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Choice Theory is based on the belief that as humans, we only have the power to control ourselves and our behaviours, with limited control over others.

It empowers us to take responsibility for our own choices, strengthen our relationships with others and increase overall satisfaction in life.

The ultimate goal of CTRT is to consciously change our behaviours and how we react in various situations.

Woman sitting on bed thinking with man in background

Understanding Choice Theory

Choice Theory is founded on the idea that each individual only has the power to regulate their own behaviours, actions and thoughts. We have ineffectual control over how others behave. Conversely, others do not have the ability to affect our choices and behaviour. Ultimately, it is up to us to choose how we perceive information and respond to it. 

Formulated by Dr William Glasser, Choice Theory also teaches the concept that all behaviour is driven by the desire to satisfy the 5 basic human needs – survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun. 

• Survival
Survival is the most fundamental physiological need that comprises everything that is needed to stay alive – food, shelter and safety.

• Love and belonging
As humans, we need to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion with others. This can come from our family, friends, partners, pets and even co-workers.

• Power
Power is a need that involves the desire to matter, achieve something and be recognised and respected. In short, it is related to our sense of achievement, self-esteem and self-worth.

• Freedom
The need for freedom is about having choices – people should have the autonomy to be independent and not be restricted. This also includes creative freedom.

• Fun
The need for fun encompasses activities that incite joy, relaxation and pleasure. It can include play and even learning.

The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory

1. The only person whose behaviour we can control is our own.

2. All we can give another person is information.

3. All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.

4. The problem relationship is always part of our present life.

5. What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.

6. We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.

7. All we do is behave.

8. All behaviour is Total Behaviour and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.

9. All Total Behaviour is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feelings and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.

10. All Total Behaviour is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognisable.

How Does Reality Therapy Work?

Key concepts

Reality Therapy is a form of counselling that believes behaviours are choices we consciously make to fulfil our 5 basic needs.

When external factors like people or situations affect our actions, it will result in psychological symptoms such as extreme mood swings, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal and addiction. Hence, these symptoms that we experience are not due to mental illnesses but rather our actions. 

The objective of Reality Therapy is to help you accept responsibility for your choices and learn to adopt effective behaviours that will allow you to connect with others better.

The key concepts of Reality Therapy include:

Behaviour

It is the central component of Reality Therapy and can be categorised into organised behaviours and reorganised behaviours. 

Organised behaviours are past actions that originated to satisfy your basic needs. Once you are able to recognise such ineffective behaviours, you can work on changing them or creating new, effective ones. These effective behaviours are also known as reorganised behaviours.

In doing so, you can better manage your life experiences and actions.

Action 

One of the components of overall behaviour is our actions. 

Through Reality Therapy, our psychotherapists will help you focus on changing your actions to modify behaviours. This is done through evaluations that determine how well you are satisfying your basic needs through your current actions. 

Subsequently, we will work with you to plan a new course of action to meet your needs.

Control

Choice Theory suggests that we are only controlled by ourselves and that any external influence is ineffective for making change. 

By working with our counsellors or psychotherapists, you can become more aware of such controllable choices and make more informed decisions.

Responsibility 

According to Choice Theory, we are irresponsible when we make poor choices in an attempt to fulfil our needs.

Reality Therapy aims to increase accountability for our behaviours and actions instead of blaming our environment or culture.

Present moment 

Reality Therapy believes present behaviours are not influenced by the past. Our current behaviour is regulated by our present unfulfilled needs. Instead of understanding and unpacking past behaviours, it utilises a “here and now” approach.

Techniques used

Reality Therapy employs the use of various techniques to help you change your behaviour. These techniques include but are not limited to the following: 

Self-evaluation

Self-evaluation is a crucial technique used to help you recognise your present set of actions and behaviours. Once done, it serves as a foundation for you to break down and understand why you behave in a certain manner and how it has affected your life.

Action planning 

This technique is generally applied after self-evaluation, where our counsellors or psychotherapists will work with you to plan new actions that can change your future behaviour.

You are encouraged to make SAMIC3 plans:

  • Simple – Is the plan simple and easy to understand? 
  • Attainable – Is it realistic and achievable? 
  • Measurable  – Can the results be quantified? 
  • Immediate – Can the plan be executed immediately? 
  • Client-centred – Is the client taking an active role in the plan? 
  • Committed to – Is the plan written down and is the client committed to following through?
  • Consistent – Is the plan consistent in its style and approach?

Reframing 

Reframing is a method to help individuals understand certain concepts and see situations in a positive manner or in a less negative light.

By doing so, your mindset can be shifted from problem-focused to solution-focused. You are, therefore, able to find solutions to your problems.

Behaviour rehearsal  

This approach encourages you to run through appropriate social behaviours with our psychotherapists before the situation occurs. This allows you to be prepared when such situations arise.

Limitations

While there have been studies to prove the effectiveness of Reality Therapy in treating addiction and other behavioural problems, there are still certain limitations to it. 

• Potential to impose views
Reality therapists are trained to help clients establish new actions and behaviours. However, some may perceive this to be an act of imposing values and judgements.

• Disregards the unconscious mind
The unconscious mind is a pool of feelings, thoughts, memories and longings that are beyond our conscious awareness. It is said to have a part in influencing behaviours without our knowledge. However, CTRT dismisses its notion and existence. 

• Limited to the present
Unlike traditional forms of therapy, Reality Therapy does not seek to understand the past and how it has shaped a person’s behaviours.

How Can CTRT Improve My Relationships

CTRT aims to build up your ability to make effective and need-fulfilling choices. It can also facilitate understanding between couples and families to improve relationships.

Through CTRT, you can improve communication with others and foster better habits in:

  • Listening
  • Encouraging each other 
  • Accepting each other 
  • Respecting each other
  • Negotiating differences 
  • Supporting each other 
  • Trusting each other
  • Listening
  • Encouraging each other 
  • Accepting each other 
  • Respecting each other
  • Negotiating differences 
  • Supporting each other 
  • Trusting each other

Keen to change your behaviours or improve your relationships? Speak to our counsellors or psychotherapists today.

Our Psychotherapist Trained in CTRT: Kathleen Chong

Profile picture of Kathleen Chong, counsellor at Sofia Wellness Clinic

Kathleen is a huge advocate of taking charge of one’s physical and mental health. She aims to help her clients understand their psychological needs in order to reach their fullest potential.

She works with adults and uses an evidence-based integrative approach in her sessions with clients.

Why Choose Sofia Wellness Clinic?

Specialised Psychotherapists 

At Sofia Wellness Clinic, our counsellors and psychotherapists are trained in various techniques to provide guidance according to your needs.

Furthermore, we are experienced in working with clients across various age groups.

Availability of Online Counselling

Seeking help for your mental health is now easier than ever with the advancement of technology.

You can save on commute time and attend online counselling sessions from the comfort of your own home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 basic needs in Choice Theory?

According to Choice Theory, humans make decisions to fulfil the following basic needs: 

  • Survival
  • Love and belonging
  • Power 
  • Freedom 
  • Fun

What is the difference between Choice Theory and Reality Therapy?

Choice Theory by Dr William Glasser seeks to explain why humans behave in a certain manner while Reality Therapy serves as a counselling technique to help individuals to be more in control of their actions and behaviours. The therapy approach is often referred to as Choice Theory / Reality Therapy (CTRT).

What are the strengths and weaknesses of CTRT?

Through Reality Therapy, individuals can learn to consciously 

  • regulate their behaviours, 
  • make better choices, 
  • reframe their mindset, and 
  • improve their relationships with others.

By doing so, you can increase your self-awareness which, in turn, provides a sense of empowerment and helps with your self-confidence.

However, CTRT has its limitations as it is only focused on the present. It does not delve into the past to understand how people’s behaviours are shaped by their past experiences. Moreover, it does not take into account the unconscious mind.

CTRT in Singapore

Learn how to manage your expectations and improve your relationships with others without compromising your needs. Speak to one of our psychotherapists today.