3 Reality therapy exercises and techniques

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This blog post will explore what are some effective exercises and techniques that are used in reality therapy sessions as well as what Reality therapy is. 

We will also explore the applications of reality therapy and the effectiveness of reality therapy as well as its limitations. 

What are some of the effective reality therapy exercises and techniques?

Some of the reality therapy techniques that are used in therapy under the guidance of a therapist as well as applied outside of therapy include:

How to Change 101 technique

This technique has been developed by psychologist Bill O’Hanlon who believed that change involves the process of improving various skills that are necessary to bring about change as well as develop a plan of action. 

This technique involves the following:

  • Acknowledging the viewpoints of other people and yourself, the issues you have problems with, and what you have done to cope with that has worked before. This also involves avoiding labels and overgeneralizing the problem.
  • Set goals by setting a vision or a direction you want to go towards by understanding what the future could look like and engaging in positive and optimistic talk to open yourself up to the process of change. 
  • Next, you acknowledge the challenges you might face in the process by considering what are the barriers that you came across in the past, identify what resources you have to overcome these barriers, and also identify patterns that lead to these barriers. 
  • Make an action plan that is Small, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. 
  • Act on the plans that you have set out to meet these goals while also intentionally breaking non-helpful patterns and being persistent. 
  • Celebrate your victories by setting out plans that acknowledge your milestones. 

Expectations versus Reality

Another technique that is used is called the expectation versus reality technique that can help people manage their expectations in their process of setting and achieving their goals. 

This allows people to be realistic in their goal setting so as to avoid high risks of failure and to give them the best chance of success by helping them identify what they want, how they can bring about this change, and how they can set realistic goals. 

This technique explores the following:

Define your current reality by understanding what you have done to create this reality, and how you experience this reality- whether it is positive or negative. 

Next, you consider the issues surrounding changing this reality by exploring what you can change, what resources you need to bring change, what you cannot change, and what are the things you can do to respond to possible failure to bring change. 

Now, you take a moment to understand your expectations by taking a moment to understand what you expect from yourself, others, and your future. As well as take time to consider how these expectations originated and whether these expectations are achievable based on the resources you have currently. 

Finally, take effort to modify these expectations by considering some ways you can do that without lowering your expectations too low as well as understand the difference between hope and expectations. Take a moment to also redefine your expectations. 

The WDEP technique

The WDEP is a fundamental technique that is used in reality therapy and it stands for 

W – Wants; what one wants out of life, of change, themselves, and others.

D – Doing (or Direction); what they are doing right now is either helping them or hindering them from getting what they want. 

E – Evaluation; of whether what they are doing is helping them or not. 

P – Plan; to bring about change. 

These four elements of WDEP is what reality therapy is based on and it offers people a systematic way to help them identify what they want out of life, as well as from therapy. 

It also helps them evaluate their life as well as evaluate their process of change so as to bring about more effective and appropriate changes. 

This technique involves exploring various issues related to change by exploring a few questions such as:

Wants Questions:

  • What do you want?
  • What do you want instead of the problem?
  • What do you want from counselling?

Doing or direction questions

  • What are you doing, thinking, feeling in terms of getting what you want or in terms of how it is holding you back from what you want?
  • When you act this way, what are you thinking?


  • Is what you are doing, helping you get what you want?
  • Is it taking you in the direction you want to go?


  • What are you prepared to do or change that will take you in a direction towards what you want?
  • Is your plan achievable?

An individual must consider each of these questions as well as various others thoughtfully and honestly that can help them assess their plan and also identify the things they need to do to bring them towards their goals. 

Some of the exercises that are used in reality therapy are:

Action planning

This particular exercise helps an individual to set goals as well as plan out actionable steps to help them attain their goals. 

This action planning often involves setting SMART goals as well as assessing the steps they want to follow to achieve these goals. 


In reframing, this particular exercise will require the individual as well as a therapist to consider a problem in a more positive or realistic way that can help people shift their perspective towards a more solution focused mindset. 

For example, an individual might be struggling with rejection however, they can begin to consider or their therapist can help them consider the possibility that rejection is simply redirection. 

Behavioural rehearsal

Behavioural rehearsal is an exercise where the individual practises appropriate social behaviours either by themselves or with the help of a therapist to coach them. 

For example, in the case of assertive communication, a therapist might have to educate and also role play with the client to help them consider a situation where they can be assertive and practice what they have to say and do in such cases. 

What is reality therapy?

Reality therapy is a form of therapy developed out of Glasser’s choice theory that aims to help people resolve their problems that arise out of needs that have not been met. 

This form of therapy is designed to help people set goals, as well as develop an action plan that will help them meet these needs, as well as help them develop more healthy relationships with others, themselves, and the world around them. 

Reality therapy is based on the assumption that there are five basic needs that must be met for people to psychological function in healthy ways as well as to achieve life satisfaction. 

These needs include:

  • Survival needs such as food, water, shelter, sex- whcih are all biological needs. 
  • Love and Belonging which has to do with their relationships with family, friends, society or community. 
  • Power which involves a need for a sense of control over their own lives, achievements, and self efficacy. 
  • Freedom needs individuality, personal space to make decisions, autonomy. 
  • Fun, pleasure, and enjoyment needs. 

This form of therapy is intended to help individuals identify their needs that are being unmet as well as guide them through the process of making a plan, evaluating that plan, and applying that plan to achieve their needs.

This process is followed though by helping people to understand their reality and set their aims based on their reality while also making responsible choices that allow them to stay grounded in their reality and also achieve their goals set on realistic expectations of themselves as well as others. 

What are the applications of reality therapy?

Reality therapy has a myriad of applications but because reality therapy is based on the assumptions that most of the psychological problems one faces is due to unsatisfying relationships, this form of therapy is most effective in the case of family and relationship therapies like couples and marriage counselling. 

This form of therapy for couples and marriage issues involves exploring the needs of each individual within the couple as well as the needs of the relationship as well as to help the couple set goals and plans to meet those needs and move towards a more satisfying relationship.

This form of therapy can also be used in the case of family relationships where each individual needs of the family members are considered as well as the needs within the family are taken into account. 

Reality therapy in family settings also takes into account what is being done to meet those needs and devise more appropriate and effective plans to achieve those needs and goals of the family. 

This form of therapy can also be used in school settings to improve the relationship between teacher and student so as to change the outcome of the chil;s learning by ensuring that  the student;s needs are meet including the need of power- respect, and change the efforts of the teacher to target individual needs of the students. 

Apart from this, reality therapy can also be used in the following settings:

  • individual therapy where individual problems are brought to the forefront in terms of their unmet needs and efforts are made to attain them.
  • Parenting- exploring the ends of both the child and the parent so as to improve parenting techniques and the relationship between child and parent. 
  • Management of employees so as to foster a healthier work environment and job performance. 
  • relationships with colleagues to ensure that relationship is effective so that it impacts teamwork and performance.
  • Friendships for fostering healthier and more satisfying and meaningful relationships with friends. 
  • Reality therapy is also applied in group settings such as for family therapy as well as group therapy sessions related to certain common issues. It is effective to help people hold themselves accountable and also helps them learn about concepts more easily in group settings. 

What are some criticisms and limitations of reality therapy?

Reality therapy, while it has been effective in various settings, is not all accepted by various other professional becomes of the following reasons:

It’s opposition to mental illness, specifically Glasser’s claims that mental illness is not a real biological problem has been heavily criticised by the field of psychiatry as well as it’s stance of no-medication to treat mental illness. 

Some critics also highlighted that reality therapy might lead to various therapists imposing their views on the client can prove to be dangerous. 

There are also criticisms that this form of therapy disregards the existence of our unconscious mind and it’s rigid focus on the present could lead to some issues not being resolved in therapy.


This blog post has explored what are some effective exercises and techniques that are used in reality therapy sessions as well as what Reality therapy is. 

We have also explored the applications of reality therapy, it’s development, and the effectiveness of reality therapy based on empirical research.

FAQ related to Reality therapy exercises and techniques

What are the three R’s of reality therapy?

The three Rs of Reality therapy are- realism, responsibility, and right-and-wrong.

What are the main beliefs of reality therapy?

The main belief that reality therapy theory and exercise is based on is that we can control how we think and behave and by realising this, people are able to see choices of thinking and behaving in healthier ways, thus, taking control over their lives. 

What is WDEP of reality therapy?

The WDEP system of reality therapy is the process that is followed where the therapist and the client work together to explore their what they want, what they are doing to achieve what they want, evaluate whether what they are doing is helping them, and finally plan something more effective to get the what they want.


Ackerman. C. Reality Therapy: Constructing Your Future One Choice at a Time. Positive Psychology. 6th December 2021. Retrieved on 19th December 2021.https://positivepsychology.com/reality-therapy/

Loggins. B. What is Reality therapy? VerywellMind. 16th October 2021. Retrieved on 19th Dec 2021. https://www.verywellmind.com/reality-therapy-definition-types-techniques-and-efficacy-5191995#toc-what-reality-therapy-can-help-with

Nunez. K. What Is Reality Therapy and Choice Theory? Healthline. 17th June 2021. Retrieved on 19th December 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/reality-therapy

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