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The Most Important Part of the Counseling Program

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Developing a personal theory as a counseling student is one of the most important parts of the counseling program. Being knowledgeable in and understanding of your own personal theory affects how you see and treat clients. Throughout the process of putting together my own personal theory and researching the different counseling theories I know how I will be able to use my theory for future clients. Choice theory and reality therapy are most like my own personal theory and worldview. Through the process of explaining the theory, explaining a case, and showing the similarities of between choice theory and my own personal worldview, I am better able to assist future clients as I have selected and mastered a theory in the future.


Choice theory, originally called reality therapy, was developed by Dr. William Glasser. Reality therapy evolved over time, at one point being called control theory, but Glasser later modified the theory again to rid it of the negative connotation of the word control. The theory reflects the main ideas of self-control and the power to choose, thus being called choice theory. The choice theory today is the basis for the counseling model of reality therapy (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

Reality Therapy and Choice Theory

Choice theory is like person-centered theory in that it believes that all behavior has a purpose and the belief that the client needs to have a client-counselor relationship based on genuineness, unconditional positive regard and empathy for change to be possible. Choice theory also emphasize the importance of a client’s personal responsibility for their behaviors (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

According to the theory, human beings are born with five basic needs which are survival, power, love and belonging, and fun. Human genetics are the mastermind behind the motivation for human beings to seek to fulfill these needs so that they may not feel the anguish that occurs from these needs not being fulfilled. Each individual’s strength of need varies. Several needs can work together and intermingle at the same time (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

From birth, an individual has the ability to turn needs into wants and to change those wants throughout their life. They also have the ability to create total behavior which includes thinking, doing, feeling, and physiology. This is how a person gets the wants that meet the needs that they require. The total behavior of a person embodies their best effort to meet one or more of the basic needs. A person’s total behavior can be responsible or effective, and irresponsible or ineffective. Responsible behavior encompasses fulfilling a person’s own needs without keeping another person from fulfilling theirs. However, irresponsible behavior is that in which one fulfills their own needs while also preventing others from being able to fulfill theirs. The basic needs can come into conflict with each other as an attempt is made to find a balanced fulfillment of their needs (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

The survival need is purely the biological need to survive and reproduce to ensure the future survival of the species. Healthy eating, exercising, and paying bills are those in which increase survival rates for the individual while sex falls into the category of increasing the human species survival rate. The love and belonging need is based on the principle that human beings are social creatures who desire to have relationships with others whether that be a friendship or of a more intimate nature. Glasser even went so far as to state that the measure of healthy and unhealthy behavior is the ability for a person to form relationships as well as being able to meet the need for love and belonging. The need for power is satisfied when people have a sense of accomplishment and proficiency. This also encompasses the desire to feel worthy and needed by others. The need for fun is the search for pleasure, which is less about being silly and more of feeling deep intimacy and playfulness. By meeting this need, more satisfying relationships with others are built and individuals are able to learn about themselves and others in the process. The need for freedom is regarding the desire to be able to make a choice from many different options with little restriction (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

Choice therapy largely believes that every moment for each human being is a moment of free choice. Human beings desire to broaden their options and to seek ways in which they can achieve their needs without destroying the ability for others to be fulfilled. Creativity is a responsible behavior that meets the need for freedom. The core belief of responsible fulfillment of the need for freedom is that a person can only control themselves, they cannot control others, they can only influence them. Individuals have less control over their feelings and physiology than they do over thinking and action. Regardless of what may be environmental factors are influencing the individual, the primary source of responsible decision making is through each individual’s internal processing system (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

The quality world is an important part of our perceived world. It is described as a personal picture album which holds all of the ideals, people, places and things that bring increased quality to our lives. The quality world is the specific motivation behind human behavior. The basic needs describe what we need, while the quality world shows how we can meet those needs. While the basic needs of human beings is universal, the quality world is unique to every individual. Family life doesn’t determine how a child will behave, but the experiences in the family tend to make a significant mark in how a child’s picture album is impacted(Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

Choice theory states that responsible behavior is a major component of healthy functioning. Those who are functioning in a healthful way can create and maintain relationships with others in a way that fulfills their needs. A strong balance of all needs is a necessary sign of healthy adjustment. On the other hand, maladjustment, or unhealthy functioning, is indicated by a disconnect between the individual and others. This involves choosing one form of pain in order to avoid an even stronger form of pain. (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

There are three main reasons in which people create and prolong distress. Individuals choose more intense symptoms such as anxiety or depression as it keeps anger under control. This is because anger can lead to more painful outcomes. By choosing to depress, less painful consequences come about. Other people come to comfort and care for an individual when they choose more intense symptoms. They endure the pain of losing their other basic needs when they have chosen to depress so that they can avoid loneliness and the greater pain it brings. When an individual chooses this path, they avoid doing what they are afraid to do. By choosing the symptom, any possibility of effective and responsible behavior as well as satisfying relationships is diminished. Individuals will feel great discomfort from this but will feel stuck in the symptom and will continue to with the symptom as it is how the individual knows to best meet their needs even if it is in a limited and self-sabotaging way (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

Personal change happens when a person can take responsibility to choose those total behaviors which more effectively meet their needs in a responsible way. This process is most effective when a person realizes that there are multiple options in any situation. People change when they come to the realization that the behaviors they are participating in presently are not getting them what they most want. They must realize that there are other behaviors work better for them to get what they most want. Individuals can assess how effective new choices are once they are able to take a responsible and active role in the process of choice. (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

The WDEP model of reality therapy is aimed at teaching clients for effective, healthy, and responsible behavior. The first step of the cycle is W (wants). At this point, the counselor determines what the client’s needs, wants, and perceptions of the self, others, and environment entail. The job of the counselor is to help the client identify the components of their inner picture album and quality world in the clearest way possible. (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

The second step of the cycle is D (Direction and Doing). This involves examining the total behavior of the client. Counselors seek to figure out the current direction of the client based on how their thinking, feeling, doing, and physiology patterns are guiding them. (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

The third step of the cycle is E (Evaluation). This step puts the first two steps together in asking the client if what they are doing is getting them what they want. If the client says yes then there isn’t a problem and the counselor will not pursue the issue further as a therapeutic goal. If the client answers no, then they can either continue making the same choices and getting the same results or they can choose a different path and then reassess to figure out the effectiveness of the new choice (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

The final step of the cycle is P (Plan). Client’s being able to understand their ineffective and effective behaviors is not enough to form new behaviors as change requires action. A client has a better chance of creating and continuing a pattern of effective behavior when they make and follow a plan (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

Once the client carries out the plan on a consistent basis, client and counselor can address other issues by cycling back through the WDEP process. More than a linear process, therapy is likely to address many issues that the client is processing at various levels in the WDEP system. Likewise, the counselor will move among the components of the process, encouraging the client to let go of behavior that is not need-fulfilling and to choose new total behavior that helps the client get what the client wants (Fall, K. A., Holden, J. M., & Marquis, A. (2017).

Case Vignette: Mandy

Mandy is a 28-year-old Euro- American married female. She is committed to her work as a second-year medical resident. She is motivated to achieve at high levels as she graduated from both college and medical school. She holds her-self to a high standard which is part of her motivation for high achievement. She realizes that she has reasons to be happy in her life and has been able to hold steady relationships in the past. She is able to remain in contact with one of her closest friends.

Mandy’s survival needs are being met as she has a place to live with food and water. Her power needs are not being met as she has been unable to achieve as well at work as she has in the past and she is no longer feeling a sense of accomplishment. Mandy is not feeling worthy or needed by others as she does not think that she is accomplishing anything at work. Her need for fun is also unfulfilled as she is focusing all her time and attention to her work at the hospital. She is not focusing on herself and taking care of her needs for free time and enjoyment. This is leaving her fatigued and unfocused both at work and at home. Although Mandy is able to confide in one of her closest friends about what she is going through, she is actively pushing others away. She is keeping herself from being able to fulfill her need for love and belongingness. She is pulling away from those who are closest to her, including her husband and coworkers. Mandy’s need for freedom is also not being satisfied as she is dissatisfied with her life, but is unable to make a choice as she does not feel that she has the freedom to do so. Mandy is behaving in unhealthy functioning as indicated by her disconnect from others. She is choosing to depress, as a way to avoid an even larger form of pain. She is choosing to depress so as to avoid the pain of losing her other basic needs, avoid loneliness, and the pain that comes with it. At this time, Mandy is feeling great discomfort from a lack of effective, responsible behavior and satisfying relationships. She will continue to feel stuck in her depression as it is how she currently knows how to meet her needs even though it is in a self-destructive manner.

In order to best help Mandy, she will need to take personal responsibility and choose those behaviors that will best meet her needs in a responsible way. She needs to realize that she has multiple options in her situation and that the behaviors she is currently partaking in will not help her get what she most wants. Mandy must come to the realization that there are better behaviors than depressing in order for her to get what she wants most. Once she comes to these realizations she will be better able to take a responsible and proactive role in her choosing process.

My role as Mandy’s counselor is to be straightforward, focused, and encouraging with her. I need to create a partnership in which Mandy accepts responsibility, avoids making excuses, and learns and practices the new behaviors that are taught to her. She must be willing to change her behavior and I believe she is ready to do so based on the fact that she acknowledges that something needs to change. She needs to be open to our counseling relationship and be ready to be challenged by me about her choices that she is currently making. I need to be clear that Mandy has many different options in her situation, but she needs to realize this as well. This should lead her to realize that by her choosing to depress, pushing others away, and not taking time for self-care she is not going to be able to fulfill her needs. She will realize that by behaving in ways that bring her closer to others and allow her to have fun and relax she will be able to fulfill her needs that she is not meeting presently.

As Mandy’s counselor, I will use the WDEP model of reality therapy to assist her in making positive changes. Using the W of the model, I will identify Mandy’s current needs and wants. Mandy currently needs love and belonging, feelings of achievement, worthiness, and accomplishment, as well as a sense of freedom, choice, and control in her life. Mandy wants to feel happy and satisfied in her life rather than feeling dissatisfied and depressed.

With the D of the model, I will figure out the current line of the clients thinking, feeling, doing, and physiology patterns. Currently, Mandy is not thinking or feeling in a way that is productive to her wants and needs. She thinks that she is worthless and that she is not accomplishing anything. She is also feels that her life is dissatisfying and wishing she was dead. She also is believing that everything is shrouded in a cloud of doubt and despair. Other than coming to counseling and talking to her best friend, she is not doing anything productive in regards to her needs and wants. She is actively pushing those away who only want to help her, going so far as to being irritable and withdrawing from others. Instead of acting productively, she is calling in to work, moving between sleeping and watching tv all day when she does.

Based on steps W and D of the model, for step E, Mandy will most likely say that what she is doing at present is not getting her what she wants. Both the client and myself will then work together to create a new path for her to try in hopes that it will be effective in getting her what she needs and wants out of her life.

The final step of the WDEP model, involves both the client and counselor creating a plan for effective behavior that the client can follow. Presently, the plan for Mandy is that she needs to work on taking care of herself mentally and emotionally. For the present, Mandy needs to practice yoga and meditation three times a week for relaxation and self-awareness. She will be fulfilling her need for fun while taking time for herself. This will help her as she’ll be able to relax and perform better at work, which in turn will help with her power, as she will feel a sense of worthiness and achievement. To meet her love and belongingness need, she will need to be with others and let them help her. To do this, each week she will spend time with her husband, best friend, and coworkers. She will need to open up to them all and allow them to help her. As for her need for freedom, she will have to realize that she has many choices and options to help her in her situation. Through the counseling process, I will be able to help her come to this realization, which will aid in the rest of her plan.

Choice Theory and The Personal Worldview

When studying the many counseling theories, it became increasingly clear that choice theory and my own personal theory had many similarities. Like choice theory, I believe that people live and function best in the present moment. They get sick when they let past issues remain unresolved, leaving them feeling anxious, depressed, and alone. Their past will hold them from seizing opportunities in the present. They get better when they are able to use their past to positively guide their present experiences, rather than keeping them from the present.

Personal responsibility and control are very prominent in my personal theory. People tend to want control and an active part in their own lives rather than being passively shaped by outside forces. They tend to want to develop positively and in ways that compliment their life. People malfunction when they are not playing an active part in their lives and personal growth. They will feel stuck as they are not reaching towards goals and bettering their lives. Some people feel as if they have no control over their lives and don’t know how to gain control. When people learn to take control of their lives then they are able to heal and grow in a positive way.

As with choice theory, my theory states that human beings function better with others rather than alone. People malfunction when they create isolation for themselves from other human beings and reject any help that is attempted to be given by others. This can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression as a person continues to withdraw from other people. People get better when they are able to accept help from others rather than push away and withdraw from them. They also function better when their social interactions with others increase.


Through the process of explaining what choice theory and reality therapy are, I have shown my understanding of the theory and its concepts. Furthermore, by showing my abilities to explain a client’s case as well as how to help them get better, I have been able to further demonstrate my understanding of how the theory and its concepts work. Finally, through showing the similarities between my own personal theory and choice theory, I have been able to solidify the compatibility of the two theories.

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