Transactional Analysis or TA draws its roots from traditional psychoanalysis, and many psychoanalytic concepts remain in the approach. For instance, both approaches believe in 3 structures within a personality: one control-oriented, another impulse-oriented, and the last a healthy balance between the two.
The main difference is: psychoanalysis is focused on personality assessment via self-examination while TA shines the spotlight on how dealings with other people – transactions – surface life positions created through early life experiences. Verbal exchanges, in particular, are mining grounds for a TA psychotherapist.
If you love browsing and reading self-help literature, you’ve probably come across the “I’m okay, you’re ok” and “Games People Play” line of books. These books are about Transactional Analysis, a form of psychotherapy created by psychiatrist Eric Berne. Berne’s approach is popular. Not only is it one of the most lay person-friendly way of viewing personality, it’s applicable across many settings.
How does it work?
Assessment of personality dynamics is at the core of TA. For Berne, there are three structures of personality: the parent, the child and the adult. When we interact with others, we activate our own version of these three. By analysing “games” hidden in exchanges between people, TA therapists help their clients gain insight about their helpful and unhelpful parent, child, and adult tendencies.
The parent reflects internalised attitudes and behaviors of our parents. For example, if your parent tends to be overly dominant, you may tend to be critical and aggressive as well. If your parent is cold and unreachable, detachment may be your default mode.
The child, on the other hand, mirrors how we used to react during childhood e.g. throwing tantrums if we don’t get our way or seeking attention from loved ones. When we meet people who use their “parent” template when speaking to us, we may revert to our “child” script. If the interaction is positive, the relationship is healthy. But the interaction can also trigger dysfunctional tendencies than can become unconscious “games.”
The adult is the healthy balance. If your adult side is well-formed, you are objective, positive, and can practice self-control. Empowering the adult structure of our personality is the ultimate goal of TA.
What issues does it treat?
Transactional Analysis is very flexible. As a theory of personality, TA is used to identify areas of strength and weakness in the journey towards emotional maturity. As a method of interaction analysis, TA can also be used to diagnose and assist relationship issues, whether within the family, romantic life, or work.
While at first glance, TA seems to fit only for minor, acute concerns, the process is actually one of the most effective therapy for chronic, serious, and at times help-resistant issues. The “games” Berne refers to often underpin abusive relationships or subtle, passive-aggressive manipulations. Parent-Child-Adult life scripts can also be at the core of clinical disorders like major depression, addiction, and anxiety.
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abusive relationships, addiction, aggressive manipulations, anxiety, depression, Eric Berne, passive manipulations, passiveaggressive manipulations, personality, relationship issues, Transactional Analysis