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Scientist Obituary: William Glasser, Psychiatrist Who Held That Happiness Is A Choice

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Happiness, misery, emotional problems. Everything is a choice. That was the view of Dr. William Glasser, a psychiatrist who pioneered the choice theory, which holds that mental health is mostly a matter of personal choice.

Glasser originally graduated from college in 1945 with a degree in chemical engineering. Unhappy with his work, he returned to university a few years later and earned a second degree in psychology. While serving as resident psychiatrist at a V.A. hospital, he felt disillusioned.

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Scientist Obituary:  William Glasser, Psychiatrist Who Held That Happiness Is A Choice-la-la-me-0828-glasser-obit-jpg-20130827.jpeg
Dr. William Glasser

“What they taught, in effect, was that you aren’t responsible for your miserable problems because you are the victim of factors and circumstances beyond your control,” said Glasser. “I objected to that. My thrust was that patients have to be worked with as if they have choices to make. My question is always, ‘What are you going to do about your life, beginning today?’”

At the end of his residency, he added, “I was thrown off the staff.”

Glassner went onto write more than two dozen books promoting the choice theory which, while controversial to some, remains extremely influential among teachers, drug counselors, and personal therapists.

Read more about Dr. Glasser in his New York Times obituary .