make choices that seem so self destructive? Why don’t things work the way they should? The ‘inner logic’ of each individual is created individually from random data and with unique history of experience. It is within this inner logic, that the choices are often in contrast with the outer logic. Dr. William Glasser has develop a group of concepts including Choice Theory, Lead Management, and Reality Therapy which provides some answer to these questions.



Counselors, to their own and their clients’ detriment, have been following the lead of psychiatrists, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose what psychiatrists have decided to call mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia, clinical depression, and bipolar disease). But as of now, the psychiatrists have not provided evidence of brain pathology to support these diagnoses. Furthermore, psychiatrists, who completely disregard mental health, still claim to be members of the mental health establishment. This article suggests to the counseling profession that they publicize the fact that they are true mental health professionals who have been improving mental health for more than 50 years without drugs. The author [William Glasser], who has never prescribed a brain drug, suggests they take a close look at choice theory, the mental health concept he has now added to his reality therapy to help clients toward better mental health with no danger of doing any harm.

Article abstract

In his 1965 book, Reality Therapy, agreed with Thomas Szasz that mental illness, as it was then understood, did not exist. He now contends that we choose everything we do, including the behaviors and symptoms described in the DSM-IV and labeled mental illnesses. He see this as a new approach both to understanding and dealing with what is still called mental illness. After practicing psychology and then psychiatry for more than fifty years, he is painfully aware that we have made no measurable progress in reducing the number of people currently diagnosed and treated as if they are mentally ill.

It is because of this he believes that it is time to consider a counseling procedure that helps lonely, poorly functioning, people to understand that they are choosing what they believe they are suffering from. And from that understanding to learn to make better or psychologically sound choices. While Glasser does not believe in mental illness, he firmly believes there is such a thing as mental health.

When Glasser started out as a psychologist in 1947 and became a psychiatrist in 1957, the theory of mental illness was based on Freud’s explanation of unconscious conflicts. Today, Freudian psychology has been largely replaced by a new theory: mental illness is caused by an imbalance in the chemistry of the brain. But, regardless of the cause, psychological or chemical, the belief that mental illness is real and those suffering from it have little or no control over their symptoms has yet to be seriously challenged.

Glasser’s Choice Theory, a new theory of how our brain functions that supports reality therapy, directly challenges this belief. In his theory, he contends that when we are unable to figure out how to satisfy one or more of the five basic needs built into our genetic structure that are the source of all human motivation, we sometimes choose to behave in ways that are currently labeled mental illness. These needs are: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun.

What is common to ineffective and unsatisfying choices, no matter what they may be, is unhappiness: there is no happiness in the DSM-IV. Choice theory explains that, not only do we choose all our unhappy behaviors, but every behavior we choose is made up of four components, one of which is how we feel as we behave. When we choose a behavior that satisfies our needs, immediately or eventually, we feel good. When we choose a behavior that fails to satisfy our needs, sooner or later, we feel bad. But the choice to be unhappy is not mental illness.

The brains of the people described in the DSM-IV are neither psychologically nor chemically so abnormal that they can never choose happiness again. To the contrary, the world is filled with formerly unhappy people, who chose many of the behaviors described in the DSM-IV and who, on their own or with the help of effective counseling, learned to satisfy their needs and be happy.

To Glasser, it is not a sick brain that is the cause of their unhappiness; it is their present inability to figure out more effective behaviors than the ones they are using. While the brain chemistry of a happy person differs from the brain chemistry of an unhappy person, that difference is not the cause of their unhappiness. It is the result of the choice or choices they are making. And it is no more permanent than the chemistry of any choice. The brain chemistry returns to normal as soon as the ‘sufferer’ has figured out, with or without help, how to satisfy his or her needs more effectively.

Our society is flooded with people who are choosing anxious, fearful, depressive, obsessive, crazy, hostile, violent, addictive and withdrawn behaviors. All of them are seriously unhappy; there is no shortage of unhappy people in the world. But, unfortunately, many mental health practitioners who believe in mental illness don’t see the unhappy people described above as capable of helping themselves or benefiting from counseling. They see them as ‘suffering’ from brain pathology, incapable of helping themselves without drugs. They reject counseling as useless or too time-consuming.

To fit the medical model that unhappy people can’t help themselves or be helped without drugs, they tout drugs as the panacea. Following a strange logic, they claim that drugs for mental illness are analogous to insulin for diabetes. But diabetics do not have a chemical imbalance; they are missing the chemical they need to digest carbohydrates. People who are unhappy are not missing a necessary brain chemical; they are suffering because they are unable to satisfy one or more of their basic needs.

Basic Principles

William Glasser has created a counseling method that is a part of the cognitive behavior management family, but has a slightly different focus – one ‘doing’ and ‘choice’ – and provides some new and interesting metaphors for change. This material modifies some of Glasser’s terminology to make it consistent with other cognitive behavior management technology, but hopefully, maintains the essence of his endeavors.

Choice Theory states that the only thing we do is behave, and that almost all behavior is chosen by the individual person. We are driven by our genes to satisfy five [05] basic needs:

  1. survival – includes nourishment, shelter, and reproduction
  2. love and belonging – includes groups as well as families or significant others
  3. power – includes achievement and feeling worthwhile as well as winning
  4. freedom – includes independence, autonomy, your own ‘space’
  5. fun – includes pleasure and enjoyment

One of the core principles is that, whether we are aware of it or not, we are all the time acting to meet these needs. But we don’t necessarily act effectively. Socializing with people is an effective way to meet our need for belonging. Sitting in a corner and crying in the hope that people will come to us is generally an ineffective way of meeting that need – it may work, but it is painful and carries a terribly high price for ourselves and others.

So if life is unsatisfactory or we are distressed or in trouble, one basic thing to check is whether we are succeeding in meeting our basic psychological needs for power, belonging, freedom and fun. In this society the survival need is normally being met – it is in how we meet the other four ‘psychological’ needs that we run into trouble.

In counseling practice, the most important need is love and belonging, as closeness and connectedness with the people we care about is a requisite for satisfying all of the needs. Choice and Reality, along with other cognitive behavior management practice, is a practice of utilizing what Glasser has so aptly called an internal control psychology . This approach is offered to replace the external control psychology that is, unfortunately, the present psychology [life philosophy] of almost all the people in the world. This tradition of a forcing, punishing psychology is destructive to positive relationships. When used by anyone in a personal relationship it will always destroy the ability of one or both to find mutual gratification or satisfaction in that relationship, and will result in people becoming disconnected from those with whom they want to be connected. Disconnectedness is the source of almost all human problems, and is manifested in what is traditionally called mental illness, drug addiction, violence, crime, school failure, spousal and child abuse, to mention a few.

Relationships and Our Habits

Dr. Glasser has defined the characteristics of both the internal control and external control ways of thinking [psychologies]. You will quickly note that the internal control set is oriented toward connection and the external control set is oriented toward control.

Seven Caring Habits
Seven Deadly Habits
Negotiating differences
Bribing or rewarding to control


While most of us recognize immediately that the caring habits are those we would like to be accused of using, this is probably not always so. The caring habits particularly tend to break down when we want someone else to do something.

The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory

  1. The only person whose behavior we can control is our self.
  2. All we can give another person is information.
  3. All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.
  4. The problem relationship is always part of our present life.
  5. What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.
  6. We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World [within the inner logic is an ideal based on ‘shoulds’ and other rules that must be met or changed in order for the best of all worlds to occur].
  7. All we do is behave.
  8. Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.
  9. All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.
  10. All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

The only way we experience the real world is through our perceptual system. Information about the real world comes to us first through our sensory system: our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin. Next, these sensations pass through our perceptual system, beginning with what Glasser calls our total knowledge filter, which represents everything we know or have experienced.

A first and seemingly immediate awareness, which more or less corresponds to the energy stimulation patterns, is referred to as physiology and which we would term ‘sensation’. Feeling or preferably ‘perception’ can be distinguished from sensation in that it refers to a process that requires more cognitive organization than sensation, is more heavily dependent on learning than sensation, and requires more time for completion than sensation. It is this process which places and emotional label, spin and value on the experience.

When information passes through our knowledge filter or cognitive schemata to become cognitively organized, Glasser suggests that one of three [03] organizing factors are sorted:

  1. we decide that the information is not meaningful to us and the perception stops there,
  2. we do not immediately recognize the information, but believe it may be meaningful to us so we have some incentive [commonly called curiosity] to gain more information, or
  3. the information is meaningful to us and therefore passes through the next organizing filter, the valuing filter.

When information passes through the valuing filter, we place one of three [03] values on it. By ‘values’, Glasser means that which is important to us, not necessarily being limited to moral or ethical values. If it is something we have learned is needs-satisfying [increases pleasure], we place a positive value on it. If it is something we have learned hinders our ability to meet our needs [increases pain], we place a negative value on it. If it neither helps us nor hinders us in meeting our needs, we may place little or no value on it; it remains neutral. Notice, that cognitive behavior management indicates that the cognition happens before the emotional labeling or valuation and that despite the order given by Glasser, he essentially agrees.

Because each of us comes to every situation with different knowledge and experience, and therefore different values, our perceptions of the real world are different. Thus, we don’t all live in the same ‘real world’. We live our lives in what Glasser calls our Perceived Worlds – and which cognitive behavior management refers to as our ‘inner logic’.

Our Perceived Worlds are, for each of us, our reality. Because they are made up of perceptions, our Perceived Worlds are:

  • Highly subjective: based on our culture, education, experience, gender, age, etc.
  • Unique
  • Subject to constant change (new information, new experiences = new perceptions)
  • Frequently inaccurate

Often our perceptions are chosen. What this means is that we perceive, as opposed to sense, what we expect to perceive based on our prior experience. Therefore, we can frequently choose to perceive people, places, and situations in a number of ways. For example, in driving to work, I might choose to think of the person who just pulled out in front of me as an inconsiderate jerk who is intentionally ruining my morning and feel all the stress that that perception carries with it. Or I could think of the person as someone like myself who just made a mistake in judgement because s/he is in such a hurry. Then I could try to relax so as not to do the same. In choosing our perceptions, it might be a good idea to ask ourselves which perception is better for to us hold.

While we normally don’t think of these occurrences as choice, Glasser is clear that they are.


See CBP#15-001 Personalizing the Perceived World

According to Glasser, an important part of our Perceived World is the Quality World. The Quality World is described as a ‘personal picture album’ of all the people, things, ideas, and ideals that we have discovered increase the quality of our lives. The Quality World would include all of the ‘shoulds’ and rule making for living in the Quality World. It is often the failure of others to follow the rules that makes us want to exercise control over them.

While the Basic Human Needs are the general motivation for all human behavior, the Quality World provides the specific motivation in Glasser’s theory. The Basic Human Needs describe what we need, the Quality World pictures detail how we meet those needs. The Basic Human Needs are universal; the Quality Worlds are unique.

The pictures in our Quality World:

  1. Meet one or more of our Basic Human Needs
  2. Are changing and changeable
  3. Are unique
  4. Often conflict with each other
  5. Vary in levels of intensity
  6. Vary in levels of attainability

Activities – CBP#15-002 – My Quality World


The Comparing Place describes the appraisal process that happens continuously in the brain. It is happening as you this material.

As you read the sentence above, you probably felt a slight frustration signal when you read “It is happening as you this”. What you probably want (your Quality World picture) when you read something is for it to make sense. Since the word ‘read’ is missing from the sentence, you may have experience a frustration signal that may have urged you to go back and reread the sentence. Once you did that, you probably realized a word was missing and your brain supplied a word that would make sense in that sentence. Once you did that, the frustration signal disappeared.

As we experience life, we are constantly appraising and comparing what we want (our Quality World pictures) with what we’ve got (our Perceived World). When the two match fairly well, we feel good. When there is a mismatch, as there probably was when you read the sentence above, you feel a degree of frustration, depending on how important the Quality World picture is to you. That frustration signal, as Glasser terms it, is felt as an urge to behave in a way that will help us get more of what we want.

Glasser likens the Comparing Place to a set of scales. When your scales are in balance, when what you want is what you have, you continue to do what you’ve been doing. When your scales get out of balance, you feel the frustration signal, the urge to behave.

Activities CBP#15-003 The Comparing Place


Glasser’s concurs with the cognitive behavior management premises that “All behavior is purposeful”. That is, ALL of our behavior is our best attempt at the time, given the resources at our disposal (knowledge, skills, etc.) to meet our needs. Another way of putting it is all of our behavior is an attempt at making the real world conform to the pictures in our Quality World.

Most of the time we choose behaviors that Glasser terms organized behaviors. These are the behaviors that we are familiar with, that we have used before. Just as there is an hierarchy of ideas, so there is a hierarchy of behaviors. For example, when a person wants to meet his/her need for fun, one of his/her organized behaviors might be to go out to dinner with someone special. That may be a behavior that has worked in the past.

If we do not have an organized behavior immediately available, or organized behaviors that have worked in the past are not working in the current situation, we are capable of figuring out new behaviors. Glasser terms this process reorganizing; this is our creativity, which is always going on, whether we decide to use it or not.

According to Glasser all behavior is Total Behavior, made up of four components:

  1. Acting: the actual overt behavior
  2. Thinking: the covert behavior
  3. Feeling: the covert cognitive act of labeling and valuing with an emotional term and a disposition the received sensations.
  4. Physiology: the actual somatic sensations coming from the nervous system.

Cognitive behavior management would not use the term ‘feeling’ for emotion, since the feeling or sensation must be interpreted and identified as an emotion. Nonetheless, the components are identifiable and acceptable as all four components are present all of the time. According to Glasser, we name our current behavior by the most obvious component. Like the wheels of a car, if one wheel changes direction or speed, the others react. This is a most interesting analogy that can help clients understand the nature of change.

For example, when jogging, the most obvious component is the acting component. But while jogging, the person may be thinking a number of things: “What a beautiful day!” Or, “I love these new running shoes!” Or, “I wonder if I can make it up this hill?”. S/he may also be feeling something: exhilaration, possibly, or gladness, or maybe even a little fear at times. Simultaneously, his/her physiology is pumped up. The heart rate is up, muscles are working, and s/he is sweating. This would be the total jogging behavior. All four components are present, but we name the overall behavior after the most salient component, acting.

In contrast, a behavior named after the feeling component might be being angry. But while angry, a person may be thinking, “How dare this person treat me this way!” S/he may be doing something like yelling or pacing. And his/her physiology would most likely include muscle tension and shallow breathing, among other things.

A behavior named after the thinking component is meditating or ruminating. While meditating, the acting behavior would probably be sitting. The feeling component would be contentment, and the physiology would be slowed down.

Finally, a behavior named after the physiological component is shivering. While shivering, the person might be feeling frustrated. S/he might be thinking, “Why didn’t I wear a coat?” And s/he might be doing anything s/he could think of to get warmer, running in place, cuddling up with someone else, etc. Note that S/he might be shivering because of fear, rather than cold. In that case the thinking would be quite different. Interpretation of the cold/fear sensations, which are essentially the same, is a cognitive activity and the outcome is based on the ‘body of knowledge’ based on our history of experience.

All four of these components are occurring all of the time, and when we change one of the components, the other three tend to change accordingly. This is often conveyed to the client through the analogy of the car.

According to Glasser, we choose all of our behaviors, but the component we have the most control over is our acting or doing. In this he differs from most cognitive behavior management who tend to respond predominantly to the thinking, which Glasser identifies as the next most easily controlled component. Therefore, for Glasser, if we want to change the way we are feeling emotionally or physically, the most effective thing to do is to change what we are doing. If, because of the situation, we can’t change what we are doing, we can change what we are thinking.

For example, if a person has experienced frustration most of the day, s/he may be feeling angry, and his/her body may be tense. S/he may be thinking, “I hate my job!” and may be complaining about it to a coworker. The acting component of the behavior, complaining, may not be helping him/her feel better physically or emotionally. So if s/he changed that component and, say, takes a brisk walk, s/he will most likely change what s/he is thinking, which will in turn help him/her feel better both emotionally and physically.

Activities – CBP#15-004 – Total Behavior Activities

Now that you have learned about the five components of Choice Theory, review with a partner or small group all you have learned.


  1. Be personal: Use personal pronouns and express care for students.
  2. Refer only to present behavior: Ask (in effect) “What are you doing now?” Avoid quizzing about past behavior.
  3. Stress value judgements by students: Ask if what the student is now doing that is helpful to them.
  4. Plan with students for alternative behaviors: Involve them in decision-making.
  5. Be committed to the plan: Show your commitment by checking progress and providing positive reinforcement for meeting the goals of your plan.
  6. Do not accept excuses: Don’t discuss excuses and alibis with the students.
  7. Do not punish: Punishment removes responsibility from the students.

Lead Management is the application of Choice Theory to any situation where one’s responsibility is to manage others. This would include managing workers, students, our own children, members of social/civic groups, etc. Lead management, which relies on intrinsic motivation, sharply contrasts with traditional boss management, which relies on extrinsic motivation through the application of coercive techniques such as incentive plans and various forms of punishment.

The concepts of Lead Management were first developed by W. Edwards Deming, the Total Quality Management guru, and later refined by Glasser. Key concepts of Lead Management include creating the Conditions for Quality and learning to use the skills of Reality Therapy to solve problems.

  • Minimize Fear and Coercion
  • Focus on Quality
  • Emphasize Self-Evaluation

Instead of relying on traditional methods of ‘motivating’ those whose work or learning s/he is responsible for, the lead manager creates the conditions for the work or learning to appeal to intrinsic motivation as illustrated in Douglas Walker’s Motivational Triangle, below:

  1. Clear – What we ask workers/learners to do must be clear. We must provide explicit criteria for quality, preferably with input from the workers/learners: models, examples, rubrics, prototypes, pictures, etc.
  2. Attainable – The workers/learners must believe that what we are asking them to do is attainable. We must provide them with the resources and skills needed to accomplish the task at hand.
  3. Useful – The people with whom we are working must understand how what we asking them to do will bring quality to their lives. In the short term or long term, completing the work we are asking of them will help them meet their basic human needs.


Examine how you might provide the conditions that will maximize internal motivation in your area of responsibility.

See CBP#15-005 Minimizing Coercion

In any high quality product, whether it is a tangible product like a car, or a more intangible product like a relationship, the following characteristics seem to be present:

  1. Best Effort: The people involved are doing their best to produce quality.
  2. Usefulness: The people involved perceive the usefulness of what they are working toward and/or how they are working toward it.
  3. Time: Quality work takes an investment in time. Time is the variable, not the degree of quality involved.
  4. Flexibility: There is more than one way to achieve quality. Those involved in producing quality must be allowed to explore a variety of avenues toward achieving their goals, whether that involves workers/learners being given flexibility in the ways they can demonstrate mastery of certain content or having the workers/learners look at altering their work space to be more efficient.
  5. Good feelings: When people produce quality, they feel good. When we achieve something we perceive as quality, we are meeting our Basic Human Needs very effectively.
  6. Continuous Improvement: As Robert Sullo says in Inspiring Quality in Your School, “There is almost no job that cannot be improved, and quality seeks to constantly improve. . . When John Lennon was once asked if there were any Beatles songs he would do differently if he could he laughed and said, ‘All of them’.”


Think of a personal experience that you would say produced something of quality. It could be work-related, something you did in school (a play, a concert, a sport), or something in your personal life (a hobby, a home-improvement project). Share that experience with a partner or small group and discuss how many of the above characteristics were present during that experience.


Traditional ‘boss-management’ uses external evaluation. The boss examines the work, evaluates it based on often unclear, highly subjective criteria, and provides ‘constructive criticism’ or praise. From a Choice Theory perspective, the flaws in this approach are obvious. When we are evaluated externally, our need for survival and power are undermined, and in order to regain balance, what most of us do is to behave in ways that are in accordance with the wishes of our bosses (in order to meet our survival need), but we do just enough to ‘get by’, we don’t pursue real quality. For if we go above and beyond in a boss-managed system, we are perceived (and we perceive ourselves) as ‘sucking up’ or ‘brown-nosing’ which would further deprive us of meeting our need for power, or self-esteem.

Since the picture of quality that drives us is our own, not our bosses, self-evaluation is essential to continuous improvement. But, self-evaluation based on unclear, subjective criteria is no better than external evaluation. The picture of quality must be clear, specific and as objective as possible. The question that must be answered in determining the criteria for quality is: If we were to produce quality regarding ____, what would we see, hear, etc.? How, specifically, will we know it is quality?

Self-evaluation alone has it’s drawbacks. That is why Glasser says we should emphasize it, not rely on it exclusively. People do have blind spots, and even the most conscientious person can’t assess what s/he cannot see. Ideally, self-evaluation is part of a concurrent assessment, where the lead manager has a conversation in which the worker/learner is asked to self assess, based on a set of clear, objective criteria, and is asked if they would like feedback from the manager/teacher. At this point, assuming the invitation is accepted, the manager can give the worker or student information in a non-critical way, that will be much more likely to be perceived as helpful, rather than threatening information.

Ideally, the criteria that is developed to describe quality in any situation would also be done concurrently, with the worker or student having input and ownership regarding the criteria by which his/her work ultimately will be evaluated


See CBP#15-006 SESIR – a concurrent evaluation model.


“The better we know someone and the more we like about what we know, the harder we will work for that person.” (W. Edwards Deming)

In Choice Theory terms, we will work hard for:

  1. Those we care about and who care about us (love and belonging).
  2. Those we respect and who respect us (power).
  3. Those who allow us to think for ourselves and provide us with choices (freedom).
  4. Those with whom we laugh (fun).
  5. Those who provide us with the conditions for physical and emotional safety and security (survival).

Those people help us meet our Basic Human Needs and thus will become part of our Quality Worlds.


See CBP#15-007 Characteristics of a Lead Manager


Quality schools, best described in Glasser’s books The Quality School, The Quality School Teacher, Choice Theory, and Robert Sullo’s book Inspiring Quality in Your School, are schools that intentionally apply the ideas of Choice Theory, the practices of Lead Management and the process of Reality Therapy throughout the school.

While no two Quality Schools or Quality classrooms would look alike, Glasser has enumerated certain characteristics that they would share.

A Quality School would meet six criteria:

  1. All discipline problems, not incidents, will be eliminated in two years. A significant drop should occur in year one.
  2. At the time the school becomes a quality school, achievement scores on state assessment tests should be improved over what was achieved in the past.
  3. TLC means that all grades below competence, or what is now a B, will be eliminated. Students will have to demonstrate competence to their teachers or to designated teacher’s assistants to get credit for the grades or courses. All schooling will be eliminated and replaced by useful education.
  4. All students will do some quality work each year – that is, work that is significantly beyond competence. All such work will receive an A or higher grade. This criterion will give hardworking students a chance to show that they can excel.
  5. All staff and students will be taught to use choice theory in their lives and in their work in school. Parents will be encouraged to participate in study groups to become familiar with choice theory. A few of these groups will be led by teachers to start, but parent volunteers will be asked to take the groups over once they get started.
  6. It will be obvious by the end of the first year that this is a joyful school.


Certain practices can help create a classroom where two important improvements will result:

  • Students will be motivated to perform higher quality work
  • Behavior problems will fade away.

How would your life be improved if these two improvements occur in your classroom? Discuss this with a partner or in a small group.

Before going on, it may be worthwhile to note that a teacher IS a manager and, therefore, all the information under Lead Manager would help create the Quality Classroom, particularly focusing of the Conditions for Quality.

Activities [See –

CBP#15-008 The Class Compact
CBP#15-009 Creating A Needs Satisfying Environment
CBP#15-010 Class Meetings
CBP#15-011 My Job-Your Job


Despite our best efforts at being proactive and avoiding problems by practicing Choice Theory, Lead Management and/or Quality School ideas and strategies, there will be times when people will have conflicts or problems in our personal and professional lives. Reality Therapy can help us help ourselves or others gain more effective control in almost any situation.

According to Glasser, what really drives us as social beings is our wants. We don’t think of our needs as such. We think of what we want, behave to get what we want, fantasize about what we want and so on.

So while a counselor in Reality Therapy would check out whether a client is meeting his or her needs the three basic questions that are asked are:

  1. What do you want?
  2. What are you doing to get what you want?
  3. Is it working?

A workable plan

The counselor helps the client to make a workable plan to get what s/he wants. The essence of a workable plan, in Reality Therapy, is that it is a plan the client can implement – in other words, it concentrates on the things that are in the client’s control to do:

  • Maybe you can’t make your spouse talk to you but you can talk to your spouse
  • Maybe you can’t make your teenage son treat you with respect but you can decide that you will no longer provide a laundry and catering service to a son who treats you with contempt
  • Maybe you can’t make the company give you a promotion but you can look for a promotion, lobby for it and apply for the job when it comes up

In this way, Reality Therapy empowers the client by emphasizing the power of doing what is in your control to do.

Doing: the heart of Reality Therapy

Doing is placed at the heart of Reality Therapy.

Emotions are considered to be a wonderful, immediate and ‘alive’ source of information about how we are doing and whether we are happy with what is going on in our lives. But it is very, very hard to change our emotions directly.

It is easier to change our thinking: to decide, for example, that we will no longer think of ourselves as victims or to decide that in our thoughts we will concentrate on what we can do rather than what we think everybody else ought to do.

But to practitioners of Reality Therapy changing what we do is the key to changing how we feel and to getting what we want.

Indeed, individuals are sometimes so caught up in anger, depression or resentment that even changing how they think seems an impossible task – in such situations a positive change in what s/he does may be the best we can manage.

The key issue of control

To meet their needs human beings need control: one person seeks control through position and money; another wants to control his or her physical space, like the teenager who bans all parents and parent-like persons from his/her room; another wants to chair the committee; another wants an office with a corner and two windows; another wants two lamb chops, Heinz beans and three boiled potatoes on the table at precisely 6.30 pm.

Control gets us into trouble in two primary ways: when we try to control other people and when we use drugs and alcohol to give us a sense of control.

As stated earlier, the very heart of Glasser’s Choice Theory is the idea that the only person I can really control is myself.

If the client thinks s/he can control others s/he is moving in the direction of frustration.

If s/he think others can control him/her (and so are to blame for all that goes on in his/her life) s/he tends to do nothing and again heads for frustration.

There may indeed be things that ‘happen’ to us and for which we are not personally responsible but we can choose what we do about these things.

Trying to control other people is a losing game, from the point of view of Reality Therapy. It is a never-ending battle that alienates us from others and causes endless pain and frustration. This is why it is vital to stick to what is in our own control to do and to respect the right of other people to meet their needs.

We can, of course, get an instant sense of control from alcohol and some other drugs. Unfortunately, our lives are never more out of control than when we are drunk or drugged. There are very few people in this world who ever woke up with a hangover find that they have fewer problems than they had when they started drinking the night before.

Excessive drinking and the use of drugs have to be replaced by doing something else – and that something else has to have a fair chance of getting us what we want in life.

The arrow of change points to the future

Counseling is often thought to involve delving into the past. Practitioners of Reality Therapy also visit the past but probably to a lesser extent than those who use other therapies. In Reality Therapy the past is seen as the source of our wants and of our ways of behaving.

Not only are the bad things that happened to us there but our successes are there too. The focus of the practitioner of Reality Therapy is to learn what needs to be learned about the past but to move as quickly as feasible to empowering the client to satisfy his or her needs and wants in the present and in the future.

This is because it is our present perceptions that influence our present behavior and so it is these perceptions that the Reality Therapy practitioner helps the client to work through. It is very much a therapy of hope, based on the conviction that we are products of the past but we do not have to go on being its victims.



As already indicated, we have needs that can be grouped under five headings:

  1. Belonging and Love.
  2. Power.
  3. Freedom.
  4. Enjoyment, appreciation, fun.
  5. Safety and Survival.

When our life is out of balance we can look at these needs and assess whether one or more of them is being frustrated. If so, we can focus on things we can do, that are within our control, to bring about a better balance. These do not have to be major things. Here is a list of the major needs and examples of how we might meet them:


Giving & receiving love; being part of something; belonging to groups; someone to talk to; receiving attention; sharing experiences; supporting teams, political parties; work; chatting; greeting.


Self-esteem; esteem by others; power; achievement; worthwhileness; competing; confidence; winning.


Space; spreading my wings; elbow room; time to myself; independence; autonomy.


Fun; pleasure; appreciation; laughter; games, learning.


Food; shelter; health.


As you can see from the list, there are many ways to meet our needs. We can think of the things we want as ways of meeting our needs, effectively or ineffectively. We all need to eat but I want a steak and you want a pizza. Not only do our wants often differ but the details of our wants are very specific. I want a sirloin steak, medium, in a black pepper sauce; you want a deep-filled ham and mushroom pizza with no peppers. I want a socialist government that will pay for social services for people on low incomes; you want a capitalist government which will cut taxes and increase personal responsibility. To the extent that we can respect the fact that other people – including those nearest and dearest to us – want different things than we want, we can live in harmony. If we cannot respect these differences, then we are doomed to live in conflict.

To get what we want, we behave. We are engaging in one behavior or another from the time we are born to the time we die. At any time, four things are happening for us: what we are doing, what we are thinking, what we are feeling and what is going on in our bodies.

Sometimes these activities work in harmony. For instance, if we are pleased we may be smiling (doing), thinking positive thoughts, feeling content and physically relaxed. If we are angry we may be shouting (doing), thinking angry thoughts, feel that we are in a rage and have our hearts beating quickly and our muscles tensed up.

Often, the four activities are going in different directions. If you are sitting in a dentist’s waiting room and you hear the drill starting up, your feelings may tell you to run but your thinking may tell you to stay. Your body may be tensed up with heart racing and adrenaline pumping. And what you are doing may be thumbing idly through an out of date copy of a magazine.

You could say that at any one time we are behaving in each of these four ways: feeling, thinking, doing, physiology. We can call this combination our Total Behavior. If we can change one of these, then we have a good chance of changing the others. As noted, it is hard to change our feelings directly. It is easier to change what we are thinking and easiest of all to change what we are doing.

So the golden rule is: if you want to change how you feel, begin by changing what you are doing or what you are thinking.

Easy to say and hard to do? Yes! Let’s look at it a little more closely.


Consider the four components of behavior: Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology.

Which do I focus on moment-to-moment?

I always know how I feel but if feelings are my moment to moment guide to what to do next I may be in difficulty: if I feel angry I may lash out at someone or I may become depressed to suppress the anger.

Moreover, if there is something I need to do, I may make the mistake of waiting until I feel right about it before I do it. Suppose there’s an important phone call I have to make but which I never actually feel like making when the time comes to do it. If I am led, on a moment-to-moment basis, by my emotional state, there is a good chance I will never make the call, or that I will postpone it until I am in trouble and cannot put it off any longer.

But I can change my focus so that I am purpose-led instead of feelings-led. I am still very aware of my feelings – they are the warm, beating heart of my life – but my purpose is my moment-to-moment guide and my orientation is towards doing.

So now I make my telephone call, even though I don’t feel like making it at this particular moment. With the phone call made, I – hopefully – feel relief, a return of energy, perhaps even a little elation.

Paradoxically, by focusing on what I can do rather than on what I feel, I arrive at a point where my feelings become pleasant and positive.

Another example: if I feel tired and tense and stressed and I go for a brisk, ten minute walk, even though I don’t feel like it, I am likely to have more energy and to be in a better mood afterwards. Here I have done something (gone for a walk) that has changed my physiology (increased energy) and now I feel better.

Sometimes the good feeling takes longer to arrive. If I am grieving over the end of a relationship or over a death, I will, hopefully, get to the point where I am doing things I want to do – seeing friends, taking a break and so on – but it may be a long time before this ‘feels’ right and before I start to feel good. But I will get there, if I have the courage to keep working at it – and it will help greatly if I have friends [a personal support network] to help me along the way.


This raises an important point about the things we want. Sometimes I cannot move ahead unless I change what I want.

Suppose I want the renewal of a relationship and that I want this more than anything else, but that I know it simply isn’t going to happen.

For a time, part of the pain I am in comes from wanting something I can never have or can probably never have again. This wanting and this pain is part of grieving. In time, I must come to wanting somebody or something else in place of what I have lost. If I persist in wanting the person I have lost, I must be prepared to reduce the importance of that want to me – I must allow other wants to take priority.

So in order to bring about change in our lives, we must do something different or change what we want. If I want to be a good athlete but I spend my mornings in bed, I must change what I do – get up and start running instead of snoozing – or change what I want – perhaps decide that what I really want out of life is to be a couch potato.

Notice that doing something different involves a change in thinking – instead of thinking, “I must have this”, I decide (and making the decision is also a form of thinking) that “I will settle for that”.

Our thoughts are somewhat under our control. They wander off on their own every few minutes (if not every few seconds!). But often we need to be willing to change what we think in order to change what we do.

Sometimes, however, our emotions are so strong – with grief or depression for instance – that all we can change is what we do, and even our thoughts have to follow afterwards. [See CBT#12 Getting Mobilized]


We try to control ourselves, people and situations to meet our needs or to get what we want. Often we are not aware that we are doing this. We may walk to the shop to buy something we want but be unaware of our surroundings as we walk down the street. Indeed, we may be ‘a million miles away’ in our minds, daydreaming about something but still end up in the shop we wanted to go to: we were able to control our direction and our walking even though we were not aware of what we were doing!

Everybody needs a certain amount of control to meet their needs for power, belonging, freedom and fun.

The most important word to notice here is ‘everybody’.

You need a certain amount of control. Your partner needs a certain amount of control.

The boss needs a certain amount of control but so does the worker.

The parent needs a certain amount of control but so does the child.

The customer needs a certain amount of control but so does the shopkeeper.

When people fail to recognize that the other person also has a need for control, the stage is set for conflict. If, however, we are willing to negotiate and compromise we can find ways to cooperate and create a better life.

Sometimes we ask for what we want. This respects the sense of control of both parties. (If you don’t believe asking is an attempt to gain some control consider the outrage in the workhouse when Oliver Twist ‘asked for more’).

Sometimes instead of asking, we demand what we want. But demanding what we want ignores the other person’s sense of control and they will want to resist us.

Control is all around us:

If I’m scared to go to work and stay in bed instead, I am controlling my situation at least to the extent of not going to work.

If I buy a lottery ticket I am trying to exercise a little bit of control over my future, however poor the chances of winning.

If I hear there’s going to be a gasoline shortage and I hoard gasoline, I am trying to gain a little control over the future.

If I boss people around I am trying to get control over them.

And if they find a way to cheat me or con me they are trying to get some of their control back.


There are the four aspects to everything we do: Thinking, Doing, Feeling and Physiology.

So if I am angry I may think what a rat such and such a person is (Thinking), kick the dog (Doing), have that burning angry feeling (Feeling) and have adrenalin and other chemicals in my bloodstream (Physiology).

Of these four aspects, the one that is most in our control to change is what we do.

Regardless of how we feel we almost always have some control over what we do.

Law, morality, politeness and many other human institutions recognize this fact. I may feel angry with you but I am not entitled to assault you: I am expected to exercise some control over what I do.

The key point to remember about changing what we do is this:

If you do something that is better than what you are doing now, there is a good chance that your thoughts and feelings will also change in a more positive direction, even if though the change may not come straight away.

To put it more simply:

Doing something better than you are doing now will push your feelings towards the positive.

To put it more simply again:

Do better to feel better.

Don’t wait until you feel good about doing something that might help. If it might help, do it even though you may not feel enthusiastic at that time.

Doing comes first. First do better, then feel better.


In Reality Therapy, depression is seen as a way of dealing with the gulf between what we have and what we want. Because depression is seen in this way, Choice Theory always holds out the possibility of overcoming depression. Choice Theory does not see depression as being bad all the time. Sometimes it is better than the alternatives – what is important is not to trap ourselves in depression. What is more important is to know that the path out of depression begins with changing what we want or changing how we behave.

Depression can do four things for us and knowing what these are can help us to begin the climb out into the light. These four things can be thought of under the letters ACHE.

A for Anger

Depression is often considered an alternative to anger and sometimes it can be better to choose depression than anger. If you make a habit of lashing out when anything goes wrong, you can alienate other people and often make matters worse. Consider how many relationships anger has destroyed. Consider how many lives anger has destroyed. Anger has its place, and it often gives us the energy for change, or the energy to stand up for ourselves. But it can be destructive too. Depression can be a safe, temporary alternative to anger. It becomes unsafe when it goes on for too long or we use it too readily.

C for Control

Depression gives us a certain amount of control over people and situations. It may help us to avoid taking risks, to stay in a safe environment. To a certain extent, people will try to avoid upsetting us when we are depressed. If we are absolutely devastated by something that has happened, depression may give us the only control over our lives that we can handle at the time. The price for this control, of course, is very high because of the suffering that comes with depression. By definition, nobody enjoys depression – if we did, it would not be depression.

H for Help

Depression brings us a certain amount of help. This may be help from friends, from a doctor or from an institution. Some people need this help for a time. Again, if it goes on too long people may stop helping us and in any event depression is a high price to pay for the help we get. But why don’t we just ask for help? For many of us, it isn’t such an easy thing to do, to say “I am in a bad way, please help me”. Many of us have the tendency, when asked, “What’s wrong?” to reply, “Nothing”, even though there may be a great deal wrong. Depression can get us help without us having to ask for it.

E for Excuse

Depression can excuse us for not doing what we should do. It can be a way of avoiding pain. If I am depressed, how can I be expected to get out and about, dress well, work, face my problems, etc? Yet, very often, it is only by doing these things – even, at an extreme, by doing something, anything at all – that I can start to climb out of a depression.

So if I am depressed I can begin to climb out of the depression by taking action.

I have no direct control over the feeling of depression. I may, if I am in the depths of depression, have little or no control over my thoughts. All I can control is what I do. Maybe all I can do is get out of bed and sit by the window, or get out of bed and go downstairs.

When I can do a little more, I should try to do something more. Ideally I should focus on small things that I want and that I can get.

Maybe I want my children back living with me, but I can’t get that, they’ve grown up and flown the nest: but maybe I can telephone or write to them, maybe I can spend more time with my friends or more time doing something else that I want to do and that is unattainable.

I also need to change what I want – in this case to accept that my children will never return to live with me.

Is this easy? No, sometimes it’s very difficult and takes a long time. Our feelings, thoughts and actions are linked but sometimes we have to do something for quite a long time before our feelings follow and become positive.

Although this work can be slow (though it isn’t always slow) it’s worth the effort. Injunctions to ‘snap out of it’ and to ‘pull yourself together’ are often ineffective – if we could snap out of it, we would. The work of changing our behavior even while our feelings remain low will be far more effective in the long run.


Reality Therapy is a method of counseling/problem-solving, based on Choice Theory that is aimed at helping people gain more effective control over their lives. It is an approach that has been proven effective in counseling, parenting, education, leadership, and management. Key components in the Reality Therapy process involve helping people (ourselves included):

  1. Ask them to honestly look at both what they want and what they are doing to get what they want.
  2. Ask them to evaluate the effectiveness of what they are doing.
  3. Use this self-evaluation as a springboard for positive personal change.

Reality Therapy can be used by individuals, by groups, even by organizations to solve problems, to plan, and to improve.

I. The Environment

  • Establish personal involvement – be friendly.
  • Clarify roles.
  • Provide a needs-satisfying environment.
    • physical and emotional safety and security
    • connectedness
    • strength, skill recognition
    • choices
    • fun
  • Accept no excuses for irresponsible behavior.
  • Avoid the past unless related to present or source of strength.
  • Avoid punishing, criticizing, or protecting from reasonable consequences.
  • Do not be overwhelmed by clients’ stories.

II. Procedures That Lead to Change

  • Help people realize that all behavior, even painful behavior, is a choice.
  • What do you want? (Help person clarify his or her Quality World picture in this specific situation)
  • What are you currently doing to get it?
  • Is what you are doing helping you get what you want (now or in the long run)?
  • Would you like to try something different?
  • Make a plan (SAMIC: simple, attainable, measurable, immediate, consistent, client-centered, committed to) . An action plan is best.
  • Get a commitment.
  • Follow-up. Never give up.

Practice, practice, practice is the key to mastering the skill of Reality Therapy. Role-playing with a partner or in a triad, with one person playing the helper, one person the client, and another to provide feedback, is the best way to practice. Scroll down for some suggestions for scenarios to use for role-playing.


See CBP#15-012 Role-Playing Scenarios


The two factors that stand out most in Glasser’s contribution are a) the emphasis on doing – which is perhaps undervalued by most cognitive behavior counselors unless they are following the depression protocol, and b) the metaphors which are used in the counseling which provide a means of helping the client understand the changes that s/he will need to make. Otherwise, this protocol is consistent with the overall cognitive behavior management process, although limited in extent.

Because psychoeducation is so important to the cognitive behavior management process, metaphors for what we are doing and how we are accomplishing it is of paramount importance. The Glasser process seems to be very solution oriented and avoids any medical model aspects, and therefore may have some merit for implementation with certain clients.


Personalizing the Perceived World

With a partner or small group, discuss the following:

  1. Your perceptions concerning the following:
    1. A great way to spend a Friday night
    2. One favorite food and one food you try to avoid.
    3. A favorite song from your high school years.
    4. A famous person (dead or alive) you’d like to meet.
  2. A perception that you’ve held that changed. How and why did it change?
  3. A perception you currently hold that you might want to change.
  4. Based on your discussion, what conclusions can you make about the Perceived World?

My Quality World

To gain a clearer understanding of your personal Quality World, discuss with a partner or small group a few of the following:

  1. Who are the most important people in your life?
  2. What are your most deeply held values?
  3. If you become the person you would ideally like to be, what traits or characteristics would you have?
  4. What is an accomplishment that you are really proud of?
  5. If you could have the perfect job, what would that be?
  6. If you were independently wealthy, what would you do with your time?
  7. Describe a time in your life you would call a peak experience.
  8. What does it mean to be a friend?
  9. What is brings a significant amount of meaning to your life?
  10. What, for you, makes a house a home?

What have you learned about your Quality World? About Quality World pictures in general?

CBP#15-003 The Comparing Place

To gain a greater understanding of The Comparing Place, discuss the following with a partner or in a small group:

1. Discuss a time when there was a significant difference between a want (Quality World picture) and a “got” ( the Perceived World).

  • What was the want?
  • What was the “got”?
  • What did you feel?
  • What did you do?

2. What are some of your physical signals that tell you that your “scales” are out of balance?

CBP#15-004 – Total Behavior Activities

With a partner or small group, try the following activities and discuss.

  • Ask your partners to close their eyes and try their best to follow your instructions to:
    • Think red
    • Think blue
    • Stop thinking blue
    • Feel angry
    • Feel sad
    • Raise your heart rate
    • Lower your cholesterol
    • Sweat
    • Raise your hand
    • Touch your nose
    • Open your eyes

Next, discuss which directions were the easiest to follow. This should underscore the point that the easiest component of total behavior to control is the acting component, followed by thinking, feeling, and physiology in that order.

2. In this next activity, identify the component of total behavior listed and discuss what the other components would be for you.

Example: Eating sushi.
Component: acting
Other components:
Thinking: “Yuck, this tastes like raw fish.”
Feeling: Embarrassed (Liking sushi is supposed to be cool)
Physiology: Gag reflex

  1. Daydreaming
  2. Skiing
  3. Breathing deeply
  4. Being sad
  5. Reading a novel

What have you learned about Total Behavior?

CBP#15-005 – Minimizing Coercion / Maximizing Internal Motivation

With a partner or group of 3-5 people, discuss the specific strategies that you currently employ in, or might add to, your work environment that would help the people you lead:

  • Clearly understand the tasks they are being asked to perform.
  • Perceive the tasks and the quality of work that is expected as attainable, that they have or will be provided with the skills and resources necessary to meet the expectations.
  • That performing the tasks will add quality to their lives?
    • The tasks are useful
    • Performing the tasks will help them meet their needs to:
      • connect to others
      • achieve, to gain recognition, or to have a sense of importance
      • be independent
      • have fun, to enjoy their work
      • survive, feel safe and secure

CBP#15-006 – Concurrent Evaluation Using SESIR

Show: The employees/students show the product, performance, portfolio, or other outcome of their work.

Explain: The employees/students explain the process they used.

Self-Evaluate: The employees/students evaluate their work, based on a set of clear criteria.

Improve: The manager and the employees engage in a discussion of ways to improve the quality of the work.

Repeat: Employees/students repeat the process until both the manager and the people performing the work believe that further attempts are not worth the effort. At this point, quality work has been accomplished.

CBP#15-007 – Characteristics of a Lead Manager

Lead Managers will share:

  • Who they are
  • What they stand for
  • What they will ask employees (students) to do
  • What they will NOT ask them to do
  • What they will do for or with them
  • What they will NOT do for or with them

Lead Mangers will avoid:

  • Criticism
  • Asking too much of employees (students)
  • Coercion

CBP#15-008 – The Class Compact

The purpose of The Class Compact is to create a shared Quality World picture of how the class will interact as it works together throughout the school year. Because it is developed collaboratively, it gives the students ownership of the classroom guidelines and helps them meet all of the Basic Human Needs.

The Procedure:

Students, working first individually, then in groups of 3 – 4, list the attitudes and behaviors they need from the people around them when they are learning something new. They go on to list the attitudes and behaviors that they do NOT want to experience when they are learning something new.

Next, on a piece of flip chart paper, each group of students creates a mind-map of the attitudes and behaviors they do and do not need from those around them. To create this mind map, students:

  • Create a big picture of a living space ( a schoolhouse, a room, a boat, a hot air balloon, an island, etc. Any place where people can be together).
  • Create a picture symbol for each of the attitudes and behaviors they listed.
  • Then, draw the symbols of the attitudes and behaviors they do want to experience from the people around them INSIDE the living space. Draw the others OUTSIDE the living space.

As they present their work of art to the class, the teacher keeps a list of all the attitudes and behaviors the students list.

When all the presentations are done, the teacher leads a large group discussion of all the attitudes and behaviors discussed, trying to come to consensus on a pared down list of these attitudes and behaviors, and go on to create a classroom living space with the symbols in the appropriate spots. You might even go on to discuss the underlying values that guide these attitudes and behaviors.

This work of art becomes your set of guidelines for the year. Put it on the wall, refer to it often, when things are going well and when they are not. You will be amazed by the power of this activity. Make sure you get a commitment from each student before you publish this mind map.

CBP#15-009 – Creating A Needs Satisfying Environment

If you can intentionally create the conditions for students to meet their Basic Human Needs in your classroom, the likelihood of you and your classroom getting into your students’ Quality Worlds will increase, which will in turn minimize behavioral problems and maximize the chances of high quality learning.

Activity: This activity is best done in pairs or small groups, but you can try it alone. Write each of the five basic needs on five separate pieces of paper:
Love and Belonging (connectedness)
Power (achievement, success, recognition)
Freedom (independence, choices)
Fun (humor, enjoyment)
Survival (Physical/emotional safety, comfort, and a sense of order)

Brainstorm all the specific strategies you currently use or could conceive of using that would give your students the opportunity to meet each need.

Make a commitment to integrate these strategies in every unit (or every lesson) you teach. Choose one strategy to use tomorrow, preferably one you haven’t tried before.

Below are some tried and true strategies that are both needs-satisfying and well-researched best practices. Each is linked to a web-page that will provide you with more information.

Cooperative Learning (fun, power, love and belonging)

Mastery Learning (power, fun, survival)

Brain-based Learning (all the needs)

Dimensions of Learning (Dimension 1 – all the needs)

CBP#15-010 Class Meetings

Once you have intentionally created a needs satisfying environment in your classroom, developed a shared vision with your students, and clarified your roles, you have truly ‘built” a quality classroom. But like all physical structures, your quality classroom will need regular maintenance. That’s where class meetings come in.

Purposes of Class Meetings:

  1. To develop a trusting, supportive environment
  2. To solve class problems
  3. To teach clear thinking
  4. To build student confidence, especially in verbal areas.
  5. To bring relevance to the classroom.

Types of Meetings:

  1. Open-ended Meetings
  2. Problem Solving Meetings (class, not individual student problems)
  3. Educational Diagnostic Meetings


  1. Sit in a circle with no furniture in the way (optional).
  2. Set ground rules every time:
    1. The person speaking must keep to the here and now.
    2. One person speaks at a time. No interruptions or side conversations.
    3. The person speaking must use “I statements.”
    4. The focus is on listening to other group members; no other activity is acceptable.
    5. Everyone who wants to may participate.
    6. No put-downs, verbal or non-verbal
  3. Be non-judgmental, but be directive if necessary.
  4. Keep the length of the meeting developmentally appropriate. (Length of meeting = Age of the participants X 2)
  5. Hold meetings at regularly scheduled times, but hold problem-solving meetings when necessary. Anyone in the class can recommend holding a problem- solving meeting.

Suggested Format: Define, Personalize, Challenge

1. DEFINE the topic, concept, or problem

Ex. What are the characteristics of a good leader?
What are the basic tasks of a leader?
How much control should a leader have?

2. PERSONALIZE the topic, concept, or problem

Ex. Have you ever been a leader?
Have you ever known a good (bad) leader?
If you were the leader of a country, what would be the first thing you’d change?

3. CHALLENGE the group’s thinking

Ex. How are our leaders chosen? Are the methods fair?
Is Clinton a good leader? Why or why not?
How do you believe we could improve the way
we choose our leaders?

CBP#15-011 My Job / Your Job

Once you’ve established a shared vision of the way you and your class want to work together, another proactive strategy you can use to avoid misperceptions and conflict is Diane Gossen’s “My Job/Your Job.” The purpose of this strategy is to clarify the respective roles of teacher and students, making sure your Perceived Worlds are in alignment. This strategy helps students understand their responsibilities as learners and as members of a learning community.

To do this, simply make two T charts, asking students to work individually, in pairs, or in small groups to answer the following questions:

What is my job (responsibility) as a student to do?
What is NOT my job as a student?

What is your job as a teacher to do?
What is NOT your job as a teacher?

The chart may look something like this:

A student’s job is to: A student’s job is NOT to:
1. Learn
2. Be prepared: pens, paper,
homework, etc.
3. Do his or her best
4. Ask questions
5. Follow the Class Compact

1. Do the teacher’s job
2. Make decisions for others
3. Enforce the Class Compact
4. Take abuse

The teacher’s job is to: The teacher’s job is NOT to:
Answer questions
Enforce the Class Compact and
school rules
Try to make the learning useful and interesting
Explain in different ways
Etc. Make students learn
Take abuse
Baby sit
Do student’s job

CBP#15-011 Role-playing Scenarios

  1. A student is failing due to a lack of homework preparation.
  2. An employee is chronically late to work.
  3. A friend is unhappy in his/her marriage.
  4. A client wants to reduce the stress in his/her life.
  5. A friend hates his/her job.
  6. A student disrupts the class with his/her class clown behavior.
  7. A colleague is afraid to approach the boss about a work- related issue.
  8. A friend wants to lose weight.
  9. A child can’t seem to get ready for school on time.
  10. A student cheats on a quiz in your class.
  11. An employee is disappointed he or she did not get the promotion s/he applied for.
  12.  A client wants to quit smoking.
  13. An employee has trouble meeting deadlines.
  14. A student is failing because of low test grades.
  15. A friend has a chance to get an exciting new job, but has to move to get it and doesn’t want to move.

Choose one of the above or make up a problem on your own. Try to avoid problem-solving, and try to focus on using the Reality Therapy Process.