Transactional Analysis (TA) was first developed by Eric Berne in the 1960s as a theory of human behaviour, personality and communication. It is now a widely respected psychological approach and has applications in many sectors, including Counselling and Psychotherapy, Education, Business/Management and Medicine.
Those who practice this form of therapy use a broad range of tools that have associations in other psychological disciplines including Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioral, Relational and Person-Centred therapies. As such, Transactional Analysis has a level of flexibility that makes it a highly effective method of articulating a number of potential directions for any therapeutic work.
Some key ideas relating to Transactional Analysis theory:
refer to the structure of our personalities, and to the psychological forces that influence the way we think, feel and behave. TA therapists use the terms Parent, Adult and Child, not in the way these words are commonly used, but to describe complex mental systems in a language that can be understood by all. Ego state models can be helpful when we are trying to understand problems and difficulties, and also when we need support in changing and developing the ways we relate to ourselves and others.
refer to the verbal and non-verbal messages we give and receive – not only to and from others, but also the way we communicate with ourselves. Analysis of transactions can provide valuable information about how we experience the world, and can be helpful in identifying ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that we might want to change so that our experience of life can improve.
can be used to explain our need for different forms of stimulation and nourishment. Understanding the way in which we give and receive strokes, the reasons why we give them and why we do not, can help in understanding what our needs are, and also how we might be preventing ourselves from getting these needs met.
Redefining and Discounting
are terms that are used to describe the way in which we can build a picture of ourselves, others and the world to ‘fit’ our concept of reality – in other words: to only see the things we want to see! Understanding how, when and why we are redefining and discounting can be a powerful step in facing, coming to terms with, and ultimately resolving difficulties and problems.
in Transactional Analysis refer to some of the most painful and destructive ways of being in the world – ways that are associated with unhealthy psychological communications. Playing games (in the TA sense) can limit the quality of our lives and lead to the reinforcement of familiar bad feelings; games can also have extreme, irreversible consequences. Understanding which games you get yourself into, and freeing yourself from the more damaging aspects of these repetitive behaviours patterns can lead to an experience of life that feels more intimate, autonomous and ultimately happier.
refers to a personal life-plan – one that we decided on early in our lives. A script is based on our unique interpretation of the external and internal events that have influenced and shaped us. During the course of our lives, we spend periods of time displaying behaviours and feeling emotions and sensations that may not be useful or relevant to the events or conditions of the ‘here-and-now’. At these times, we are said to be ‘in script’ and are possibly operating according to one of these personal life-plans. TA therapists seek to help people move beyond the limitations of their ‘script’ towards a way of life that is more satisfying and meaningful.
I’m OK – You’re OK
is a phrase that relates to the healthiest of 4 ‘life positions’ – psychologically how we frame ourselves and others in ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ ways. Understanding how you frame yourself and how you frame others (or how you think others might be framing you) can be a very powerful way of understanding and dealing with conflict and confusion. This understanding can promote change, growth, and help develop ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that are better suited to psychological health and well-being.
refers to a core TA principle: that we are all capable of deciding for ourselves what it is that we want for our own lives. What this means in practice is that any therapeutic work takes place on the basis of a negotiated agreement – a contract. Therapy is done ‘with’ you and not ‘to’ you. It also means that as a client, you can expect your therapy to be based on principles of openness, clear communication and respect, regardless of the issue being brought.