Transactional Analysis

Posted 27th May 2010

As a case manager you will be considering psychological treatment options that best suit your client.  One treatment option that you may come across is Transaction Analysis (TA).  Kevin Purvis brings you this introduction to TA

A simple overview of Transactional Analysis:

As a case manager you will be considering psychological treatment options that best suit your client.  One treatment option that you may come across is Transaction Analysis (TA). 

TA theory consists of the following:

TA was developed by a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Eric Berne in the late 1950's.

The purpose of TA is to aid the unravelling of an individual's emotional problems and to highlight strategies that they can use in adopting better social communication. 

TA's aims are to aid change and ‘cure' through gaining freedom from any embedded negative/disruptive childhood memories and to develop appropriate social spontaneity, intimacy, and sound and true problem solving.

The premise is that from birth onwards throughout life we come into contact with others, receiving, interpreting and storing information.  The information received can be stored as positive or negative.  For example, a caring and nurturing parent giving positive responses or a distant and unresponsive parent sending negative messages.  Messages are received through the words, actions and gestures of others.  In turn the receiving individual will process and store these actions, reacting to and sending back their own messages which is influenced by what they have learnt and stored.   In turn, any reaction sent out by the individual will influence their own environment.

TA is there to help clients make new decisions about their current behaviour, reactions to others and the direction of their life.  Clients learn how to develop new and alternative pathways that move them away from previous passive or              self-defeating lifestyles.


The philosophy of TA is to aid the client's freedom from any historical and/or embedded negative lessons and to allow them to develop towards freedom from inappropriate, unauthentic and displaced emotions.  These negative embedded emotions do not allow the individual to construct a fair and honest reflection of here-and-now which in turn affects the way in which they react to others and their environment.   Examples of these embedded emotions can be memories associated with childhood suffering, compulsive behaviour, and repetitive dysfunctional life patterns. 

Berne suggested that individuals have three ego states: parent, adult, and child.  These egos states develop throughout childhood forming an important part of the personality.

Each personality is described as being made up of three different elements (ego states):  A parent, an adult and a child.  We move between these egos.

The parent ego is made up of feelings, thoughts and behaviours learnt from our parents.  It has two sides, a nurturing and a critical side.

The adult ego processes data.  It sees, hears and thinks and comes up with solutions.  It involves assessing inner and outer realities and using knowledge and experience to think clearly and formulate an appropriate response.

The child ego is the part of our personality that holds feelings, emotions and memories from childhood.  These sets of emotions can pop up and be good/fun or prove to be negative and destructive.

The central tenant of TA theory is the concept of ‘ulterior transactions'.  This is when two messages are sent simultaneously.  The receiving individual will assess and interpret the information received and their reaction/behaviour will be determined.         An example of this is a spoken message from one adult ego to another adult ego "has anyone seen my purse?"  The message between parent ego and a child ego may not be interpreted as "has anyone seen my purse?"  It may be interpreted as "look for my purse". 

Where is TA used?

TA is used as a therapeutic tool in mental health, education, organisational development, and psychometric testing.  It is also used as a key model in child development theories.

TA can help support people to understand the complex relationships around them and help them to think about how they react and adapt or temper their behaviour.

Counselling, Psychotherapy and TA Organisations

Institute of Transactional Analysis (ITA)
The ITA was established in 1976 with the objective of educating the public in the good practice of TA. In addition to developing, publishing and applying codes of ethics and professional practice, the ITA run annual conferences.

European Association of Transactional Analysis (EATA)
EATA was formed in 1976 as an umbrella organisation for TA in Europe to ensure quality and standards.

United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
The UKCP oversees the voluntary regulation of psychotherapy in the UK.

British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) 
The BACP aims to promote and provide education and training for counsellors and/or psychotherapists working in either professional or voluntary settings, and to advance the education of the public about the role of counselling and/or psychotherapy.

COSCA is the Professional Body for Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland and seeks to advance all forms of counselling and psychotherapy by promoting best practice and through the delivery of a range of sustainable services.

Queen Margaret University Edinburgh
QMU validates the MSc in TA Counselling and the MSc in TA Psychotherapy.

Edinburgh Institute for Counselling & Psychotherapy (EICP)
EICP provides counselling and psychotherapy services. It is a sister organisation to CPTI.

International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA)
The ITAA arrange conferences to celebrate the work of Eric Berne. The next conference takes place in Montreal, August 11-15 2010.

Counselling & Psychotherapy Training Institute
86 Causewayside, Edinburgh EH9 1PY
telephone: 0131 667 6173


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