What is Choice Theory?

Choice Theory underpins everything we do. Originated by Dr. William Glasser, it embodies the notion that our motivations and behaviours are an attempt to meet these specific wants and universal human needs.

Although these needs are not in a strict hierarchy, the two most important needs are “the need to love and be loved” (Love & Belonging) and (Self worth & Power) because we need to feel that we are “worthwhile to ourselves and others”; (Glasser, 1965).

Fulfilling our wants and needs

Choice Theory maintains that we are internally motivated to try and fulfil our ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ and that our behaviour is always made up of four interconnecting ‘components’ of acting, thinking, feelings and physiology. Each one always accompanies the other three components.

Acting and thinking are predominately voluntary; feelings and physiology are involuntary and can only be changed by changing how we act and what we think.

All of our significant conscious behaviour – that is, all behaviours that have anything directly to do with satisfying basic needs, are CHOSEN.

– Dr. WILLIAM Glasser

Making good choices

As practitioners, it is our intent to help people make more effective, conscious choices to meet their wants and needs, rather than be propelled by past habits, fears, anxieties, and negative or harmful influences and beliefs.

We have responsibility for the behavioural choices we make and this is something that we emphasise empathically and skilfully in both our teaching and practice. Irrespective of the past we can make more effective and need-satisfying choices both today and in the future – and this truth can set us free!

Do things differently

Choice Theory is offered to replace what Glassier refers to as ‘external control psychology’, the present psychology of most of the world. This forcing, punishing, controlling psychology is destructive to every kind of relationship (be it between individuals, groups or even nations) and counterproductive to the quality, effectiveness, and wellbeing of virtually any kind of organisation or enterprise.

Choice Theory offers an ‘inner control psychology’ that enhances the quality any kind of relationship, including the one we have with ourself.

Choice Theory in action

Reality Therapy is the practical application of Choice Theory. This universal system for empowering individuals and improving relationships was developed over 50 years ago by Dr. William Glasser. Is effectiveness has stood the test of time and possibilities for continuing application are endless.

Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy is a method of counselling, originated by William Glasser, since the mid 1960’s, and based on the Choice Theory psychology that underlies all of our trainings and programmes.

Reality Therapy is highly focused, interactive and applicable to almost every area where counselling and psychotherapy is practiced.

Essentially, it is an approach that helps people take more effective control of their lives, by not only finding solutions to presenting problems but also by dealing with the underlying cause(s) so that significant and lasting change can emerge. It teaches that irrespective of how our needs may have unmet or violated in the past, we can reassess that and our current reality, take greater responsibility for our present and future behaviours, and make more effective, conscious choices on a “want to” basis, and, importantly, without infringing on the needs of others.

The practical skills, ideas and approaches of Reality Therapy have also been successfully applied to many other areas, including mentoring, coaching, managing, education, supervising, relationships, nursing, social care, addictions, criminal justice, extensively with young people, and in personal development – notably in stress, anger management and self esteem programmes.

Due to the emphasis of Choice Theory psychology in the practice of Reality Therapy, and how the ideas are so readily absorbed by the majority of people, the teaching of Choice Theory to is now regarded as an essential part of Reality Therapy.

Lead management

Exploring the benefits of being a leader rather than a boss, this radical approach to management is useful across all settings.

We replace external control psychology with Choice Theory as the psychology that underlies the whole system.

Conversation, negotiation and input from all parties is key to the process with workers encouraged to find relevant and humanly satisfying motivations for getting tasks done, like building relationships and meeting real needs. This replaces more traditional coercion such as fear, criticism and manipulative rewards because research shows these bring about short-term busyness rather than long-term gain.

Lead management is neither bossy nor laissez-faire but an engaged, invested and mutually beneficial arrangement where all parties have agency, determination and reward. The underlying psychology that underpins this approach to performance is Choice Theory.

Join hundreds of practitioners, teachers and facilitators who use Choice Theory to make a difference in both their personal and professional lives

Glasser Quality School

This radical approach to teaching and learning puts the student in the centre and asks what are their needs and how can they be met.

Instead of using rewards and sanctions to control learning and behaviour, teachers use approaches that develop needs-satisfying relationships and lead to students learning ways to meet their needs whilst maintaining positive relationships with those around them.

Attention is paid to the quality of everything that goes on in the GQS: the planning, lessons, registration, and educational and social experiences for all who learn and work there. All staff and students learn about Choice Theory and Reality Therapy and apply the principles in their own lives. A GQS is a place where failure does not exist, as every student is helped to succeed at what they do. This is achieved by constantly concentrating on improving the quality of every learning experience and on giving a high profile to teaching and practicing self-evaluation.

Become a Glasser Quality School

Any school or educational setting can become a Glasser Quality School. This includes nurseries, Primary and Secondary schools, and Colleges of Further Education. We are also developing a parallel process (Glasser Quality Space) for related organisations such as youth organisations, community groups and activity centres.

School support


Putting theory into practice starts with the Headteacher. Modelling Lead Management, the Head attracts staff onboard and a team effort gets underway to make necessary changes in school structures, ethos and outlook. The transition process concludes with Certification training or ‘Intensive week’ so that everyone feels informed, included and involved.


We believe in the power of community, which is why you’ll have the opportunity to join the Quality School Consortium. Giving you access to this network across the USA, Canada and Australia, you’ll be able to tap into the practical experience of established Quality Schools. There’s a newsletter for regular updates, an annual conference for greater global collaboration and opportunities to promote Dr Glasser’s approach to other educational settings.

Share Ideas

If you’re lit up by Choice Theory principles but not yet part of a Quality School, you can still get involved. Here in the UK, we have a number of teachers who have undertaken certification training and they’re using it in their mainstream school career. Rediscovering their joy in teaching, they find they have better relationships with students, fewer discipline problems and better academic results.

Youth Development