Transactional Analysis (TA)

What is TA?

Transactional Analysis started as, and has remained, a social psychology, a clear departure from psychoanalysis, as a system that focuses on people's external behaviour and only secondarily on analyzing their internal psychological processes. Transactional Analysis was designed as a system that seeks to understand the interactions of people and to improve the human social environment.

Berne made complex interpersonal transactions understandable when he recognized that people can interact from one of three "ego–states" – Parent, Adult or Child – and that these interactions can occur at overt and covert levels. Each one of the ego states is, in effect, a "mind module," a system of communication with its own language and function; the Parent's is a language of values, the Adult's is a language of logic and rationality and the Child's is a language of emotions.

Effective functioning in the world depends on the availability to all three, intact ego states. Transactional Analysts are trained to recognize what ego states people are transacting from, and to follow, in precise detail, the transactional sequences that people engage in as they interact with each other. With this training they are also able to intervene effectively to improve the quality of communication and interaction for their clients.

The "Games" we play

Berne codified socially dysfunctional behaviour patterns in terms of the "games" that people play. Games are essentially devious, toxic and sometimes deadly methods of obtaining "strokes." The term stroke is Berne's name for the unit of human contact and recognition.

The "Scripts" we employ

People build their lives around certain favourite games which, with their repetitive toxic outcomes, promote dysfunctional, life–long scripts. Scripts are based on early–life decisions, they determine the dysfunctional roles (Rescuer, Persecutor or Victim) which people fall upon throughout life unless they are changed or "re–decided."

TA as a Communication Skill

TA therapists are specialists in human communication in psychotherapy, in relationships and at work; in particular the transactional methods that people use to obtain much needed strokes. A Transactional Analysis Psychotherapists task is to help people identify their ego states and evaluate and improve the ways in which their ego states function, to recognize the inner dialogues between a person's ego states, especially those that involve a harsh demeaning Parent, to recognize the games that people play and to help them stop playing games and get strokes in a spontaneous, aware and intimate manner.

The potent therapist provides both permission to change and protection against the anxiety that change creates. Stopping the playing of games is the first step to eventually replace them with direct and honest interactions and eventually abandoning the dysfunctional life script. Transactional Analysis' efficient, yet insightful, contractual method makes it ideally suited for brief psychotherapy.

Likewise, as consultants, educators and organizers, Transactional Analysts with their skills in analyzing transactional patterns are able to understand, predict and help improve dysfunctional, unproductive, toxic, unco–operative interactions between people and can quickly help people communicate clearly and effectively at the three levels of the Parent (values,) the Adult (rationality) and the Child (emotions, creativity.)