Transactional Analysis (or TA) is a theory of personality and communication, a set of models which describes how people are made-up, and how they behave, psychologically.
Many of TA’s key ideas were developed by Eric Berne in the 1960’s and these continue to be developed today. TA contains many models which together describe child development, how we maintain our childhood patterns in adult relationships, how we communicate and work together in groups & organisations and how we can grow and change beyond our early-life scripting.
Traditionally, TA is considered to extend to 4 ‘fields’ – psychotherapy, counselling, organisational and educational. However, skills in TA can be brought into creating and maintaining effective relationships in many professions such as policing, social work, mediation – anywhere, in fact, where we need to understand and communicate with individuals. We find too that as our knowledge and skills in TA grow we are building more satisfying relationships with our friends, family and children.
There are three philosophical assumptions of TA;
People Are OK – You and I have an intrinsic worth, an internal unchanging dignity and value which each of us may recognise in the other. Neither of us is one-up on the other, nor are we one-down and this remains true no matter what we have done or what we have been told is right or wrong. In TA we say ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ which is a simple expression of a deeply held humanistic stance.
Everyone has the capacity to think – Which means that each of us is responsible for choosing what we need, what we do and what life will be like. This ‘thinking’ is the clear, informed, probability-based problem-solving that gets things decided, clarified and completed.
People make their own decisions and all decisions can be changed, no matter how early in life they were made – As young children, we make decisions based on how to best survive in a world dominated by our family setting. Yet these decisions are based on an incomplete view of how the world works and they’re hard to ‘reality-test’. As adults, when we follow strategies based on these early decisions our behaviours can feel dissatisfying or even self-defeating. But we can change. After gaining insight into those old patterns, those old decisions, we can make new ones which invite more effective ways of relating and being in the world.
Based on these three assumptions there are two basic principles of TA;
Using Contracts – When we work together we each take responsibility for what it is we are seeking to achieve.
Open Communication – Both client and practitioner have full information about what is happening in their work. To help with this TA keeps language simple and ideas easy to share.
How the TA World is organised
TA has an international structure. The content of TA’s introductory course (TA101) is set by The International TA Association (ITAA) and the European Association for Transactional Analysis (EATA) plays a role in governing more advanced qualifications.
In the UK, The United Kingdom Association Of Transactional Analysis (UKATA) is our national body and organises conferences & examinations as well as publishing the Transactional Analysis Journal (TAJ).