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The underlying theory that justifies the methodology of reality therapy is called choice theory. Although choice theory (originally known as control theory) is separate and existed before reality therapy was developed, the terms choice theory and reality therapy are now sometimes used interchangeably. Norbert Wiener, a Harvard University mathematician, formulated many of the principles that have been subsumed under the name control theory (Bevcar & Bevcar, 2006; Wubbolding, 1994). Wiener described the importance of feedback to both engineering and biological systems (Wiener, 1948), as well as the sociological implications for human beings (Wiener, 1950). However, Wubbolding (2009, 2011) emphasized that the more proximate basis for the clinical applications was formulated by Powers (1973). Powers rejected the mechanism of behaviorism by emphasizing the internal origins of the human control system.

Most significant in the development of choice theory, however, is the work of William Glasser (1980a, 1984,1998,2001,2005; W. Glasser & Glasser, 2008), who expanded Powers's work and adapted it to the clinical setting. Human beings, Glasser states, act on the world around them for a purpose: to satisfy their needs and wants. He speaks of total behavior, which comprises actions, thinking, feelings, and physiology. All behaviors contain these four elements, although one element or another is more obvious at a given moment. Such behaviors, negative or positive, are the output generated from within a person to gain a sense of control or to satisfy needs.

Wubbolding (2000, 2008b, 2011) provided a summary of Glasser's choice theory as it applies to counseling and psychotherapy. First, human beings are born with five needs: belonging or love, power (inner control, competence, or achievement), fun or enjoyment, freedom or independence (autonomy), and survival or self-preservation. Preeminent among these general and universal human needs is that of belonging. Wubbolding (2005) stated, "No matter how dire one's circumstances, the human will and creativity are relentless in their pursuit of human closeness" (p. 43). Along with wants, which are specific and unique for each person, needs serve as the motivators or sources of all behavior.

Second, the difference between what a person wants and what the person perceives he or she is getting (input) is the immediate source of specific behaviors at any given moment. Thus, reality therapy rests on the principle that human behavior springs from internal motivation, producing behavior from moment to moment (W. Glasser, 1998; Wubbolding, 2008b, 2011; Wubbolding & Brickell, 1999, 2001).

Third, all human behaviors are composed of doing (actions), thinking, feeling, and physiology. Behaviors are identified by the most obvious aspect of this total behavior. Thus, a student counseled for poor grades in school is seen as presenting an action problem. A person is labeled as psychotic because the primary and most obvious aspect of his or her total behavior is dysfunctional thinking. Depression, anger, resentment, and fear are most obvious in some people, so their behavior is called a feeling behavior. For others, the most obvious component of behavior is the physiological element, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. Human choices are not aimless or random. They are all teleological; in other words, they serve a purpose: to close the gap between the perception of what a person is getting and what he or she wants at a given moment.

Fourth, because behavior originates from within, human beings are responsible for their behavior. In other words, everyone is capable of change. This change is brought about by choosing more effective behaviors, especially the action component, which is more easily controlled than the other components.

Fifth, human beings see the world through a perceptual system that functions as a set of lenses. At a low level of perception, the person simply recognizes the world, giving names to objects and events, but does not make judgments about them. At a high level of perception, the person puts a positive or negative value on the perception. Wubbolding and Brickell (2009) suggested that a middle-level filter exists whereby human beings see relationships among people, things, ideas, and so on as necessary prerequisites for placing a value on the perception. Exploring the various levels of perception and their helpfulness is part of the counseling or psychotherapy process.

In summary, choice theory is a psychology built on principles that emphasize current motivation for human choices. It stands in opposition to both psychological determinism and what William Glasser (1998, 2005) called external control psychology. Human beings are free to make choices; thus, although the past has propelled individuals to the present, it need not determine their future. Similarly, a person's external world limits his or her choices but does not remove them.

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