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Books of Interest

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Posted: May 19, 2004 13:54


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William Glasser M.D.
New York:HarperCollins Publishers Inc.:2003

Reviewed by: Lon Woodbury

Dr. William Glasser is a psychiatrist who is best known for his Reality Therapy and Choice Theory books. These books are commonly found on the bookshelves of residential Emotional Growth Schools and Programs I have visited. In those books he presents a new psychology, which he thinks is needed to replace the current system that all too often comes down to a therapy that prescribes powerful “brain drugs,” and does little to help their clients look at the choices they are making that contribute to their problems. The book Warning is a part of a series he has written to apply his Reality Therapy and Choice Theory to various areas of human behavior.

In this book, he takes aim at the current beliefs and practices of modern day psychiatry. He claims that psychiatrity has become primarily oriented toward mental illness, rather than mental health. As Doctor Terry Lynch explains in the introduction, “The supposed mental illness becomes the focus of attention and the underlying human issues go unnoticed and unresolved.” Glasser also asserts that the assumptions of psychiatrity rests on unproven hypotheses of brain malfunction, and that there is the danger that powerful “brain drugs,” such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Ritalin, Prozac and many others, might act on brains in unanticipated ways. He is especially concerned that Ritalin, a very powerful drug commonly used for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) diagnoses, very well might have long-term undetermined side effects that could be very damaging to the developing brains of children.

What is being discounted, he claims, is the innate desire and ability of people to take care of themselves. The message in the current system of psychiatric diagnoses is, “when you are diagnosed with a mental illness there is nothing you can do to help yourself.” He says it is based on external control, rather than self-control. To the contrary, asserts the author, many symptoms that lead to a psychiatric diagnosis are largely the result of choices a person made, usually involving relationships that are not working out. For example, if a wife were unhappy in her marriage, Choice Theory would see her as choosing to be depressed, essentially choosing this over a confrontation that might end the marriage. In this situation, while psychiatry would offer drugs to mask the symptoms, Glasser would help the wife understand the basics of choice theory to where she could, in some way, regain control over a situation that had seemed hopeless. He claims that in his personal practice, he has worked with thousands of clients with a wide variety of problems. In almost all of his clients, the root of the problem stemmed from a relationship that was not going well, whether with spouse, parent, child, friends, or co-workers. By helping his clients recognize the root cause, and how they might be contributing to the problem by their decisions, and how different choices might be made, he was usually able to help his clients alleviate or completely remove the symptoms by doing something about a key relationship.

Regarding education, he points out that in the ten Quality Schools founded on Choice Theory principles, with teachers well trained in Choice Theory, there is never a child with ADD or ADHD symptoms. This suggests that ADD and ADHD can be prevented or at least helped by working with the child and empowering him/her, instead of just prescribing drugs like Ritalin.

A major part of the book describes a “Focus Group” he started. Essentially, it started as a group of people with some kind of problem in their lives who were willing to work with Dr. Glasser. The subject of each session in this group was the chapters of this book as he was writing it. By the end of the series of sessions, and when the book was written, the group was ready to continue on their own, and Dr. Glasser dropped out of regular participation. What he was doing was developing a self-help process, the only requirement being for each participant to read and try to apply the principles of Choice Theory. Due to there not being enough therapists to help everybody that needs help, Dr. Glasser is encouraging the expansion of these “Focus Groups” throughout the country. It is an optimistic plan; one he thinks could give the perspective that would help people take back control of their lives by learning how to help themselves, instead of being a victim being treated by drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist.

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