RESOURCE Reality Choice


Based on the Reality Therapy and Choice Theory of Dr William Glasser

Although choice is totally free it is not totally avoidable. We cannot choose not to choose! It is the confrontation with this reality of our personal lives that lies at the heart of RT/CT counselling practice. The inevitability of choice is not a limitation. It is our power to make some change in our life. The following notes suggest a structure for helping a client deal with the unavoidable choice. This approach is particularly useful when ALL the options known to a client appear negative. Needless to say these suggestions should not be followed in a cook-book fashion.

What is the PROBLEM?

Although it sometimes takes a lot of time, there is a critical point in counselling when the clients become aware of how their life differs from their quality world, how what they have is not the same as what they want. The more specific this awareness the better.

What are the OPTIONS open to the client?

The counsellor helps the client identify different approaches to dealing with the problem. This includes any ideas the client already has together with possibilities known to the counsellor. Depending on the seriousness and complexity of the problem it may be necessary to extend the list of options by consulting outside experts. It can also be helpful to include possibilities that appear far-fetched or even funny.

Add the “ZERO OPTION”.

In all cases the counsellor will ensure that one option describes a “no change” or “do nothing” scenario. This is the “zero option”.


It can be useful to introduce this with a remark such as, “When you leave this office you can choose to leave things as they are. You can choose the ‘no change’ angle or you can opt for one of the other plans. Is it possible not to choose? Would it be a good idea for us to take a closer look at each of the options before you choose?”

What are the possible CONSEQUENCES of each of these options?

Here we can ask about each option on our list: “What do you think might happen if you were to choose this option? If you choose this what else are you probably choosing? How might you feel once you make this choice? What would be good about it for you and what would be bad about it? How certain can you be about these outcomes?” We cannot foresee the future but good planning depends heavily on good anticipation. That’s the best we can do. (It is very helpful to write out the list of options and the anticipated consequences as you go along.)

How does the client EVALUATE each option bearing in mind its consequences?

“If you could award a satisfaction rating to each of these options where maximum score is 100%, what would you give to each option?” This helps the client compare the options and make an evaluation of each.

Which CHOICE will the client take?

“Maybe all your scores are between 90 and 100% but even if they lie between 10 and 15% you still have a choice and you can pick whichever seems best or whichever is least bad.” Clients sometimes think they have no choice when none of the available choices score well. Writing down the different options and giving each a score can help them see that, no matter how bad they may be, some choices are better than others. I like to explain that the ratings are only there to help. The client does not have to choose the option with the highest rating.

How can we help the client PLAN to make that choice a successful reality?

This has to do with planning, teaching, rehearsing. “Would you like to look at plans for carrying out this choice? Do you need to learn new skills? Would you like to practise them now?”

FOLLOW-UP on the chosen plan

Plan a follow-up session to have on-going evaluation of the choices made and to refine them or create new ones.

Author: Brian Lennon (with special thanks to Lucy Billings Robbins who helped me choose the title for this approach)

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