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Reality therapy should be seen as an open system that will grow and change. It is not a narrow theory that is rigidly applied. Yet as a free-standing cognitive-behavioral theory and practice of counseling and therapy, it has limitations. Some of these are inherent in the theory, and some reside in the skill of the practitioner.

Many clients believe that to make changes in their lives or to feel better, they need to gain insight into their past, resolve early conflicts, describe the negative aspects of their lives, or tell how they arrived at their present state. Many of these clients could be successfully encouraged to emphasize their present behavior, but some clients believe that no change can result without dealing specifically with past pain, and for them reality therapy will appear to avoid the real issues.

The concrete language of reality therapy may be another limitation. It contains little jargon or technical terminology, and the theory and practice use words like belonging, power, fun, freedom, wants, plans, self-evaluation, and effective control. Because the language of reality therapy is easily understood, its practice can appear to be easily implemented. Nevertheless, the effective use of reality therapy requires practice, supervision, and continuous learning.

Reality therapy is subject to the same criticisms that many counseling theories face. Because counseling theories and other psychological theories such as career development models are European American in their origins, they are criticized as not applicable to non-Western individuals and ethnic minorities. This criticism is without substance. People from around the world study and use reality therapy. In fact, there are indigenous William Glasser Institute faculty on every continent except Antarctica. Still, as with any counseling system, the principles are applied differently in various cultures and adapted to the psychological and developmental levels presented by individuals.

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