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Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he is the developer of reality therapy and choice theory. His ideas, which focus on personal choice, personal responsibility and personal transformation, are considered controversial by mainstream psychiatrists, who focus instead on classifying psychiatric syndromes, and who often prescribe psychotropic medications to treat mental disorders. Glasser is also notable for applying his theories to broader social issues, such as education, management, and marriage, to name a few. Glasser notably deviates from conventional psychiatrists by warning the general public about the potential detriments caused by the profession of psychiatry in its traditional form because of the common goal to diagnose a patient with a mental illness and prescribe medications to treat the particular illness when, in fact, the patient may simply be acting out of unhappiness, not a brain disorder. Glasser advocated the consideration of mental health as a public health issue.
A practicing psychiatrist, he has also authored and co-authored numerous and influential books on mental health, counseling, and the improvement of schools, teaching, and several publications advocating a public health approach to mental health versus the prevailing "medical" model.
During his early years as a psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in LA, he met Dr. G. L. Harrington, an older psychiatrist who Glasser credits as his "mentor." Glasser founded The Institute for Reality Therapy in 1967, which was renamed The Institute for Control Theory, Reality Therapy and Quality Management in 1994 and later The William Glasser Institute in 1996. The institute is located in Tempe, Arizona, and has branch institutes throughout the world.
By the 1970s Dr. Glasser called his body of work Control Theory. By 1996, the theoretical structure evolved into a comprehensive body of work renamed Choice Theory, mainly because of the confusion with perceptual control theory by William T. Powers, developed in the 1950s.
Reality therapy organizations 
In the USA, the Glasser Institute is organized with regional groups in New England, the Sunbelt, the Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, and the West Coast.
In July, 2010, William Glasser Association International was established with an interim governing board charged with setting up the organization to coordinate worldwide activities and conferences, the first of which is June 6–9, 2012, in Los Angeles.
Outside the USA, the Glasser Institute has active independent national organizations in Canada, the UK, throughout Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand.
The Institute for Reality Therapy UK (IRT UK), with its own administration executive, co-ordinates the faculty workshops and practicums in the United Kingdom on behalf of the WGI, leading up to, and including Reality Therapy Certification (RTC). The IRT UK strives to promote and develop choice theory, reality therapy, and lead management in the UK, offering guidance and support to its membership made up of a body of like-minded individuals, committed to their own personal and professional advancement. Support is offered by a team of training and practicum supervisors. Members of the institute subscribe to the 'ethos' that choice theory, reality therapy, and lead management guide and support their relationships both on a personal and professional basis, and that reality therapy should be taught with integrity and adherence to fundamental concepts as described by Dr. William Glasser and others who write, teach, and are associated with the WGI.
- Mental Health or Mental Illness? Psychiatry for Practical Action, 1962 ISBN 0-06-091092-5
- Reality Therapy, 1965 (reissued 1989), ISBN 0-06-090414-3
- The Effect of School Failure on the Life of a Child, 1971
- The Identity Society, 1972 ISBN 0-601-15726-5
- Schools Without Failure, 1975 ISBN 0-06-090421-6
- Positive Addiction, 1976 ISBN 0-06-091249-9
- Stations of the Mind, 1981 ISBN 0-06-011478-9
- Take Effective Control of Your Life, 1984 ISBN 0-06-015342-3
- Control Theory, 1985 ISBN 0-06-091292-8
- Control Theory in the Classroom, 1986 ISBN 0-06-095287-3
- Control Theory in the Practice of Reality Therapy: Case Studies, 1989 ISBN 0-06-055174-7
- The Quality School, 1990 ISBN 0-06-095286-5
- The Quality School Teacher, 1992 ISBN 0-06-095285-7
- Reclaiming Literature, 1994 ISBN 0-275-94959-1
- The Control Theory Manager, 1995 ISBN 0-88730-719-1
- Staying Together, 1996 ISBN 0-06-092699-6
- Choice Theory, 1997 ISBN 0-06-093014-4
- Choice Theory in the Classroom Revised, 1998
- Choice: The Flip Side of Control, 1998
- The Quality School Teacher: A Companion Volume to The Quality School, 1998
- Teoria de La Eleccion, 1999
- Reality Therapy in Action, 2000 (Re-issued in 2001 as Counseling with Choice Theory)
- Counseling with Choice Theory, 2001 ISBN 0-06-095366-7
- Fibromyalgia: Hope from a Completely New Perspective, 2001 ISBN 0-9678444-2-8
- Unhappy Teenagers: A Way for Parents and Teachers to Reach Them, 2002 ISBN 0-06-000798-2
- For Parents and Teenagers: Dissolving the Barrier Between You and Your Teen, 2003 ISBN 0-06-000799-0
- WARNING: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health, 2004 ISBN 0-06-053866-X
- The Language of Choice Theory, 1999 ISBN 0-06-095323-3
- What Is This Thing Called Love?, 2000 ISBN 0-9678444-0-1
- Getting Together and Staying Together, 2000 ISBN 0-06-095633-X
- Eight Lessons for a Happier Marriage, 2007 ISBN 978-0-06-133692-8
- Therapeutic Crisis Intervention,1998 Adrian Gorman
Chapters in books edited by others 
- Chapter 4: Reality Therapy: An Explanation of the Steps of Reality Therapy, in What Are You Doing?, 1980, edited by Naomi Glasser ISBN 0-06-011646-3
- Several chapters (not numbered), in The Reality Therapy Reader 1976, edited by Thomas Bratter and Richard Rachin, ISBN 0-06-010238-1
- p38 "Youth in Rebellion: Why?"
- p50 "A Talk with William Glasser"
- p58 "The Civilized Identity Society"
- p68 "How to Face Failure and Find Success"
- p92 "Notes on Reality Therapy"
- p345 "Practical Psychology G.P.s Can Use"
- p359 "A New Look At Discipline"
- p382 "Roles, Goals and Failure"
- p465 "What Children Need"
- p490 "The Role of the Leader in Counseling" (co-authored with Norman Iverson)
- p498 "Discipline as a Function of Large Group Meetings" (co-authored with Norman Iverson)
- p510 "A Realistic Approach to the Young Offender"