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Transactional Analysis Basic Concepts

Eric Berne, founder of Transactional Analysis therapy

The Transactional Analysis approach to counselling belongs to the Psychoanalytical School of therapy and was devised by Eric Berne a Canadian psychiatrist in the late 1940’s.

Berne, who had studied the work of Sigmund Freud, tried in 1949 to join the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute but was rejected, so he went on to develop his own interpretation of Freud’s ideas which he called Transactional Analysis, or T.A. for short.

Berne wanted to develop a therapy which was easier for the general public to understand. Using ‘layman’s terms’,  he went on to write a number of influential books, one of which was called ‘The Games People Play’ which is still popular today, 25 years after it was first published.

The theory of TA is (on the surface) quite simple: Berne believed that people have difficulty in their lives due to how they communicate and interact with others.

He believed that human beings have three distinct attitudes or states of mind which he called ego states.

The 3 Ego States

  1. Parent (behaving in ways which we learn and react out our parent’s behaviour as adults)
  2. Adult (using logic and evidence to guide our behaviour, not becoming emotional)
  3. Child (replaying childish behaviours as adults)
transactional analysis ego states explained

The goal of TA is to help clients strengthen their Adult Ego State and enhance their communications with other people.

The Key Concepts and Principles of Transactional Analysis

  • Transference and Counter-transference. How memories from past relationships can impact on your current relationships.
  • Phenomenology. How our individual perception can impact on how we conduct relationships (this idea is also the basis of Gestalt & PCT
  • Ego States -Structural and Functional Models in TA.
    Structural – The basic idea of ego states
    Functional – How the theory of ego states is applied
  • Life Scripts. How messages we receive as children help us build a view of ourselves and others which through therapy we can change.
  • Games. How a series of interactions between two or more people follow predicable patterns and outcomes.
  • Racket feelings. Feelings that the child learns are acceptable and/or desired, which are used to replace the real feelings which a parent may find unacceptable.

Clients are encouraged to undertake homework to assess how the therapy is working for them.

The therapist analyses your past and how it effects the here and now, which is why it is known as an Active Directive form of therapy.

TA therapists believe that past life events (things that happened maybe in childhood) hold the key to understanding what our present difficulties are. This is known in TA therapy as the presenting past.

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