Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis is a social psychology developed by Eric Berne, MD Over the past four decades Eric Berne's theory has evolved to include applications to psychotherapy, counselling, education, and organisational development.

Eric Berne made complex interpersonal transactions understandable when he recognised that the human personality is made up of three "ego states"; each of which is an entire system of thought, feeling, and behaviour from which we interact with each other. The Parent, Adult and Child ego states and the interaction between them form the foundation of transactional analysis theory. These concepts have spread into many areas of therapy, education, and consulting as practiced today.

Transactions refer to the communication exchanges between people. Transactional analysts are trained to recognise which ego states people are transacting from and to follow the transactional sequences so they can intervene and improve the quality and effectiveness of communication.

Berne observed that people need strokes, the units of interpersonal recognition, to survive and thrive. Understanding how people give and receive positive and negative strokes and changing unhealthy patterns of stroking are powerful aspects of work in transactional analysis.

Berne defined certain socially dysfunctional behavioural patterns as "games." These repetitive, devious transactions are intended to obtain strokes but instead they reinforce negative feelings and self-concepts, and mask the direct expression of thoughts and emotions. Berne tagged these games with such instantly recognisable names as "Why Don't You, Yes But," "Now I've Got You, You SOB," and "I'm Only Trying to Help You." Berne's book Games People Play achieved wide popular success in the early 60's. 

Eric Berne proposed that dysfunctional behaviour is the result of self-limiting decisions made in childhood in the interest of survival. Such decisions culminate in what Berne called the "life script," the pre-conscious life plan that governs the way life is lived out. Changing the life script is the aim of transactional analysis psychotherapy. Replacing violent organisational or societal scripting with cooperative non-violent behaviour is the aim of other applications of transactional analysis.

"I'm OK - You're OK" is probably the best-known expression of the purpose of transactional analysis: to establish and reinforce the position that recognises the value and worth of every person. Transactional analysts regard people as basically "OK" and thus capable of change, growth, and healthy interactions.

Transactional analysis practice is based upon mutual contracting for change. Transactional analysts view people as capable of deciding what they want for their lives. Accordingly transactional analysis does its work on a contractual basis between the client and the therapist, educator, or consultant.

Transactional analysis is a powerful tool to bring about human well being. In psychotherapy, transactional analysis utilises a contract for change and involves the "Adult" in both the client and the clinician to sort out behaviours and thoughts that prevent the development of full human potential. Transactional analysts intervene as they work with clients in a safe, protective, "OK/OK" environment to eliminate dysfunctional behaviours and establish and reinforce positive relationship styles and healthy functioning. 

Transactional analysts are able to use the many tools of psychotherapy, ranging from psychodynamic to cognitive behavioural methods in effective and potent ways. Counsellors who utilise transactional analysis, work contractually with solving "here and now" problems. Counselling work focuses on creating productive problem solving behaviours. Using transactional analysis, counsellors educate and establish an egalitarian, safe and OK/OK working relationship with their clients. This working relationship provides an environment and tools clients can utilise in their day-to-day functions to improve the quality of their lives.

Source: International Transactional Analysis Association