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William Glasser

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 29 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6399
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Psychiatrist who developed reality therapy and choice therapy

In 1954 William Glasser began psychiatry training in Los Angeles as a resident at the Brentwood Veterans Neuropsychiatric Hospital and at the University of California. Three years later, at the end of his residency, he had rejected most of what he had been taught.

“What they taught, in effect, was that you aren’t responsible for your miserable problems because you are the victim of factors and circumstances beyond your control,” he said years later. “I objected to that. My thrust was that patients have to be worked with as if they have choices to make. My question is always, ‘What are you going to do about your life, beginning today?’” He added, “I was thrown off the staff.”

Working as a psychiatrist in the late 1950s and 1960s at the Ventura School for Delinquent Girls and in private practice, Glasser began to develop and test his own therapeutic methods. His approach avoided the Freudian model of dwelling on the past and on subconscious thoughts but instead emphasised that patients take personal responsibility to shape …

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