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William Glasser, one of the most eminent American psychiatrists, refuted the hypothesis of chemical imbalances by proposing his choice and reality theory, which asserted that damaging human behaviors are the result of unconscious decisions that are made voluntarily. He went on to say that a person’s decision is the outcome of a comparison between the quality world he assumes should exist and the reality he confronts. Although controversial, his beliefs are well-known in the field of psychiatry for their emphasis on personal responsibility and transformation. Moreover, he applied his views to broader social challenges such as education, management, and marriage, rather than a specific branch. In contrast to other conventional psychiatrists, he believed that a man’s exhibiting a particular behavior may be the result of his unhappiness and not necessarily a mental condition. Even though his beliefs were controversial, a great number of teachers, drug counselors, personal therapists, and the general public were intrigued by them.

Youth and Early Life

William Glasser was born on May 11, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio to Ben and Betty Glasser. His father was a watchmaker and clockmaker.
As a timid young man, he took it upon himself to pursue a solid education in order to obtain a better profession and raise his family’s standard of living.

After completing his prerequisites, he attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to earn a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering. After receiving his degree in 1945, he began working in the field.

In 1946, dissatisfied with his profession, he returned to Case Western University to study psychology. However, he was conscripted and had to abandon his studies. In Utah, he was stationed at Dugway Proving Ground.

In 1947, he was relieved of his duties and returned to the university to pursue his education. In 1949, he got an MA in clinical psychology and in 1953, an MD in psychiatry.

William Glasser’s Career

In 1961, he became board-certified after completing his medical internship at UCLA and psychiatry residency at the Veterans Administration Hospital.

Because of his anti-Freudian views, he was expelled from VA Hospital. He subsequently began teaching reality therapy at the Ventura School for Delinquent Girls, where he had taken a position. During this time, he met the psychiatrist GL Harrington, who would later become his mentor.

In Los Angeles, he established a private psychotherapy practice in 1956, which he maintained until 1986. In the 1970s, through William T. Powers’s writings, he was exposed to the control theory system and developed reality therapy and choice theory. However, the disclosures are contentious due to their interpretation of choice and behavior rather than biological imbalances and mental disease.

Throughout his lifetime, he produced and co-authored numerous notable publications on mental health and therapy. The publications advocated a public health approach to mental health and provided information on the enhancement of schools and instruction.

In 1995, he published his first book, Reality Theory, in which he argued that people may discover pleasure by choosing to act in a way that would strengthen their relationships and increase their happiness quotient. The book, which sold more than 1.5 million copies, provided the basis for a series of how-to guides on healing emotional and mental difficulties by accepting responsibility for them.

Then, he penned the book ‘Choice Theory,’ in which he described how humans choose everything they have and experience, including unhappiness. He presented an approach that radically altered patients’ and pupils’ perceptions of reality. He emphasized the transition from managing behavior through coercion to controlling behavior in an environment of love, friendship, and trust.

After years of clinical practice, he learned that the majority of people were unhappy with their lives and interpersonal connections. As a result, he began to build his theories to emphasize that individuals have an inbuilt desire to exert control over their surroundings and that this desire leads to aggressive behavior.

He did not believe that aggressive behavior was caused by a hormonal imbalance. Instead, he asserted that it was the outcome of an unconscious decision. He asserted that the misery caused by comparing the real world to the realm of one’s dreams causes tension and marital failure.

His teachings and beliefs were enthusiastically adopted by schools. He proposed that teachers forgo ranking and grading systems in favor of helping students assume responsibility for their own conduct and academic performance.

In 1967, he founded the Institute for Reality Therapy, which in 1994 was renamed the Institute for Control Theory, Reality Therapy, and Quality Management, and in 1996 was renamed the William Glasser Institute. The Tempe, Arizona-based institute teaches decision theory to individuals.

Personal History and Legacy

His first wife, Naomi, passed away in 1992. He eventually tied the knot with Carlos.
On August 23, 2013, he passed away at home due to respiratory failure brought on by pneumonia. His wife, two daughters, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren survived him.

Estimated Net Worth



He was an American psychiatrist who created the theory of reality and free will.