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In counseling Maria, the therapist or counselor may become enmeshed in her multivarious and intense problems: failed marriage, depression, out-of-control children, feelings of suicide, insecurity and distrust, work absences, expectations of family, lack of communication with parents, religious conflicts, no-exit nightmares, fear of sleeping, and losing weight. While it is necessary to confront these daunting issues, the reality therapist can readily incorporate the Ericksonian principle: There is not a one-to-one correlation between the problem and the solution. As the counseling process develops, the therapist or counselor focuses on positive replacements for Maria's painful problems rather than encouraging endless heartrending discussions. This focus, however, does not exclude an effort to understand and empathize with her pain. In fact, the initial stage of relationship building could well include a thorough discussion of her feelings, her history, and her current worldview. In other words, the reality therapist establishes the relationship on the basis of Maria's current perceptions rather than on the therapist or counselor's perception of how Maria will eventually improve her need satisfaction.

A skilled reality therapist establishes an empathic, ongoing, but time-limited relationship to help Maria especially satisfy her need for belonging with her children, family, and coworkers, resulting in an internal sense of control. A primary goal of such counseling or therapy is to help her abandon her negative symptoms and choose positive ones. Accomplishing this might involve systemic interventions, such as conferences with the school principal. The counselor would help Maria explore the impact of her religious commitments and how her spirituality can provide hope. The involvement of an rmderstanding priest would possibly facilitate this process. Such efforts serve to make possible a viable support system.

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