Introduction to Choice Theory (2) Copy

In Choice Theory, Glasser sees the behaviour of all human beings as driven by five genetic (though not necessarily hereditary) needs.

For us, as professionals working with challenging young people, the fundamental question is:

“How do we give our young people opportunities to meet their own needs without trampling on anyone else’s?”

Choice Theory: Glasser’s Five Needs:

Survival – This is the primary urge in all living creatures. It’s more complicated for humans and entails things like needing to keep a roof over our heads, earn more, live longer etc.

Love and belonging – Relationships are important to everyone, we all need to love and give love. Problems arise when we want more than others are able to give. If a parent is not able to love a child in the way the child needs, there will be a gap in their need for love and belonging. An easy way to fill that gap is to replace parental love with sexual love.

Power – Young people are particularly driven with power. It is present in everything they do – the pecking order is clearly defined in what you wear, how you speak, what you listen to. Young people are well tuned into who has the power in any situation. People who need a lot of power are very competitive; this may manifest as wanting to be the fastest, strongest etc, or it may take the form of refusing to compete, therefore holding on to the power.

Freedom – This is the balance to power. Our need for freedom limits us from exercising too much power over others. Giving young people clear choices is a good way to give them some sense of freedom. You can’t make anyone do anything, so why try? Everyone should be able to meet their own need for freedom without preventing others from meeting theirs.

Fun – This is the reward we get for learning. The day we stop playing is the day we stop learning – this may be about each other, ourselves, the world around us. The more learning that’s going on the more fun will be had, and the more successful your sessions will be.

Quality World View

This is another of Glasser’s concepts. According to Glasser, we all have a Quality World View; it’s made up of images, memories, things we’ve seen in films or read in books, and it represents a ‘place’ where our five needs are best and most fully met. Our QWV is dynamic, it grows and changes over time as we experience different things.


  • All Quality World Views are different.
  • We need to ensure that we are part of the Quality World View of the young people we work with.
  • It’s not until a young person can put us into their Quality World View that we can begin to influence anything.
  • It is possible to move in and out of a person’s Quality World View; as professionals we need to understand that this is a challenge and we need to accept that making tough decisions will sometimes affect our place in the young person’s Quality World View.

Children have limited ways of meeting their needs. We’re the creative ones, so it’s up to us to model different behaviours and to find healthy, positive ways of being part of a young person’s Quality World View.

When you have spent some time thinking about Choice Theory and how it relates to your work, take the quiz below.